Okay, so yeah. TED is amazing. It’s a culture-shaping, era-defining, not entirely uncontroversial extravapalooza that has earned the mind share, eyeballs, and admiration of tens of millions of global citizens. I had a chance to do a TED Talk a few years ago. And last year, my pal Bruno Giussani, one of TED’s impresarios, asked me to write up some advice for future speakers.

I stumbled across that advice the other day — and decided to repurpose it on the Pink Blog in the hopes it will help the legions of TEDx speakers and anyone else trying to move others by standing and delivering.

Here are my three key tips.

1. Prepare . . . but not too much.

These days, very few TED speakers arrive unprepared and just try to wing their presentations. That’s great. Preparing is a sign of respect for your audience — and the only way to wrangle your ideas inside an18- or 9-minute fence. But lately I’ve seen a handful of people who were too prepared and too rehearsed. Their presentations were so heavily shellacked that they seemed inauthentic; their ideas suffocated under all that varnish. Remember: Human beings, despite their imperfections (and sometimes because of their imperfections), are far more persuasive than expertly-tuned presentation robots.

2. Say something important.

There’s a big difference between saying some important things and saying something important. Your goal isn’t to demonstrate how much you know or to catalog your many insights, but to leave the audience with one idea to ponder — or better, one step to take.  When people hear some important things, their heads nod. When they hear something important, their souls stir, their brains engage, and their bodies prepare to act.

3. Say it like yourself.

Don’t mimic someone else’s style or conform to what you think is a particular “TED way” of presenting. That’s boring, banal, and backward. Don’t try to be the next Ken Robinson or the next Jill Bolte Taylor. Be the first you.

21 Responses to “3 tips for TED speakers (and other talkers)”

  1. Gordon Robb says:

    I cannot tell you how much I agree with the first point. I have worked with so many people that think preparation is rehearsing until you have it perfect. My experience is that when you do this, it leaves you incapable of making any ‘in-flight’ alterations. It’s so perfect that it’s completely inflexible. I always suggest practicing ‘enough’ 🙂

  2. Valuable advice, Dan.
    It’s always such a shame to see someone so over-rehearsed that their message loses its impact.

    I’m giving a talk next week and these are perfect reminders. Thank you.

  3. kola says:

    a friend of mine was given the license to organize TED events andhe asked me that later ln subsequent events l wud be asked to speak. However not on what I want to speak on. how can I go about this

  4. J. Stevens says:

    Hmmm the first point reminds me of this: A TED speaker’s worst nightmare => http://bit.ly/wg3BQX (TED-video on YouTube) Now you’ve seen this amazing video: isn’t that exactly what you mean by point 3? 🙂

  5. Brilliant message…extremely useful and apropos for my upcoming training. Appreciate your wisdom Daniel!

  6. douglas geddes says:

    hello dan,

    i — almost — agree. the only change i’d make is to switch points 1 & 2. having something important to share (content) is to me by far the most important feature of any presentation.
    a good idea will always be visible, even through thick varnish.


    (ps: almost deleted this, given it really isn’t an important post.. we’re human. full of contradictions…)

  7. So good. Flexibility, simplicity, and authenticity.

  8. C. A. Hurst says:

    Great post, Dan! Thank you.

  9. Nick says:

    Thanks for the intro to those two TED talks, too.

  10. SallyAnn Wolanczyk says:

    Great points! I’ve shared the link to this on my corporate internal collaboration space as a guide for bloggers

  11. Jay Oza says:

    Wow! You can learn so much from how clear, concise and useful these tips are. It is an art to be able to do this. Thanks.

  12. Nate says:

    Dan, you should have been a teacher.

    This advice is excellent (and applicable) for educators:

    1.) Plan your lessons
    2.) Teach 1 important concept
    3.) Teach it in your own way

    Another great source on presenting (and teaching) is Garr Reynolds:


    Good stuff!

  13. Bill Denyer says:

    Thanks, Dan! Your comments are invaluable and ones I will use as I teach college students and corporate leaders the incredible power of presentation effectiveness. Becoming a good speaker is the one skill that truly differentiates you from others.

  14. Bill Denyer says:

    Thanks, Dan. Great observations and ones I will use as I teach college students and corporate leaders the power of effective presentation. Being able to effectively speak to a group is one skill that differentiates you from others.

  15. Microcambios says:

    Thanks Dan, my english is a little poor but I think that If you aren’t an authentic person, it doesn’t work. For me, the most important thing is the second point: “their souls stir, their brains engage, and their bodies prepare to act”. Yes, definitly.
    Teach it in your own way is also a good advice

  16. Terrific points! As a speaker and relationship strategist, these 3 points are excellent. What this does is summed it in one point: honor your audience by making it about them!

  17. Mike says:

    Dan, Great post. Reaffirms the right to be respectful yet authentic. Be prepared out of respect for others, concise out of respect for time and authentic out of respect for yourself.

  18. I always describe your first point as “Prepare to present so that you can then be present.”

    If you do all the appropriate preparation (and it varies based on individual needs) you can then be 100% present … in a conversation and interaction with the room instead of talking at/to the room.

    You see it in the best talks, TED or otherwise, your TED Global talk included. Passion. Purpose. Preparation. Presence.

  19. sharna sammy says:

    This is something worth Tweeting and blogging – Thank you Daniel – you’re one of my favourite and inspiring authors/speakers (Although never met in real life… yet). I quoted you a few times in my blog posts and in plain conversation.
    I hope I have said, and will carry on saying “something important” to those whom I encounter in my life 🙂
    Thanks again.

  20. Cameron says:

    I dont agree with any of your tips because i’m an 8th grade student and my brain is far more supieor