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The Most Effective TED Talks and What You Can Learn from Them

Public speaking is not an innate talent that people are born with. It’s a skill that takes patience and constant practice to master. Many would agree that TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design), an organization dedicated to spreading powerful ideas, is a pacesetter in producing the best presentations in the world. TED talks have been translated to more than a hundred languages, and TED events have been held in over 145 countries. Undoubtedly, the organization sets the bar higher in organized presentations.

This massive success begs the question: What does TED do differently that it manages to blow people’s minds over and over again? The answer lies in the speakers and the ideas they spread. TED speakers come onstage armed not only with powerful concepts and inspiring words but also with effective methods to get their message across. Here are eight lessons you can learn from the most successful TED talks ever held.

8 Public Speaking Lessons from the Most Viewed TED Talks

1. Hook the audience with one big idea

Everything, no matter how great, starts with a tiny spark of idea. Even the most elaborate TED talks begin with a simple concept that holds promise. As Jeremy Donovan, a TEdx organizer, said, “If you had to say there was one magical element to the best TED talks, it’s that those speakers picked one really, really big idea.” When giving a presentation, you don’t want to bombard your audience with a flurry of information. Choose one specific and interesting topic, then work around it. Attack it from a unique angle and give your audience something to think about. 

2. Start with an interesting opener

Don’t go onstage thinking that it’s the audience’s job to listen. You must earn the audience’s attention every time you take the limelight. The best TED speakers know this so they make their talks interesting from the moment they drop the first word.

  • Begin with an anecdote. Brene Brown opened her talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” with a story that was relevant to her point. This helped the audience understand Brown and her message.
  • State an incredible fact. Dan Gilbert is no stranger to the TED stage. One of the reasons why he captivates the audience every time he speaks is that he begins with an interesting statistic that turns heads.
  • Pause for ten seconds. Seth Godin advises public speakers to pause not for two, three or five seconds but for ten whole seconds to get everyone’s attention. And Godin should know since he’s one of America’s most respected marketing gurus.

8 Public Speaking Lessons from the Most Viewed TED Talks | Group of audience

3. Share a story that resonates with the audience

Everybody loves stories, especially those that appeal to the emotions. When you tell a story, make sure to not only relay the events but also the emotions you experienced. When you share genuine feelings, you establish a connection with the audience. This is exactly what Elizabeth Gilbert did in her inspiring TED talk, “Your Elusive Creative Genius.”

4. Establish rapport using humor

To establish a connection with the audience, the speaker should lower his defenses and let the audience into his personal bubble. One of the most effective ways to do this is to use humor. In the most viewed TED talk of all time, “Do Schools Kill Creativity,” Sir Ken Robinson used self-deprecating humor to make the audience feel more comfortable around him. You can apply the same principle to endear yourself to the audience and make them want to listen to your message. 

5. Design your slides with care

Good speakers use pictures instead of texts to reinforce their message. Just look at Kelly McGonigal’s TED talk entitled, “How to Make Stress Your Friend.” Observe how she effectively used images to strengthen her claims. If you plan to accompany your talk with a PowerPoint presentation, make sure to do away with large chunks of text and instead focus on the audience’s visual experience. Remember, you’re already overwhelming your audience with words by simply talking; don’t tire them out by forcing them to read your slides.

8 Public Speaking Lessons from the Most Viewed TED Talks | the winner

6. Reinforce your point throughout the talk

Contrary to popular opinion, you should consistently repeat yourself throughout the presentation. If you establish your point over and over, your audience will eventually catch on to what you’re trying to say. This is what Richard St. John did in his short TED talk about success. He gave away the eight secrets to success while staying true to one core message: Success doesn’t come easy. You need to have the passion, the courage and the resilience to pursue it.

7. Leave your audience a gift before you go

The audience always sit in anticipation of something new to bring home. They lend their ears because they expect to be entertained or blown away by a novel idea or a fresh perspective they’ve never thought of before. Remember, although the presentation is your moment, it’s not entirely about you. You stand onstage not to bask under the spotlight but to share something that is worth your audience’s time.

The words of Robert Ballard, the explorer who discovered Titanic, are very fitting in this case. He said, “Your mission in any presentation is to inform, educate, and inspire. You can only inspire when you give people a new way of looking at the world in which they live.” Take for example Susan Cain’s “The Power of Introverts.” Cain dared to look at introversion from a different light, and the response she got was positively overwhelming. 

8. Waste no one’s time

It’s common courtesy among public speakers to end their talk before the time limit. TED talks run for an average of eighteen minutes, which TED curator Chris Anderson finds “long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people’s attention.” So if you’re given thirty minutes, prepare for a presentation that runs for twenty-five minutes or less. You can allot the extra time for unforeseen events or unsolicited questions from the audience.

Public speaking is not easy, but if you follow these tips, you’ll be a few steps closer to delivering an electrifying TED-like presentation that you’ll cherish for life. 



Gallo, Carmine. “9 Public Speaking Lessons from the World’s Greatest TED Talks.” Forbes. March 4, 2014.

Haden, Jeff. “20 Public Speaking Tips of the Best TED Talks.” Inc.

James, Geoffrey. “11 Public Speaking Tips from the Best TED Talks Speakers.” Inc. July 26, 2016.

May, Kate Torgovnick & Ludolph, Emily. “A TED Speaker Coach Shares 11 Tips for Right Before You Go Onstage.” TED Blog. February 14, 2016.

Stillman, Jessica. “5 Secrets of Public Speaking from the Best TED Presenters.” Inc. November 8, 2013.


