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Friday, August 11, 2017

Talk Like TED--How to improve your public speaking

Overview: Using a host of TED Talks, Carmine Gallo offers a powerful
argument for how to deliver public presentations. Having taught speech for over 20 years and being a former speechwriter, I can highly recommend this book. Gallo suggests speaking with emotion and passion; telling compelling, relevant stories; having a conversation with the audience; teaching something new; inserting show-stopping elements; using situational and personal humor; and, delivering information in short 10-minute segments punctuated by soft breaks—stories, pictures, videos.

1.  Unleash the Master Within: Find a unique passion in your material to supercharge your presentation. You have to inspire yourself first, then others will follow. Passion and inspiration spread like a good virus. The author translates passion into a question: What makes your heart sing? And then, how do you incorporate that into your profession and your presentations. Passionate business leaders are more creative, set higher goals, show more persistence and have better performance than their peers. In fact, the more you speak on a topic you’re passionate about, the more your brain develops. Charisma and passion are related. Charismatic people smile more and generate more energy than others. In short, charisma and passion lead to positive emotions in self and eventually to mood contagion in others.

2.  Master the Art of Storytelling: Using stories to engage your audience is the way to break down audience resistance and to connect them to your central theme, making it both comprehensible and memorable. Using Bryan Stevenson’s TED Talk about social justice, Gallo demonstrates how personal stories woven into the narrative engage the audience. Good presenters use a blend of facts and analysis combined with artful storytelling. Three types of stories: relevant personal stories, relevant stories of others, and success or failures of brands—especially ones that have an unexpected result or lesson learned. To get quoted in the media, tell a story of vulnerability in your speech.

3.  Have a Conversation: “It takes practice to appear natural,” explains this chapter. Deep practice with an eye toward looking as if you’re having a personal conversation with the audience —as you might with a friend—takes rehearsal. Such comfort only comes with practice and emotional rapport with the audience. “Authenticity doesn’t happen naturally.” One way is to get early feedback. Practice with less intimidating audiences, offer presentations for a reduced fee or even free—just to get the practice.

4.  Teach Me Something New—Be Novel: We’re hard wired to learn something new. Our brains are always on the lookout for new information—mainly to figure out whether it’s threatening or not. So, reveal “new” and helpful information to attract people to your speech. Advancing to the next level of a video game or learning new information triggers the chemical dopamine—the brain’s “save” button. “New” excites the brain which wants to learn how to survive, and dopamine flips that switch on—and it’s addictive. Just watch any kid playing a video game. If you can explain your BIG new idea in a tweet, you probably really understand it and can teach it to others. What is the one thing you want people to remember after you talk?

5.  Deliver Jaw-Dropping Moments: Emotional experiences of fear get seared into our lasting memory. You can do this in your speech. Emotions cause the amygdala to access the visual cortex to collect detailed info and then secrete dopamine that enhances memory—it’s like a post-it note to the brain to remember this whole experience. September 11 is a difficult but perfect example. People remember where they were when they heard about it because that day is seared into their memory. Use very concrete examples, charged with emotions, if you want people to remember them. We persuade when we grab a person’s head and heart—logic and emotion.

6.  Lighten Up: Humor breaks down defenses, makes you seem more human and more trustworthy. The brain loves humor because it provides a twist—novelty. Higher ranking people in a group are more likely to use humor. It’s also an “ingratiation tactic” that allows acceptance into a group. Humorous people are regarded as considerate, intelligent and emotionally stable—among other positive traits. In business, humor deflects criticism, relieves tension, and can communicate tough messages. But, avoid telling jokes—a difficult task. Raise humor through personal anecdotal stories that get a smile or chuckle from the group.

7.  Stick to the 18-Minute TED Talk Rule: People can only absorb so much. That’s why TED Talks are limited to 18 minutes. Longer talks require soft breaks (stories, videos, demos) about every 10 minutes—otherwise audiences get “cognitive backlog” which can make them overwhelmed, exhausted, anxious, even angry. Also, willpower is a limited commodity, which gets drained with too many decisions. The lack of glucose—caused by the brain doing too much thinking—causes a drop in willpower. Brain cells are energy hogs—requiring twice as much energy (and glucose) as other parts of the body.
8.  Paint a Mental Picture: The brain craves stimulation and loves and learns from multisensory stimulation—auditory, visual and kinesthetic. People remember more when they see, hear and experience information.  These connections are a lot stronger than each independently. And this is especially true with people with no or low prior knowledge—clients, students, and the general public—to whom you are explaining a new concept. Vision trumps all the senses, so focus on the visual. The author uses Al Gore’s now famous speech on climate change as a perfect example of how to integrate visual, audio and other breaks to help the audience understand the complex nature of the subject.

Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Speakers by Carmine Gallo (St. Martin’s Press, 2014) reviewed by Steve Gladis, September 2016.

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