TED Talk 101: What TED Teaches About Successful Presentations

TED Talk 101: What TED Teaches About Successful Presentations PPT Template

TED Talks are widely considered to be the epitome of public speaking presentations worldwide. Young thinkers dream of the day they’ll be selected to give a TED Talk on their bright idea. Researchers and thought leaders use the TED Talk and TEDx Talk platforms every year to share their expertise, theories, and visions of the future. Our best and brightest have even given multiple TED Talks on multiple topics and consistently earn hundreds of thousands of views or more. Whether you are preparing an actual TEDx Talk or another kind of presentation, there is a lot to learn to turn your speeches and talks into engaging, memorable successes. 

What is a TED Talk? 

TED Talks are short, impactful presentations of ideas that expert speakers give at either the TED conference or TEDx conferences worldwide. What makes TED Talks so noteworthy is that they are universally acknowledged as powerful, inspiring, and insightful. Their short nature makes these presentations easily digestible. Their carefully curated speakers make them trustworthy. 

The concept of TED Talks was born at the first TED conference in 1984. The original theme of these presentations was technology, entertainment, and design, thus the TED acronym. That first conference set the stage well, including presentations on the compact disc (a new concept at the time), the e-book, and other cutting-edge technology concepts. The second TED conference was held in 1990 and earned so much positive attention that it became an annual event. 

Since then, TED has expanded to TEDx, opening up the stage to thought leaders from every industry, field, and area in every country. 

What is the Basic TED Talk Format?

While there is no official TED Talk format, you can start to see some patterns if you watch enough. In fact, Nancy Duarte gave a TED Talk about the ideal structure of a great talk, where she lays out the ideal format. 

The best talks follow the same structure as the best stories: beginning, middle, end—hook, evidence, call-to-action. 

Nancy Duarte’s Analysis of TED Talk Format

If you want to learn how to give a TED Talk, you can apply Duarte’s analysis to each part. She points out how the beginning of great talks all start by establishing the current situation. They then compare to what the situation could be, according to your idea—the middle section switches between mentioning the current situation and the potential future. By going back and forth between the two, you can point out why your idea is so good. The middle section is about convincing the crowd about why your idea is important and why they need to get on board. According to Duarte, the end is describing the new, better world you imagine and the call to action to inspire people to believe what you believe and do what you want them to do. 

How Long is a TED Talk?

The maximum duration of a TED Talk is 18 minutes (source). TED Talks are relatively short, as far as talks and speeches are concerned. The time limit forces speakers to be very succinct and straightforward without losing the emotional and often personal connection that the best TED Talks are known for. There is a lot to learn from these masterpieces on how to give a great talk. 

Presentation Skills Ted Talks PPT Template

What Presentation Skills Can Speakers learn from TED Talks?

You don’t have to be giving an actual TED Talk or TEDx Talk to use the skills we’ve learned from this particular kind of presentation. In fact, you can apply these presentation principles and ideas to almost any kind of presentation or speech to make it engaging, memorable, and successful. Here’s what we’ve learned from the best TED Talks. 

Infuse your Talk with Personal Experience

All of the best TED Talks have in common is how they integrate personal experiences and stories into their presentation. Whether it’s the story of how they came up with their big idea, the journey of researching and experimenting, or even a completely different story that ties in somehow, the person brings people closer to your presentation. It engages the audience by making them feel invested in your topic, and most importantly, in you.   

Cut until it’s Short, Sweet, and to the Point 

Preparing a presentation for a TED Talk takes a lot of cutting since they can only be 18 minutes long at most. But even if you are preparing something other than a TED Talk, learning to cut out everything unnecessary is a necessary skill. Sometimes you’ll even have to cut details that you feel are important for the sake of brevity. However, you’ll often find that you’ll come out with a clearer and more focused main idea when forced to reduce. 

Try to Make it Relatable to Anyone and Any Field 

One of the other things people love about the best TED Talks is that they are relatable to almost anyone, regardless of the technical topic. You can accomplish this by breaking down technical topics into small, understandable pieces. Use analogies and stories to illustrate your main idea. Generally speaking, avoid technical jargon unless you’re delivering a technical talk to people in your field. 

