TED TALKS: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking

TED TALKS: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking - Chris Anderson

Summary of “Public Speaking TED TALKS – The Official Guide”: There is nothing more natural than being afraid to speak in public.

By Chris Anderson, 2016, 348 pages, published by Flammarion

Chronicle and summary of Chris Anderson’s “Public Speaking: The Official Guide”:


Are you interested in the art of public speaking? Are you in admiration of the famous speakers from the TED conferences? Would you like to be as confident as they are when they present to the public and know the methods they use?

But, unfortunately, you know you’ll never be like them. Why not?! Because they have tips, advice and preparation techniques, kept secret within the TED conferences.

Unless the official director decides to write a book to summarise the best advice from their lectures, your dream will never come true …

How? Speaking in public the official guide is a book that deals with the best advice of TED speakers? And it was written by the director himself: Chris Anderson.

Then you have no reason not to read it or at least understand the principles summarised in this article.

You will learn, through a timeline, the basics of good public speaking. Then how to prepare yourself, get on stage and shine with your eloquence and spoken delivery.

PART 1: The Basics of Good Public Speaking

“So, are we nervous?”

These are the first words the author has chosen for his book on public speaking. It’s very pertinent that he starts with this catchphrase. It is probably the feeling you get from the moment you are asked to make a public speech.

The author then explains that if we feel this fear, it is completely normal. It’s not normal for anyone to make a speech in front of dozens of people. It is something we do from time to time, not regularly.

So, our brain and body are not used to this situation, which causes this rise in stress.

Another important point to know about public speaking is the role of verbal communication in the impact of your message. Studies have shown that your verbal communication accounts for only 7% of the impact of your words. This compares to more than 60% of non-verbal communication and about 30-33% of para-verbal communication. So, you don’t have to worry too much about your text. But the more you focus on your attitude, your gestures and your way of speaking.

Also know that one of the keys in order to prepare your speech is, at the start, to establish the breadcrumb trail of your speech. With a logical sequence of things, you will be better able to retain your speech. It will also help the audience to remain more receptive to your message, because it is logical and well-articulated. To do this, create a checklist of your speech and find the common thread of your answers. Here are some examples of questions you can ask yourself to create your checklist:

  1. Does the subject arouse curiosity? Does the subject fascinate me?
  2. Will it benefit those who attend or listen?
  3. Is what I’m about to say something new, or is it just a rehash?
  4. Am I really able to talk about this? And within the allotted time?
  5. How can it be summed up in 15 words?
  6. Do I have enough credibility to talk about this?

PART 2: 4 tools to know how to speak in public

If you want to become a better speaker, you will have to acquaint yourself with the methods of the greats. This is why at the start the author shows you well-founded methods to use for when you speak. Here are four of them:

1- Establish contact with your audience

The easiest way to connect with your audience from the start is to create a link through your eyes. Imagine for a moment a speaker in the middle of a speech who turns their back on their audience and speaks into their microphone. In this case, it is unlikely that the people in the room will either listen or remember his or her speech. Therefore, if you move around the stage and look at each member of the audience, you will be able to introduce your speech non-verbally.

If you find yourself in front of hundreds of people, be sure to divide the room into small segments and focus on the middle of each one. This way, all the people in your audience will feel targeted by your gaze.

A good speaker is also someone who knows how to show vulnerability in order to create a sense of empathy and emotion within the audience.

Therefore, if you are a very shy speaker, say so at the beginning of your speech. Not to clear your name, but more to show your vulnerability and make a connection with your audience. Be careful that your vulnerability is genuine, rather than seem like an attempt to over-emphasise a point.

You can also play on the tone of humour to create a quick connection. But if you don’t have one, use the other methods.

2- Tell an irresistible story

To be able to master the art of storytelling is sometimes an essential step for anyone interested in communication.

For a speaker, it’s a very powerful way to convey a message whilst the whole room listens to you. Because we all love stories. And once the framework has been laid out, if the speaker has aroused a sense of curiosity in you, then you will want to know what happens next.

To make sure your stories are good, always think about balance.

You need to add detail, but too much would make your story too complex.

You need to choose a character that can easily arouse empathy, but too much drama would make him or *her a fictional character.

