How to Deliver a TED Talk – Jeremey Donovan [Book Summary]

by Nick

“How to Deliver a TED Talk” is an express course to create vibrant, impressive presentations that can inspire other people.

The tips in the book are based on a detailed study of the most popular presentations at TED conferences.

The author of the book is Gartner’s vice president of marketing, a leader in information technology research and consulting. Donovan has excellent oratory skills, he personally participated in the organization of TED conferences.

This book is available as:

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Spread Your Ideas

The mission of TED is to spread the ideas that are worth spreading.

TED is a non-profit organization that gathers bright and caring people who are ready to talk about what they really care about.

TED participants are divided into two groups – people with outstanding abilities or those who are involved in unusual and original projects, and ordinary people who want to share their unusual stories.

10 TED Commandments

  1. Be sincere. Do not flaunt your ego. Do not brag.
  2. Dream of the great. Show something that no one has ever seen. Do something that the audience will remember forever.
  3. Tell stories. Do not try to dazzle with intelligence. Give examples. Be specific
  4. No sales from the scene.
  5. Make jokes more often – humor helps to keep the attention
  6. Create an emotional connection. Make you laugh! Make you cry!
  7. Comment on other speeches – praise or criticize.
  8. Show yourself the present. Share not only successes but also failures and fears.
  9. Do not read the speech
  10. Finish on time.

How to Choose a Topic for Speech

In order to choose the right topic, you need to look deep inside yourself.

The author says that your task is to sow seeds of inspiration, to make the listener want to support your idea.

Ask yourself questions to help you better understand yourself:

  • What was the most important lesson life taught me?
  • What event in my life made me truly happy?
  • How did I get to the bottom?
  • What is the main goal of my life?
  • How to convince others to follow me?

Having chosen the main idea, start preparing the presentation, generously spice up the story with stories and facts that are interesting to the audience.

When preparing a speech, look at it through the eyes of the listener and ask on its behalf, “What do I care about all this?”

Of the ten most popular performances, seven are those that inspired people to make changes in their lives.

Topics of popular performances: –

  • mental disorders
  • creativity
  • leadership
  • happiness
  • motivation – success – self- esteem – interpersonal relationships –
  • social changes.

Four human needs, the knowledge of which helps to create an emotional connection with the audience:

  • – the desire for love and communication
  • – personal desires and interests (physical activity and financial well-being)
  • – fast personal growth
  • – hope for a brighter future


Consider these needs when preparing for a speech.

Choose One Idea That You Would Like to Share, Then Look for a Fascinating Story From Your Life.

Do not squeeze all life experience into one performance.

How to create a passphrase?

Imagine the essence of your idea with a bright catchy key phrase.

Good keyphrase – how to compose it?

  1. Avoid long sentences, use from 3 to 12 words. An example of “hope and change” is Obama’s slogan.
  2. Include a clear call to action in the phrase. Example “Start with why”, “Let’s not wait.”
  3. Add a musical rhythm to the phrase – for this, you can repeat the word or phrase at the end (epistrophe) and at the beginning (anaphora), or a combination of anaphora and epiphora-simplex (sequential repetition of words or phrases at the beginning and at the end). Example: “It was the most wonderful time, it was the most unfortunate time.”
  4. Use traduction – repeating the same word in different parts of the phrase. Example: “People do not buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
  5. If the phrase consists of two parts – let the second sound positive and contrasted with the first.
  6. During the performance, repeat the key phrase at least three times.

How to Introduce Yourself to the Audience

Rule 1

A successful presentation is always connected with the main idea of ​​the speech and is addressed to the audience. Audiences need to be told why it is worth listening to a lecturer.


“By the end of Hans’s speech, you’ll learn how to promote the free flow of medical information that can improve the quality of your own life, the lives of your children and another 7 billion people.”