Focus on the “Why” of your Idea More than the “How” or “What” 

Emotion inspires more than any fact or dry detail can. Even if your idea, invention, or theory is really cool, it will continue to be “just a cool concept” until you show why. What it is can be interesting, the “how” can be impressive, but the “why” is what will bring people together in awe. 

Simon Sinek coined the term “Start with the Why”. His TED Talk both explains and illustrates what this means and how it inspires change. 

Videotape Yourself during Practice  

We all know how important practice is to perfecting your speech or presentation. However, a great hack is to record yourself while practicing to watch and analyze. This way, you’ll see yourself through the lens of your audience. You will see a lot of things to improve that you might not have otherwise noticed. Once you work on these pieces, you can videotape yourself again and watch for improvements.

Build in Two Natural Places to End Your Talk  

This tip comes straight from Nancy Duarte. Based on her vast experience giving talks, including TED Talks, she recommends building two natural endings to your presentation plan. This way, you have a good, practiced alternative ending in case you find yourself going over the time limit. Practicing your speech with both of these endings will let you give either version seamlessly. 

Watch the talk structure genius herself to see her put her theory into action. 

Pay Attention to your Body Language and Eye Contact

Body language speaks as much as your words do when doing public speaking. Make eye contact with members of your audience, project confidence, and avoid making yourself small. For TED Talks specifically, you’re supposed to stay in one specific spot on the stage, throughout your presentation. It’s natural for us to pace when we’re feeling uncomfortable, so make sure you practice sticking to your spot during rehearsals. 

TED Talk Slides PPT Template

How to Integrate TED Talk Slides into a Presentation — 5 Ideas

If you watch enough TED Talks, you’ll see plenty of TED Talk slides, ranging from simple black text on a white background to more elaborate presentations. Slides pay a crucial role in TED Talks, since they can either detract from the presentation or make a point even more powerful. Here are some things we’ve learned from TED Talk slides that you can replicate, whether in an actual TEDx Talk or even at work or school.

1. Delegate one Point per Slide  

How small do you have to break down your points when delegating each to its own slide? Think about it this way. If you have a main point followed by a list of bullet points, make each of those concepts its own slide. In fact, avoid bullet points on TED Talk slides generally. 

2. Don’t Crowd your Slides with Text  

The last thing you want people to do is read your slides instead of paying attention to you. Don’t add a lot of distracting text to the presentation, especially if it’s information you’ll being saying anyways.

Source: Complex to Simple Process Metaphor Template by SlideModel.com

3. Use Images, Photos, and Infographics Strategically 

Not every slide or point needs to have supporting text. Often the right image, photo, or infographic can illustrate the point better than a few words could. Infographics are especially handy to break down complex ideas into more understandable material. If you’re using images or photos, make sure they are high resolution. 

4. Use the Right Design 

If your slides are too simplistic, they’re boring. If they’re too basic, they run the risk of looking like a school presentation. On the other hand, if slides are full of unnecessary, over-the-top design, then they can be distracting, or even cheesy. The right design will get your point across, but will also get the feeling you want across. You could get a graphic designer to help you out, or invest in some customizable, professionally designed slide templates. 

5. Make Graphs Easy to Understand, Even if the Concept Isn’t  

Graphs can help your audience follow trends or facts. They can also confuse when overly complicated. Your research or idea might be technically complicated, but you don’t have to use the same graphs from your peer-reviewed article. Simplify them. Run them by non-technical friends or colleagues if you have doubts. 

Flat Bar Diagram Ted Talk PPT Template
Source: Flat Bar Chart Diagram for PowerPoint by SlideModel.com

TED Talk Slides Support Your Talk, but don’t Dominate  

At the end of the day, your TED Talk slides can be pretty or powerful, inspiring or intense, but they shouldn’t detract from the important words you are saying. When deciding what to put on your slides, ask yourself: Does this compliment my talk or distract from it? Is it redundant? Does this make my talk stronger? 

TED Talk-Style Presentations PPT Template

TED Talk-Style Presentations are Hard, but Can Be Impactful

Public speaking comes easy to some and hard to others. Even if you’re a pro at giving speeches, a short talk like this can still be a challenge. With the right structure, preparation, slides, and practice, you can turn your big ideas into a big impact. TED Talks inspire the world. They inspire our best and brightest thinkers. Who knows? You might be on that stage before you know it. 

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