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Preparing a ‘TED Talk’ Inspired Presentation: A 3-Step Plan

TED Talks only last for about 20 minutes. In that time, speakers are able to share interesting stories and make compelling arguments. TED Talks prove that insight doesn’t come from the amount of time spent in front of an audience. The success of a presentation rests on the quality of the message you’re delivering.

In a blog published on PresentationXpert, communications coach Nick Morgan makes an argument for the importance of concise speeches. As he puts it, the “impatience of the times” and our “shrinking attention spans” compel us to make sure presentations are short and sweet.

If your pitch looks like it will stretch on for an hour, it’s time to take on a new presentation plan. You don’t have to limit yourself to 20 short minutes, but it’s still important that you trim everything down to the most basic points.

Take inspiration from the success of TED Talks by following this new presentation plan. According to Morgan, all you need are three particular things: a single idea, a story, and one good question.

1.) Idea 

No matter how complex the topic, a presentation can be simplified if it’s unified by a single idea. That idea is the message at the core of your presentation. Speeches can try to make several points, but there should always be one common idea acting as the linchpin.

To trim down your presentation, look at your draft and look for the thread that connects one point to another. Focus on this thread and cut out anything that doesn’t help move your main idea forward. Then, sum everything up in an elevator pitch.

As an example, Morgan cites “My stroke of insight“, the TED talk by neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor on the mysteries of the human brain. Taylor’s talk can be summed up in the following statement:

As a neuranatomist, I study the difference between normal brains and the brains of the mentally ill. One morning, I suffered a stroke, and experienced a mental disorder of my own. I was fascinated to learn from the experience. Here’s what I learned while I was dying, especially about the differences between the right and left hemisphere’s experiences of reality.

2.) Story

As you already know, stories are at the heart of every TED Talk. To keep your presentation substantial, make sure you also have a story to share. This helps keep your idea afloat and make your presentation more relatable.

In Morgan’s earlier example, we see that Taylor’s presented narrative revolves around “drama surrounding the moment of the stroke, and what follows from that”. From it, she helps the audience derive a valuable lesson about life.

While your own speech doesn’t have to be particularly dramatic, it’s important to deliver a powerful story. Sharing an honest, emotional story will help you create a much-need human connection between you and your listeners.

3.) Question 

A memorable TED Talk always poses a thought-provoking question. It doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult to answer. However, it does need to engage the audience and get them thinking. This helps eradicate the doubts they may have. It also lets them see that the stakes that you’re about tackle are relevant to their own lives.

If you want to stick to a traditional pitch, start with a question and build up its answer. To add a playful twist, you can also end with a question as a final note to encourage discussion even after your presentation is over. Whatever the case, make sure you have something that encourages audience interaction.

The best TED Talks offer refreshing viewpoints and interesting ideas. Your presentation can do the same for your audience by following this 3-step plan.



Morgan, Nick. “How to Prepare a 20-Minute TED-Like Talk.” Presentation Xpert. Accessed January 27, 2015.
My Stroke of InsightJill Bolte Taylor. TED, 2008.
Presentation Tips: 3 Lessons from the TED Stage.” SlideGenius, Inc. July 6, 2014. Accessed January 27, 2015.


Featured Image: Gisela Giardino via flickr.com

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