And finally, wrap up so as to match the climax of the emotional release in your story.

3- Explain difficult concepts when you speak in public

There always comes a point in your speech where you have to explain a complex principle.

This moment often comes when you are about 60% of the way through your speech: the moment when public attention is at its lowest. However, you can keep, or even rekindle, the flame of attention with an explanation of a complex concept. Author Chris Anderson gives us a plan to do this:

  • Start in the present tense: don’t get lost in wild hypotheses.
  • Light the fire, pique the curiosity of the audience: curiosity can be aroused by something new, or if you question something that seems to be taken for granted by the whole room (2+2 does not make 4!).
  • Introduce the concepts one after the other: and at the end, don’t hesitate to repeat the most important points to remember.
  • Use metaphors to vary the interest: and above all to prevent the audience from falling asleep with the use of language and terminology that they do not understand. Metaphors not only allow you to vary your message but also to popularise it.
  • Finish your explanation with an example: nothing better to summarize everything you said than a situation scenario. You can do it if you recount a short story, or a small anecdote. Just pay attention to one thing: the more your story is likely to have or be experienced by the people in the room, the more impact it will have, and vice versa.

4- Convince and change your mind orally

It is often difficult to change a person’s mind because few people like to be wrong, or feel influenced by another person. And as the author says, “Before building, you must tear down“. Understand that you must first get your audience to open their eyes before you offer your argument.

But beware, you must not tear them down literally and attack them personally. That’s the kind of situation that could result in a person turning on themselves. Just tell them to be more open-minded and look at things in a different light. Over time, I’ve learned that there’s never a truth or absolutely the right thing to do. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Let’s say you pitch the brand new model of lawn mower that your company has just created. Someone in the room stands up and says, “Wait, why would we pay €400 more than your main competitor just to mow our lawn every 2 months?” At this point, start by opening up the person’s vision. You don’t just want to mow your lawn, you also want it to be quick, with as little noise as possible. We have also thought about your comfort and added a seat which is very comfortable. And then our machine, which will surely soon be yours, is equipped with very moveable wheels. This means that you can explore every nook and cranny of your garden.

It is for all these reasons that we have a higher price than our competitor.

PART 3: Preparation for your conference

Now that you have the basics for your pitch, lecture, or speech, let’s see how to prepare yourself properly. Preparation is based on 4 key elements: visual support, your text, rehearsals, and finally the structure of the introduction and conclusion.

Don’t try to memorise text that took you 4 days to write. Public speaking should be, in the opinion of Chris Anderson, a balance between improvisation and memorisation. However, there are two moments in which you will considerably reduce your improvisation percentage for public speaking: the introduction and the conclusion of your oral presentation. That’s why the preparation contains a special part for these 2 moments.

1- The end of slides

In terms of visual support, the majority of people would go with a slide show. Yet do we really need a slide show for everything? Sometimes, a simple video or a few pictures can be enough. Remember this quote: “A picture is worth a thousand words”.

The example that the author gives us in his book is a lecture given on squid. The speaker and his team had prepared a short film of a giant squid in its natural environment. For more than 10 minutes, there was absolutely nothing to see on the screen, apart from the seabed. All the attention was then focused on the speaker. Then all of a sudden: boom! The squid filled the screen! Wow, a guaranteed reaction in the room!

You can also focus your visual support on aesthetics rather than practicality. If you make a speech within an artistic field, do not hesitate to show your creations: painting, video, short film, website …

One last tip for good public speaking: be sure to use images, videos, or text for which you have the copyright. Don’t choose your images on Google Images, and use these image banks: Pixabay, Unplash, Pexels. The images will be of a better resolution and will be freely available. 

2- Create and learn your speech

Let’s settle the question once and for all: a text is not to be memorized! This also applies to certain parts, such as the introduction, the conclusion, or a complex development in the middle of your speech. Here is a list of some of the consequences that can occur if you learn your speech by heart:

  • You have a monotone voice, and you sound like you’re reciting poetry…
  • You find it difficult to make eye contact with the audience because you are too focused on your text.
  • It makes it impossible for you to react to if a video or slide show goes wrong.
  • You don’t know how to respond to the audience’s reactions: it wasn’t in your script!
  • You’re hesitant in your movements, should we move on? Move to the right? Stay in the back of the room?
  • Finally, the most tragic consequence: you have a memory blackout!

