Presenting Like a Pro: Learnings from TED Talks

Presenting Like a Pro: Learnings from TED Talks

November 17, 2021
Annette Maggi
Business SkillsCommunications

By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

TED Talks are seen as the gold standard of all presentations. They stand out from other presentations given their effectiveness in conveying compelling and accurate information in an easy-to-understand, concise format. They rely on the actual presentation and much less on slides.

So how do you take your presentations to this level, whether targeted at your shoppers, community groups, or company executives? Follow these tips:

  • Have a Conversation. Too often, presentations are one-way monologues. The magic of TED Talks is that the presenter is truly present in the moment, listening and responding to the audience. When planning your session, think of it more as having a conversation with your audience.
  • Less is More. Too often, presentations are data dumps. Instead of this approach, think of the one or two central ideas you want to convey to your audience. Then consider the most compelling way to communicate those messages. Fight the urge to go deep into minutia, instead focusing on what you want the takeaway to be at the end of your presentation. Less is also more when it comes to length; TED talks are 18 minutes or less. Striving for a shorter presentation forces you to focus on the most important points.
  • You’ve Heard it Before, Storytelling Matters. Make it personal, make it relatable, make it relevant. The most effective way to do this is by telling a story to get your point across, whether it’s convincing a diabetes support group to start tracking carbs more closely or selling your execs on a new health and wellness program. Stories bring your point to life and create an emotional connection to the topic.
  • Use Visual Aids Sparingly. Treat slides truly as aids to your presentation not the focus of your presentation. Any visuals you choose to share should augment your points. The goal is not a takeaway slide deck; the goal is to motive and inspire your audience to act differently.
  • Body Language Matters. When you have a conversation with your best friend, you’re animated. You might talk with your hands. You lean in. You smile. You speak with passion. Shed any stiffness or formality and use your natural body language to engage your audience and sell your story.
  • State a Call to Action. The ultimate goal of a presentation is for your listeners to act upon the information. Without a call to action, your talk is interesting but perhaps not urgent for those listening. In closing with a call to action, you give your audience a next step.
  • Study the Pros. Watch other TED Talks to improve your presentations. They’re all available here.