Rule 2

A successful presentation emphasizes the authority of the speaker, but he is not erected on a pedestal. The speaker should be presented so that everyone understands what gives him the right to disseminate his ideas, but also so that he does not look like a superman. We respect authority, but trust in ordinary people like us. No need to list absolutely all regalia.


“Dr. Rosling is a professor of global health at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. He made a significant contribution to attracting the attention of the world community to the problems of the public health system. ”


Rule 3

Write and transmit a text on how to introduce you to the presenter in advance.

Rule 4

Matching the presentation style to the performance

How to start a performance

The peak of audience attention falls on the first 10-20 seconds of the performance.

First option

Tell a story from personal experience. The story should reveal the topic of the speech and the main message. The story should evoke an emotional response. An example is a statement by writer Richard John (see

Second option

Start with a shocking introduction on one of 4 topics – physical health and safety, love and communication, personal desires and interests, and hope for a better future.

An example is a presentation by Jamie Oliver “Unfortunately, in the 18 minutes that I

will speak from the stage, four of the now-alive Americans will die because of the food they ate.”

Third option

Ask a discouraging question starting with the words “Why” and “How.” An example is a speech by Simon Sinek “How do you explain situations when everything goes wrong as you expected?”

Other options

Important – if the audience is sluggish or too excited, you need to make an eyeliner – for example, start with a joke or use the “callback” technique – link in jest or the story of the previous speaker, from which the audience was delighted. Reception “Callback” should seem like improvisation.

Eyeliner – ask the public to imagine themselves in a particular situation or setting. At the end of the introduction, give a clear idea of ​​what to expect from your presentation and when to get it.

Example: “After 45 minutes, you will leave this room, having at your disposal 3 new tools for building a happy life.”


How You Should Not Start a Performance

  • – don’t start your performance with a quote
  • – don’t start your performance with a joke
  • – don’t start your performance with something that can even slightly disturb the audience
  • – don’t start with expressing gratitude
  • – don’t start with the words “before I start”
  • – do not force the public to move unless absolutely necessary

There are exceptions to any rule.

How to Build the Bulk of the Performance and Make Transitions Smoother

The speaker’s speech is like the work of an architect.

Build a presentation according to a universal scheme:

  • – tell the audience what you are going to say
  • – share information
  • – summarize what was said.

Divide your presentation into 3 parts, regardless of duration.

Variants of speech structures

“Situation-Complication-Decoupling” is used to convince listeners to take part in something or change their position. Start with impartial description of the situation. In the second part, show the audience the reason for the wrong state of things or show the audience hidden opportunities. In the third part, offer your solution to resolve the problem.

An example of such a performance is Daniel Pink TED 2009.

“Chronological presentation”

For speakers who like to go from afar. Examples are Elizabeth Gilbert TED 2009, Chichamanda Adichie. 2009

“Idea – Concept”

Lets you list in a short time all the events or theories related to the topic. Often the order in which concepts are enumerated does not matter.

Include facts, strategies and techniques in your speech – they will affect the left half of the brain and stories; exercises – will affect the right half of the brain.

Ask questions so that students can reflect on their lives. When working with a small group, consider the option of involving the audience in the dialogue.

Show Statistics With Numbers and Vibrant Images.

“Seventy million Americans have heart problems,” or “Look at the three people next to you: it is likely that one of them has heart problems that will kill him.”

Try to briefly summarize what has been said and revive the attention of the audience at each transition from one part of the speech to another.

How to Complete the Presentation

When you make it clear that you are preparing to end a speech, the attention of the audience will increase again. At this point, it’s important to choose the right words.

Create a sense of the significance of the moment. For example, try to speak in short sentences and pronounce them more passionately.

Throughout your speech, you tried to convince the public of the need for change. Now put yourself in her place and think about what other objections she may have.

You can directly call people to action. Or ask a provocative question. Try to pronounce the beginning of your key phrase and let the audience complete it on their own.

An example of one of the best endings of performance is Bryn Brown.

