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Notes from TED: Presentation Tips from Memorable TED Talks

February 17, 2015 / Blog, Lessons, Presentation Science, Rick Enrico Blog presentation analysis, presentation lessons, presentation tips, TED talks

We’re big fans of TED Talks around here. Aside from getting to hear “ideas worth sharing,” the best TED Talks can also act as a crash course on presentation. If you’re looking to improve your presentation skills, is just a click away. You’re sure to find valuable lessons you can learn from.

With that, we decided to take a closer look at some of the most popular TED Talks to date. We picked out three from the venerable list and broke down their benefits and methods for you. In this process, we hope to point out the different takeaways that could help improve the next presentation you deliver.

Take a closer look at some of the most memorable TED Talks for valuable presentation lessons:

Ken Robinson on how to engage an audience in ‘How schools kill creativity’

Ken Robinson’s critique on today’s educational system is the most popular TED Talk, having over 30 million views. It’s no surprise that it’s a great study on how presenters can engage with their audience. Watch his delivery closely and see how the following points contribute to audience engagement:

1.) While the premise is presented straight away, Robinson was able to underline its importance with two stories that show the amazing creativity of children. The second story was even about his own son, which allowed the audience to see a part of him that they could easily relate to. He continued to share stories between discussions of his main arguments, allowing the audience to understand them better.

2.) He also encouraged audience engagement by posing rhetorical questions throughout his speech. By pausing every now and then to ask a question, he challenged his audience to think about the assertions he was making. They might not have had the chance to share their thoughts, but they were still actively participating by forming their own opinions.

3.) He made it easy for the audience to follow his presentation. His takeaways were always highlighted by transition phrases that prompt the audience to sit up and listen. By using phrases like “I think you’d have to conclude”, he made it clear that he was about to say something important.

Al Gore is clear and consistent in ‘Averting the global warming crisis’

The best thing about Al Gore’s TED Talk is his no-nonsense, straight-to-the-point delivery. While he made sure to engage the audience with humor and anecdotes, what really stands out is his ability to talk about a complex and often controversial topic.

1.) Gore didn’t spend much time with preludes and introductions. After gaining the audience’s attention, he plunged straight into the  discussion. This is something that’s important for business presentations. While it’s important to keep people engaged, you also need to make sure that your goals and purpose are clear to everyone.

2.) The structure he followed makes this easy. He introduced one point, gave an explanation, and offered an example. Through it all, he offered call-to-action statements that gave the audience a specific idea on how to contribute to his cause.

3.) Most importantly, he made use of visuals to elevate his message. His slides contained plenty of data that were simplified into charts to help the audience digest all the new information.

Elizabeth Gilbert is a powerful storyteller in ‘Your elusive creative genius’ 

In her TED Talk, best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert goes into the intricacies of living a creative life. To teach artists and writers like her to overcome the anxiety and apprehension they feel about their work, she starts by sharing stories. Observe how she carefully integrates storytelling to a cohesive presentation:

1.) She raised the emotional stakes by starting with personal anecdotes. To give the audience a chance to connect with her message, she made use of examples from her personal experience. She shared her own anxieties and positioned herself as someone who is relatable and personable.

2.) To highlight her points, she shared stories from other cultures and fellow writers. This allowed her audience to envision real people behind the concepts being discussed. To tie her entire presentation together, she then returned to her own experience and shared how she finally overcame the problem she initially presented.

3.) Even when she told a wide array of stories, none of these digressed from the core message of her presentation. In fact, it helped her message resonate throughout the presentation because these stories were perfectly in line with her original premise.

TED Talks can teach you insights from a wide-array of topics that can help improve your own work or career. They can also provide you a handful of important presentation tips and lessons. Whether you’re preparing for a sales pitch or a big conference, take note of these TED Talk lessons to successfully get your message across.



Hook, Line, and Sinker: What Makes a Great Presentation Story.” SlideGenius, Inc. December 11, 2014. Accessed February 16, 2015.
The Art of Graphs and Charts.” SlideGenius, Inc. April 21, 2014. Accessed February 17, 2015.
The most popular talks of all timeTED. Accessed February 17, 2015.
Presentation Tips: 5 Quick Steps to Audience Engagement.” SlideGenius, Inc. December 16, 2014. Accessed February 17, 2015.


Featured Image: Stefan Schäfer, Lich via Wikimedia Commons