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Presentation Tips: 3 Lessons from the TED Stage

July 7, 2014 / Blog, Presentation Science, Tips & Tricks presentation tips, TED talks

The TED Conference is a venue for today’s greatest presentations. Our favorite TED Talks don’t only offer refreshing insights about a variety of topics. They’re also a valuable source for presentation tips and techniques. What better way to improve your skills than by learning from the very best?

We’re one of the billions of people who have viewed TED Talks since they were made available online in 2006. And so, we’ve been able to observe what makes our favorite TED speakers give effective and engaging presentations. We’re sharing our top observations today.

These are the 3 presentation tips we’ve gathered from the TED stage:

1.) Create an emotional connection

TED Talks may cover a wide-range of topics, but they all have one thing in common. These presentations all pack an emotional, gut-wrenching punch. More than providing insights about new technologies or business models, the most successful TED Talks reveal truths about the human experience. Take Sir Ken Robinson’s presentation, “How school kills creativity”. He made his case for a more creative educational system by sharing anecdotes about his son.

TED presentation tips: emotions lead to standing ovations
Spoken word poet Sarah Kay receives a standing ovation at the end of her presentation.

Your presentation will be successful if you can inspire your audience with your ideas. It doesn’t matter if you’re presenting to your colleagues, potential clients, or investors. Your presentation needs to connect with them on an emotional level.

The first of our presentation tips? Start your presentation with a story, or illustrate points through anecdotal examples. It doesn’t have to move your audience to tears, nor do you need to be a comic genius. It just has to be genuine.

2.) Express yourself through movement

It’ll definitely look awkward if you just stay in one place throughout your presentation. TED speakers don’t just talk and point back to their slides, they also move around the stage and talk with gestures and facial expressions.

How would you hold yourself in a conversation with a friend or a family member? Will you stand up stick straight? Remember, a successful presentation isn’t just about sharing information to a group of people. It’s also about creating a connection. Smile and look at some of the individual faces in your audience. Create a feeling of openness by limiting defensive postures like crossing your arms.

Instead, try to keep your arms at your sides. You should also emphasize your points with hand gestures that feel natural. But don’t overdo it, or else your presentation will look silly and choreographed.

Observe how Dan Gilbert talks with movement in this TED Talk:

TED presentation tips: gestures and movement
Click here to view Dan Gilbert’s TED Talk.

3.) Design unique slides that support your talk

While most TED speakers don’t make use of slides, those that do opt for using decks that do not monopolize the entire presentation. The focus remains on the speaker, and the slides are merely there to enhance the presentation.

If you’re going to give a presentation that needs the help of visual aids (if you’re working with data, for example), make sure that your presentation deck is unique and cohesive to what you’re sharing. The best example of this presentation tip are Al Gore’s TED talks on climate change and global warming.  You can also check out David Epstein’s “Are athletes really getting faster, better, stronger?

Consider contacting professional PowerPoint designers to help you create an effective presentation deck for a persuasive and memorable edge.


Whether on stage or in the boardroom, these presentation tips will give you the edge you need. They may seem simple, but it’s the simple things that make your presentation stand out.

It’s not about fancy graphics or complicated scripts. It’s about sharing ideas that offer your audience a fresh perspective.


Featured Image: TED via Flickr