She ended the speech emotionally and she managed to create a strong connection with the audience.

Push the audience to action, creating a sense of the significance of the moment and suggesting a simple first step.

How to Tell Stories

Decide which story to tell.

It is best to look for a story from personal experience or observation.

Tell the story of another person, remembering the importance of the details. Do not put yourself on a pedestal, position yourself as an equal to the listeners, as a kind of guide, but not surpassing them in anything human.

After you decide what story to tell, think about how to structure it better . Proven scheme: first imagine the characters, then place them in the center of an intriguing conflict and end up with an action-packed denouement.

In a memorable story, heroes with a complex and multifaceted character always act .

Immerse listeners in the story even deeper, playing it in front of them. Pay attention to the description of the voice, body position, gestures, facial expressions. Do not retell the events taking place with the character, it is better to play them.

Increase the difficulty of the obstacles facing the heroes as the plot develops, but remember that the reward for the work must be within


Happy ending in history inspires the public, gives it self-confidence. Bad-ending stories are more suitable for instruction and teaching. Pleasure is a stronger stimulus than pain, more often use a happy ending.

A good story is different in that the listener removes layer by layer, finding new sources of wisdom in it.

How to Improve Your Verbal Presentation Skills

Use a public language without slang words in short, simple sentences.

A typical TED speaker will understand the sixth-grader. Get rid of the bad habit of using parasitic words by learning to pause speech.  Alternate sentences with pauses. They not only replace harmful words but also create a sense of control over the situation.

Engage in expanding your vocal range. Learn to control the volume of your voice. Breathe evenly and deeply by adjusting the volume so that the listeners in the back rows can hear you without straining. To increase the intensity of the story, speed up the pace and use shorter words.

Use colorful, colorful descriptions to keep your audience interested , trying to affect the feelings of your audience. Describe colors, smells, sounds.

The best speakers use the word “You” twice as often as “I”. Free use of the word “you”, referring to the audience as one person.

How to Use Humor

The key to success of a joke is in its surprise. Unforeseen events amaze and delight us. The most important or funny thought is given at the end of a sentence or story.

Make fun of yourself, not the public. It’s easy and the public loves it. An example is a story of Dr. Taylor in 2008 about how she survived a stroke.

Exaggeration is easy to turn into a fun joke. Simply put an ordinary person in an unusual situation or an unusual person in an ordinary situation. Typical stories of this kind of story include an overreaction to small stimuli or a selfless pursuit of an empty target.

Humor fits well into the dialogue, try to use this combination in your stories. Taylor retold the amusing dialogue between her and her brain. Most TED members joke once a minute. It is important to choose the right moment, and not adhere to the same rhythm throughout the entire speech.

Make sure that facial expressions match the meaning of the joke. Even light grimaces like raised eyebrows or bulging eyes will make the audience laugh.

Do not retell jokes heard or read anywhere. People who already know the anecdote will find you boring and unoriginal. To make the audience laugh more, try joking more. The main thing – do not overdo it.

How to Apply Gestures and Body Movements

To feel comfortable on stage, in those moments when you do not need vivid gestures, behave as if you are just having a friendly conversation with a person you trust.

Hands are relaxed and are located on the sides.

Whatever position you take, watch for its symmetry.

When gesturing, keep your arms above your waist and below your neck. Do not touch the face, hair, back of the neck. Relate the scale of your gestures to the number of listeners. The larger the audience, the more theatrical hand movements should look.

A sign of nervous tension – elbows pressed to the body – release them at will.

Light up your audience with a sincere smile as often as possible. Do not smile constantly. Facial expressions should match what you say. Face the audience, keep your shoulders straight and your feet shoulder-width apart.

When asking the audience a question, stop and nod. So you encourage internal discussion in the minds of listeners. Make eye contact. Look into the eyes of one listener for 5-7 seconds, and then look at another.

Learn to move smoothly around the stage. Imagine a theater stage and divide it into sections for each stage of the performance.

