By Emma Ledden Author. Speaker. The Presentation Mentor. In business today TED Talks and TED presenters are the bench mark against which today’s presenters measure themselves. see more about her book, The Presentation Mentor here.

TED is an organization devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less).

TED Talks are excellent presentations.

But why and how are each of these talks consistently so engaging, understandable and powerful?

One of the reasons the presentations are so good is because TED’s organisers send all upcoming speakers a stone tablet, engraved with the ‘TED Commandments”.

Speakers must follow these rules.

  1. Thou Shalt Not Simply Trot Out thy Usual Shtick
  2. Thou Shalt Dream a Great Dream, or Show Forth a Wondrous New Thing, Or Share Something Thou Hast Never Shared Before
  3. Thou Shalt Reveal thy Curiosity and Thy Passion
  4. Thou Shalt Tell a Story
  5. Thou Shalt Freely Comment on the Utterances of Other Speakers for the Sake of Blessed Connection and Exquisite Controversy
  6. Thou Shalt Not Flaunt thine Ego. Be Thou Vulnerable. Speak of thy Failure as well as thy Success.
  7. Thou Shalt Not Sell from the Stage: Neither thy Company, thy Goods, thy Writings, nor thy Desperate need for Funding; Lest Thou be Cast Aside into Outer Darkness.
  8. Thou Shalt Remember all the while: Laughter is Good.
  9. Thou Shalt Not Read thy Speech.
  10. Thou Shalt Not Steal the Time of Them that Follow Thee

What the Ted Organisers and speakers recognise is the onus is never on the audience, it is always on the speaker to keep the listener engaged and ensure they understand the data.

The success of any presentation lies in the ability of the presenter  to put together a relevant, understandable audience focused piece of communication before they stand up to present it.

Great Presenters know to  ensure engagement throughout a presentation you must;

  • Speak in plain English to explain your messages and concepts
  • Relate your information to how it affects your audience.
  • Use real-life examples, stories or analogies to explain your concepts and bring your facts to life

Great presenting is about the creation of understanding. Presenting concepts to an audience and assuming they will be able to take the general abstract ideas and understand them as you do is senseless and ultimately ineffective.

You, the presenter, must take the concepts and make them real. You must present them so the audience can touch them, taste them and feel them.

People relate easily (and emotionally) to stories, examples, analogies and case studies. More importantly, people remember them. Our brains are hardwired for story. Story was how cultures were passed from generation to generation. Stories are interesting, easy to listen to and you remember the message. If you have an important message, concept or idea that must be remembered by your audience concentrate on telling a story or finding one concrete example to support your point. Facts are important and can even be critical but they penetrate the brain very slowly – remember learning your times tables or your French verbs.

Stories make facts speak. They give them an emotional context. They make facts digestible and appetising. As well as the facts entering the brain more quickly, in the process you become more human, more approachable and more audience-friendly. The best speakers reach into their bag of stories and examples and this is what brings their presentations to life. This is what connects them to the audience.

Presenters at TED events follow these commandments and tell stories and that is why they are so great.

Article written by Emma Ledden, author of The Presentation Book, published by Pearson, priced £12.99:

For more presentation tips from Emma Ledden AKA The Presentation Mentor follow her on Twitter –

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