Ted Talks show that you can mesmerize an audience through words. So I bought a copy of “Ted Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking,” by Chris Anderson, the head of TED. Some highlights…


I like his description that public speaking “is the key to unlocking empathy, stirring excitement, sharing knowledge and insights, and promoting a shared dream.” Make that a goal for your video.


He emphasizes you are a tour guide taking your audience on a journey. Begin at their starting point. If you start just from your own point of view and knowledge, you can fail.


For fundraising, instead of an ask, give a gift. This might be giving your audience an insight or information they can apply to their life, or it might be giving them hope.


“Many of the best talks are simply based on a personal story and a simple lesson to be drawn from it.” What is something surprising that can be learned from a story?


“The same questions you ask as you do your research can help provide the blueprint for your talk.” As he puts it, “Use your own journey of discovery to suggest your talk’s key moments of revelation.”


Four common traps:  1. The sales pitch: You sound like an ad, all “me, me, me,” and you fail to serve your audience. Instead of wanting to take something from your audience, give to them.  2. The Ramble: Meandering with no clear direction. 3. The Org Bore: Your organization’s internal workings can be fascinating to you, but probably boring to everyone else. Instead focus on people benefiting from your service or product. 4. The Inspiration Performance: “The ruthless pursuit of every trick in the book to intellectually and emotionally manipulate the audience.” People quickly sense when they are being manipulated. Instead tell a worthwhile story.


Work hard on a focus statement that guides your writing. He calls this a throughline, and you attach all your elements to this single idea. When your video scripts are too long, sharpen your focus and cut instead of trying to shorten everything and “overstuff.”


If you are giving a speech and can add video, have it show what you can’t explain with still images. The video must have good production values: professional lighting, sound and camera work. And he adds, “Make sure it’s organic and authentic, not produced by your PR department or with bombastic canned music.”


He says the best technique for an opening is to ignite curiosity.


And he gives great tips for how to close with power. No clichés such as, “Let’s change the world.” And watch out for false endings…a talk that fizzles out. Some ideas for what to do instead: Go back to the big picture, zoom out. Give a call to action…nudge them by giving them something specific they can do. Link back to the opening. Or end with your personal commitment to the cause, or an inspiring vision.


I recommend that you pick up this book, and keep looking for other advice about speech writing. TED can make you better at strategic communications.

Let's Connect

Get in Touch