To make sure that you don’t have to learn your text by heart, but are still able to do it well, the author gives us 2 tips.

  1. The first is to create a logical discourse. The more logical and simpler your speech will be, in terms of structure, the easier it will be for you and the audience to understand it. So it’s when you leave a breadcrumb trail that the learning curve for your speech starts to happen. Use a chronological, analytical (causes, consequences), dialectical (the famous thesis-antithesis-synthesis) plan …
  2. The second method is to make sure you are able to remember complicated words or difficult explanations. Let’s say you had to present a whole experimental protocol with 6 steps. This may be complicated for you, but it will be even more complicated for the public if you don’t have a supporting design. So add a design or video to your slideshow to help the audience, and, more importantly, to save yourself from the need to learn everything.

3- Repeat, repeat and repeat again!

The higher the stakes, the more you need to practice, preferably with people you trust. Through the multiple rehearsals that you will do, you will be able to adjust your speaking time little by little. TED speakers have a maximum of 18 minutes to complete their talk. Each minute is therefore a precious elixir not to be wasted. You can imagine if a speaker finishes 3 minutes in advance, they would have wasted 16% of their speaking time: that’s much too much!

The many rehearsals you perform will also be a good way to get feedback. This is why you should choose honest people who will be free to tell you the truth and have an objective opinion. Remember the checklist you made in the first part of this article, this is the time to use it. Make sure that you stick to all the points on your checklist when you rehearse.

The goal is to get the backbone of your conference familiar enough so that you can then focus solely on your message.

4- Care for the introduction and avoid traps at the conclusion

You only get one chance to make a good impression“.

This is the main reason why your introduction should start out strong! You can use theatrical effect, pique the curiosity of your audience, introduce a shock element, or tease the audience but not have to reveal everything. All these methods are inspired by Chris Anderson’s book and explained in this article: starting a speech or a lecture.

It is estimated that you have 10 seconds to capture the attention of your audience as soon as you take the stage. So what will you put in place to demonstrate your authority, charisma and altruism to your audience? You can use one of the 4 previous methods, or even several if you feel it makes sense. However, avoid using all 4.

As for the conclusion of your oral presentation, be careful not to fall into the most well-known traps and finish off your lecture brilliantly.

Among these pitfalls, you have the number one case of the speaker who apologizes to their audience. At some point they couldn’t remember their lines, they exceeded the time limit, they experienced a technical problem, whatever the reason: you should not apologize at the end of an oral presentation!

You also have the speaker who suddenly decides to skip a section because they have just realized that they will not have time to finish. If, unfortunately, this happens to you, don’t mention it, show the audience that you have the situation under control. Otherwise, it will show a lack of preparation and professionalism.

And finally, the person who ends with something other than themselves as their parting message. No guest, video, or animation should conclude your speech, it’s down to you!

PART 4: 5 parameters to be adjusted once on stage for public speaking

That’s it, we’re here, or rather you’re here, you’re about to take to the stage. Appreciate that this is your moment of glory, the audience is there to listen to you speak, so show yourself worthy of their attention.

The first thing to take care of is your outfit. There is no universal dress code, but to stay connected to your audience, find an outfit that can be worn by your audience. A good example of this synchronization is speaker Steve Jobs. He would arrive in trainers, jeans and a t-shirt to present his company’s latest products. He talked like a consumer, dressed like one, and of course, used an iPhone or Mac.

The second important thing is your psychological preparation. It’s an essential step. Because if you don’t manage your stress properly, you could lose all your strength in front of the public. Use the visualization technique the day before your speech. Imagine yourself at your presentation and that it is a successful outcome. You can also use techniques to help you breathe or meditate to control your stress before you speak.

Also, pay attention to the configuration of the room.

If it’s a small meeting room, use the proximity to your audience. Get very close to the people, whisper, and create a warm and simple atmosphere.  Will you have a prompter, a notecard, the ability to display a slide show? These are all parameters to consider in advance. If you give your speech in a large conference room, then you will need to adapt your gaze, the power of your voice, and your mobility on stage to create dynamism.

