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5 TED Talk Secrets for Persuasive PowerPoint Presentations

April 29, 2015 / Blog, Presentation Science, Tips & Tricks persuasion, public speaking, TED talk

It’s difficult to make ideas stick on an emotional and rational level. How do TED speakers pull it off without breaking a sweat?

It all begins with knowledge and expertise. They know their topics so well that they can explain things in simple terms. This simplicity also lets them explain why people should care about their stories.

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You can apply their techniques for more persuasive PowerPoint presentations.

According to brand communication expert Carmine Gallo, there are five secrets that’ll help you get your point across like the TED Talk pros.

Stick to Eighteen Minutes

Regardless of topic, TED presenters boil their content down to an eighteen-minute presentation.

According to research by Lloyds TSB, adults can only pay attention for five minutes. Given this drastic drop in attention span, keeping people interested for at least thrice as long becomes a challenge.

This is why speakers like Al Gore get straight to the point. Avoid boring your audience by not using too much jargon, walls of text, or distracting images in your slides. The less superfluous presentation elements you have, the more time you’ve got to spare for content that matters.

Play to Your Passions

TED Talk pros have one signature trait: motivation. They’re genuinely interested, if not passionate, about their topics. This passion drives them to share their knowledge with others.

They’re genuinely interested, if not passionate, about their topics. This passion drives them to share their knowledge with others. Think of a hobby you enjoy doing. You can also look back to a significant moment in your life. Now, pretend you had to tell a stranger all about it—how would you do it?

In a 2013 TED Conference, Richard Turere described himself as a boy who was very interested in electronics. As a child, he spent considerable time studying discarded mechanical parts.

What was he presenting during that conference? It was a lighting system designed to scare off lions from livestock farms. Turere used trivia about his childhood to make the audience confident in his capabilities.

Similarly, showing the audience that you’re invested in what you do boosts your credibility in their eyes.

Relate It to Personal Experiences

To catch people’s attention, you need to connect with them on an emotional level. You can do this by tapping into your audience’s shared beliefs.

TED presenters use this approach because they’ve often lived and breathed whatever they’re talking about. This personal experience makes them eager to share what they’ve gone through with others.

In the previous example, Turere recounted his early years living on his family’s farm where they contended with lions that attacked the livestock.

At eleven years old, he designed a series of mounted lights that would go on and off at certain intervals, giving lions the impression of people patrolling the area. This not only protected his family’s farm, but that of their neighbors as well.

Like Turere, use your life experiences to talk about why you do what you do, and why it’s important to you. Aside from the emotional bond you’ll be forming with your listener, adding a personal story can also make it easier to get your core message across, especially if it’s directly related to your pitch.

Because it’s something you know, the familiarity of the experience will serve as a guide to draw your key points from.

Keep Your Slide Designs Simple

Even in TED Talks, simplicity is key.

Al Gore held a TED Talk on climate change, with a PowerPoint that contained mostly images. His slides had almost no text whatsoever.

Visual-based slides left him with more room to give information in the simplest way possible. The audience didn’t need to split their attention between reading from his slides and listening to his speech.

The slides were used to supply the imagery he needed. No need for extra jargon or any bells and whistles. All he needed were the facts and their implications.

Minimize Your Content

Remember that you are the focus of the talk. You are the person sharing your stories to people who probably know nothing about what you do, let alone what you’ve gone through.

At this point, you can ask yourself questions like:

  • What experiences can I share in order to drive my point across?
  • What questions can I use to challenge their perceptions of this topic?

While a simple yet striking PowerPoint design can help supply the imagery you need, remember that what you share must come from you alone. It’ll affect your speech content, delivery style, as well as your tone of speaking. Your personal experiences, values you live by, and even your own tastes can influence what you deliver when presenting.

A pitch won’t make much of an impact if the message isn’t meaningful enough on its own.

TED speakers effectively communicate with audiences because they talk to people on the same level. They include their own life experiences and shared beliefs, and package their stories in ways that are easy to digest. They do this not only to connect with their listeners, but also to give credibility to their discussions.

Fortunately, life isn’t only experienced by TED speakers.

Everybody has the capacity to move people with their own words. You can also take something from your own experience and weave it into a story that will positively affect other people.

Even the simplest anecdote can become the key that pushes people to take action.

In the end, it’s the lessons that your stories can teach that matter the most.

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Gallo, Carmine. “How to Give a ‘TED-Worthy’ Presentation.” Bloomberg Business Week. June 1, 2010. Accessed April 29, 2015.
“Giving a Speech? Conquer the Five-minute Attention Span.” Fortune. July 10, 2013. Accessed April 29, 2015.
“Enhance Your Sales Presentation by Appealing to Emotions.” SlideGenius, Inc. September 15, 2015.
“Notes from TED: Presentation Tips from Memorable TED Talks.” SlideGenius, Inc. February 16, 2015. Accessed April 29, 2015.
Richard Turere.” TED. Accessed April 29, 2015.
Kermeliotis, Teo. “Boy Scares off Lions with Flashy Invention.” CNN. February 26, 2013. Accessed April 29, 2015.


Featured Image: Huffington Post