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Notes from TED: Presentation Tips from Memorable 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

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

Presentation Tips: 3 Lessons from the TED Stage

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

4 TED Talks to Inspire Innovative Thinking in Your Company

Forbes contributor Cheryl Conner recently shared five TED Talks for entrepreneurs in search of creativity and inspiration. While the presentations she chose offered practical tips for those looking for continued success in business ventures, all of them offer great advice for anyone who  wants to enhance their careers.

Living up to its motto, “ideas worth sharing,” TED is never short on great presentations. We’re expecting even more when TED Global 2014 rolls around this October. While we wait for a fresh set of ideas, here are four TED Talks that can help inspire innovative thinking in your company—regardless of where you are on the corporate ladder.

Shawn Achor: ‘The happy secret to better work’

We’re often taught that happiness follows success, but psychologist Shawn Achor believes otherwise. In his TED Talk, Shawn offers that we reverse this formula. Actually, it’s happiness that inspires productivity.

90 percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world. And if we change it, if we change our formula for happiness and success, what we can do is change the way that we can then affect reality. What we found is that only 25 percent of job successes are predicted by I.Q. 75 percent of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat.

Kathryn Schulz: ‘Don’t regret regret’

Kathryn Schulz is a writer that specializes on ‘Wrongology’. In this TED Talk, she discusses the all-too-familiar feeling of regret, and how we should use it as a positive source of motivation.

You’re going to experience more regret in that situation if you missed your flight by three minutes than if you missed it by 20. Why? Well because, if you miss your flight by three minutes, it is painfully easy to imagine that you could have made different decisions that would have led to a better outcome. “I should have taken the bridge and not the tunnel. I should have gone through that yellow light.” These are the classic conditions that create regret. We feel regret when we think we are responsible for a decision that came out badly, but almost came out well.

Stanley McChrystal: ‘Listen, learn… then lead’

Four-star general Stanley McChrystal used to be the commander of the U.S. and International forces in Afghanistan. For his TED Talk, he shares how he managed to lead people of different backgrounds, skills, and ages into working toward a common goal.

And as soon as I hit, the first thing I did is I’d see if I’d broken anything that I needed. I’d shake my head, and I’d ask myself the eternal question: “Why didn’t I go into banking?” (Laughter) And I’d look around, and then I’d see another paratrooper, a young guy or girl, and they’d have pulled out their M4 carbine and they’d be picking up their equipment. They’d be doing everything that we had taught them. And I realized that, if they had to go into combat, they would do what we had taught them and they would follow leaders. And I realized that, if they came out of combat, it would be because we led them well. And I was hooked again on the importance of what I did.

Nilofer Merchant: ‘Got a meeting? Take a walk’

It might seem like an odd idea to have a business meeting while taking a walk, but as corporate director Nilofer Merchant suggests, fresh air and exercise can have a huge impact on how you think.

And if we’re going to solve problems and look at the world really differently, whether it’s in governance or business or environmental issues, job creation, maybe we can think about how to reframe those problems as having both things be true. Because it was when that happened with this walk-and-talk idea that things became doable and sustainable and viable.

Find more inspiring presentations at the TED Talks library.


Featured Image: Gisela Giardino via Flickr

TED Talks You Should Be Watching Right Now

The TED (Technology, Education, Design) conferences have been around for about three decades. It was only in 2006, however, when the rest of the world became aware of it. Since going mainstream, the organizers have been streaming TED talks online for free.

A number of these streaming videos have earned over twenty million views – and continue to do so each day. That’s how popular these conferences have become. Apart from providing the audience with inspiration on various topics, the talks have also set the standard for public speaking and presentation.

Under the motto “ideas worth spreading,” each TED talk is meant to engage, inform, and educate. If you haven’t seen any of the talks, we suggest that you take some time to view them. After all, they generally run for only 18 minutes. As an introduction, here are three of the most popular TED talks that you should check out now:

How Schools Kill Creativity

by Sir Ken Robinson (author/educator)

Sir Ken Robinson makes a case for an education system that promotes creativity, pointing out that the current system does not recognize the talents that are innate to school children.

“The consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not because the thing they were good at in school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized.”

Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are

by Amy Cuddy (social psychologist)

Our non-verbal expressions, thoughts, and feelings affect us on a personal level. That’s according to TED speaker Amy Cuddy. And she may have a point. Peppered with personal anecdotes, Cuddy’s talk is very empowering especially to individuals who experience social anxiety and internal doubts.

“Before you go into the next stressful evaluative situation… configure your brain to cope the best in that situation. Get your testosterone up. Get your cortisol down. Don’t leave that situation feeling like, oh, I didn’t show them who I am. Leave that situation feeling like, oh, I really feel like I got to say who I am and show who I am.”

How Great Leaders Inspire Action

by Simon Sinek (leadership expert)

Simon Sinek believes that telling people our driving purpose, our values, and beliefs allow us to make a deeper connection with people. A connection that is more meaningful than functional benefits can contribute. Somehow, it makes sense as it inspires sincere loyalty.

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And if you talk about what you believe, you will attract those who believe what you believe.”

Knowledge is Power

Not everybody has an innate ability to inspire and move people. But it’s also a skill that can be learned. And learning from great speakers is one way to honing your own speech communication skills. TED offers a fountain of knowledge that’s readily available both for aspiring speakers and casual passersby who simply want to be inspired.

Improve your public speaking skills and become a better speaker by taking a tip from the most motivating talks and applying them to your own pitch.


Featured Image: TED via