And let’s talk a little bit about your voice on stage. Don’t worry, you’re not in front of the audience to do a dictation? Make your speech come alive. A beautiful voice is made up of low notes, high notes, slow delivery, and faster delivery. Remember, your para-verbal communication (your voice) accounts for more than 30% of the impact of your speech. There’s nothing that bores an audience more than a speaker who speaks without real conviction.

Play a real play in front of your audience. The stage presence should be in the same dynamic as your voice, with high and slower times. The author also explains that if we move on stage it allows us to evacuate our stress more easily with the creation of movement. If you stay frozen in one place, you will feel stuck and less confident: so move!

Check out our video where marketing and communication expert Victoria Labalme to engage your audience and have an impact, anywhere, any time 🙂:

PART 5: Reflections on communication

As a final part of his basic book on speaking, Chris Anderson offers some philosophical reflections on communication.

To really make us aware of the importance to develop this skill, as we learned to do to walk or ride a bike. And it’s true that communication concerns all of us, as well:

  • A high school student who wants to acquire a good insurance policy
  • A young graduate who dreams of a career
  • Any employee who plans to move up in the ranks of their company
  • Anyone who is committed and concerned about the creation of a good reputation
  • Any individual who is enthusiastic and eager to connect with other “world citizens” who share common passions.
  • All those who want to promote action and have a better impact
  • In short, everyone…

Some 20 years ago, in the early 2000s, conferences and meetings were seen as a necessary evil. Especially in the corporate world, where communication is at the heart of every department.

Then with the arrival of digital tools, and the progression of innovation in communication, boring moments can now be transformed into deep interactive and constructive exchanges. However, there must be this process of renewal on the part of the old to ensure that the new generation is trained to have this vision of communication.

On top of all this, knowledge is now more and more accessible to all and we are now all aware of an interconnection of knowledge.

In the past, most knowledge was acquired at school and, for some, in the family. From there it was enhanced in a specialized way within the professional environment. Now, you can work alone in a food laboratory and train yourself in the management and communication of others. Books, blog articles, mobile applications, radio, TV, training, coaching, are all tools that were not available to everyone 50 years ago.

Finally, in addition to this interconnection of knowledge, there is the wealth created by the interconnection of people. Never before in history has it been so simple to be able to communicate with a person. Even on the other side of the world, you can have an exchange with a person in real-time. It may seem trivial, but the rapid development of communication channels has really changed a lot of sectors. A simple example: in all sectors that touch on art, you can show your talent to the world in a few seconds with the use of Google, Instagram, YouTube

Book critique of Public Speaking TED: The Official Guide” by Chris Anderson:

In this column, you have discovered the main keys to Chris Anderson’s book: Public Speaking in TED: The Official Guide. What I liked the most about this book is the countless tips and tricks to help you make a good speech. The methods are both applicable for small pitches or for real conferences in front of hundreds of people.

I also appreciated the immersive side of this book for public speaking at TED conferences. To be able to understand the concept and discover the behind-the-scenes, from the preparation to the realization of the conferences by good speakers.

This is why I consider this book “Public Speaking TED” to be one of the best in the field of public speaking and communication. You can find it in my column.

Strong Points of TED TALKS: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking:
  • The logical structure of the book that sweeps through the flow of a speech.
  • Explanations of all communication methods (rehearsal, storytelling, confident delivery of speeches).
  • The final reflection on the last chapter related to communication in general, which opens up a philosophical aspect.
Weak Points of TED TALKS: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking:
  • May be missing the section dedicated to self-confidence and stress management for successful speaking.

My rating : Public Speaking audience Public Speaking audience Public Speaking audiencePublic Speaking audiencePublic Speaking audiencePublic Speaking audiencePublic Speaking audiencePublic Speaking audiencePublic Speaking audience

Have you read “Public Speaking TED”? How do you rate it?

Mediocre - No interestReasonable - One or two interesting paragraphsIntermediate - Some goods ideasGood - Had changed my life on one practical aspectVery Good - Completely changed my life ! (No Ratings Yet)


Read more reviews on Amazon about “Public Speaking TED”

Buy on Amazon “Public Speaking TED”

5 thoughts on “TED TALKS: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *