Whether you're presenting to thousands or just one, check out these talks.
Most of us will never have the privilege or the honor to grace the TED stage, which means our presentations will likely never be viewed by millions of people around the world. But that doesn’t mean our presentations don’t matter. And despite the smaller stage, there’s a lot we can learn from the men and women who set the standard for great presentations.
Below are a few TED Talks we’d recommend checking out while you prepare for your next big presentation. It’s a bit meta, but these are our favorite presentations about, well, presenting:
#1 ENGAGING YOUR AUDIENCE
JJ ABRAMS: THE MYSTERY BOX
This talk is a great reminder that every presentation is an opportunity to take your audience on a journey. Try to find opportunities to introduce “mystery boxes” into your presentations that draw your audience in and keep them engaged.
For example, you might want to open your presentation with a provocative question that you don’t answer until later in the talk. Or you can begin with a shocking statistic, and then spend the rest of the presentation working back towards an explanation for that statistic. Whatever the strategy, think about how you can insert mystery and intrigue into your talk.
#2 SERVING YOUR AUDIENCE
David Rose: How to Pitch a VC
The audience for your presentation probably isn’t going to be a venture capitalist. (Although, if it is, we’ve got a template for that.) That said, there’s a lot to learn in this talk about putting yourself in the shoes of your audience and thinking about what they want to hear. Next time you’re preparing for a presentation, imagine your audience is giving you the inside scoop on what they want to hear—or, better yet, ask them yourselves—and make sure you’re addressing their top concerns during the pitch.
There’s another important lesson here about personal style. Few of us can match David’s rapid-fire style of speaking, but it’s definitely memorable. Think about your own personal style and how you can leverage it to make your presentation distinct.
#3 STRUCTURING YOUR TALK
Nancy Duarte: The Secret Structure of Great Talks
Nancy spent years studying great speeches and presentations and uncovered a common set of patterns that all of them share. This talk, which is based on her book Resonate, uses powerful examples—including her own personal style—to break down the elements of a great presentation.
We wouldn’t recommend trying to pattern your talks after the greats, necessarily, but Nancy’s “sparkline” is a great tool that you can use to analyze your talk after it’s been prepared. Are you using contrast effectively? Are you alternating between “what is” and “what could be”? Are you focused on the needs of your audience? There are all great questions to ask before you finish working on your presentation.
#4 MAKING YOURSELF MEMORABLE
David McCandless: The Beauty of Data Visualization
We’ve all been there: A presenter stands in front of us trying to walk us through a complex chart, and we spend more time trying to decipher it than we do listening to what the presenter has to say. In this talk, David makes a strong case for taking the time to think through the data you’re sharing and re-factor it so that it’s as impactful as possible.
So instead of just plopping your data on a slide, think about what you can do to bring it to life. It could be as ambitious as one of David’s visualizations, or as simple as emphasizing key data points or adding annotations to your data points. Data is a story, so tell it.
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