Developing a thought, calmly face the audience. Then, pause and go to another place. Having taken a position, keep talking – so students will digest the information and prepare to perceive the following thought.

How to Create Inspirational Visual Accompaniment

Of the ten most popular TED speakers, four don’t use slides at all.

Slides should give the audience additional visual material, and not serve you as a giant music stand.

In the best TED – presentations with the use of slides, three approaches are found, named after the creators: Godin’s method, Takahashi’s method, Lessig’s method.

To develop a slide show by Godin’s method, fill the entire area of ​​the slide with a beautiful high-quality photograph. An excellent trick is to take the picture beyond the boundaries of the slide so that listeners can use their imagination to think of it on their own.

Takahamashi’s method – the slide is filled with a short message in capital letters.

Lessig’s method is a hybrid of the previous two methods. It uses Large shots and plain text.

Whatever method you choose, the main thing is to follow a simple graphic design rule : the less the better.

Try to make all slides as simple and elegant as possible and put them together in a perfect combination.

Reduce the information saturation of each individual slide.

For example, split an image with two diagrams into two slides.

Use the font Helvetica or Arial.

If it is necessary to use several fonts, it is desirable that they be from the same group. The rule “the less the better” also applies when choosing colors. Use no more than 5 different colors. General rules are to use cool tones in the background and warm tones in the foreground. Neutral colors, black and white, are also good for the substrate.

How to Overcome Fear

Many people are afraid of performing on stage more than death.

Get ready for the presentation in advance. Practice at least three times in front of an audience with whom you can establish feedback. Rehearse the speech several times until the text is remembered and you feel more confident. Do not memorize the text, but do not read a piece of paper.

Come to the hall in advance, get comfortable, get used to the room and the means at hand . Check the health of all technical devices. View all slides in demo mode.

Consider how to use physical space. If you intend to move around the stage during a performance, think in advance how this will happen.

Remember: at the beginning of the presentation, the audience wants your success no less than you. Memorize the introduction. A confident start allows you not to lose control over the situation throughout the speech.

Keep a brief outline of your performance in your pocket. This will strengthen your faith in yourself. Often out of excitement, people start talking too fast. Slow down the pace of speech and feel free to pause. During a pause, the audience will think over your words, and you can take a couple of additional breaths.

Stop Reading – Start Talking

Just as watching the many episodes of Hell’s Kitchen does not make you a chef, contemplating the speeches of great speakers will not raise you to their level. Reading a lot of books on this topic will not help either.

The only way to gain mastery of public speaking is through practice and the ability to establish contact with the audience.

The Final Words

In order to choose the right topic, you need to look inside yourself. Your task is to make the listener want to support your idea.

When preparing a speech, look at him through the eyes of the listener and ask on his behalf, “What do I care about all this?” Of the 10 popular performances, 7 are those that inspired people to change their lives.

Choose one idea that you would like to share, then look for a fascinating story from your life. Do not squeeze all life experience into one performance.

Imagine the essence of your idea with a bright catchy key phrase. During the performance, repeat the key phrase at least three times.

The peak of audience attention falls on the first 10-20 seconds of the performance. Choose the right start.

Build a presentation according to a universal scheme: tell the audience what you are going to say, share information, summarize what was said.

Include facts, strategies, and techniques in your speech – they will affect the left half of the brain and stories; exercises – will affect the right half of the brain.

Push the audience to action, creating a sense of the significance of the moment and suggesting a simple first step.

Decide which story to tell. It is best to look for a story from personal experience or observation.

The only way to gain mastery of public speaking is practice and the ability to establish contact with the audience.

Why You Should Read “How to Deliver a TED Talk”

  • To prepare for an important speech, and avoid being boring and banal.
  • To quickly learn how to captivate and inspire others with your ideas and find like-minded people in any environment.
  • To become a fluent speaker, the one who people will listen and follow

This book is available as:

AudiobookeBook | Print