ted talks book cover


To begin with this ted talks book summary, imagine this: You’re up in front of a big crowd of people, and there’s a super bright light shining on you. Your heart starts beating really fast, your hands get all sweaty, and it feels like you can’t remember what you were going to say. If just thinking about talking in front of lots of people gives you a scared feeling, don’t worry; lots of people feel the same way. Even famous speakers have felt nervous when they had to talk in public.

In this article, we’re going to explore why some people get scared to speak in public and why it’s totally normal. It doesn’t matter if you’re already good at speaking or if you want to get better; understanding why we feel this way can help us use those feelings to become even better speakers. So, let’s dive into the world of being nervous to talk in front of others and learn how to turn that nervousness into something that makes us even stronger.

In fact, there is nothing more natural than being afraid to speak in public

Ted talks book by Chris Anderson, 2016, 348 pages, published by Flammarion

ted talks book


Do you want to be a great public speaker like the TED conference speakers? You might think it’s impossible, but there’s a Ted talk book called “Speaking in Public: The Official Guide” by Chris Anderson, the TED director. 

In this book, he shares the secret tips, advice, and preparation techniques used by TED speakers. 

So, there’s no excuse not to read it or at least learn the key principles discussed in this article. You’ll discover the fundamentals of public speaking, how to prepare, take the stage, and speak confidently.

PART 1: The Basics of Good Public Speaking

“So, are we nervous?”

The author begins his Ted talk book on public speaking with these words, and they’re quite fitting. They capture the common feeling we all have when asked to speak in public. The author goes on to explain that feeling afraid in such situations is entirely normal. After all, speaking in front of a crowd isn’t something we do every day; it’s more of an occasional thing.

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

Here are some important things to understand about public speaking:

  1. Words Are Not Everything: When you speak in public, the words you say are only a small part of how your message is received. Studies have shown that what you say verbally makes up only 7% of the impact. The rest, more than 60%, comes from your body language and how you say things.
  2. Focus on How You Speak: Instead of stressing too much about the exact words you use, pay more attention to your tone, gestures, and overall demeanor when speaking.
  3. Create a Clear Structure: It’s crucial to plan your speech well. Start by creating a logical sequence for your points. This helps you remember what to say and keeps your audience engaged because your message is organized and easy to follow.
  4. Ask Yourself Some Questions: To create a structured speech, ask yourself these questions:
  • Does the topic spark curiosity or fascination?
  • Will it benefit your audience?
  • Is your content fresh and not just a repetition?
  • Do you have enough knowledge and time to cover the topic?
  • Can you summarize it in 15 words or less?
  • Do you have the credibility to speak on this topic?

By considering these points, you can become a more effective and engaging public speaker.

ted talks book chris anderson

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

If you want to improve your speaking skills, it’s important to learn from experienced speakers. That’s why the author begins by sharing some proven methods for effective speaking. Here are four of them:

1- Establish contact with your audience

To connect with your audience right from the beginning, one simple way is to establish a connection through your eyes. Imagine a speaker giving a speech with their back turned to the audience, only speaking into a microphone. In such a situation, it’s unlikely that the audience will pay attention or remember the speech. So, if you move around the stage and make eye contact with different audience members, you can convey your message without words.

When addressing a large audience, divide the room into smaller sections and focus on the middle of each section. This way, everyone in the audience will feel like you’re speaking directly to them.

A good speaker also knows how to show vulnerability to create empathy and emotion among the audience. If you’re a shy speaker, it can help to admit it at the beginning of your speech. This isn’t about making excuses but rather about showing your genuine vulnerability to connect with your audience. Just be sincere, and don’t overemphasize it.

You can also use humor to quickly connect with your audience, but if that’s not your style, these other methods can work just as well.

2- Tell an irresistible story

Mastering the art of storytelling is an important skill for effective communication. When you’re a speaker, storytelling becomes a powerful tool to share your message with an engaged audience. Why? Because we all enjoy hearing stories, and if a speaker piques your curiosity, you’ll want to know what happens next.

To tell good stories, it’s essential to maintain a balance. Include enough detail to make your story engaging, but don’t overwhelm it with too much complexity. Choose characters that can easily connect with the audience’s emotions, but avoid excessive drama that would make them seem unreal. Lastly, conclude your story in a way that matches the emotional peak, creating a satisfying experience for your listeners.

3- Explain difficult concepts when you speak in public

In your speech, there’s a moment when you have to explain something complicated. This usually happens when you’re about 60% into your speech, and people’s attention might be fading. But don’t worry; you can keep their interest by following these steps from author Chris Anderson:

  1. Start in the Present: Begin by talking about the complex concept in a way that’s easy to understand. Avoid getting lost in complicated ideas.
  2. Spark Curiosity: Ignite the audience’s curiosity by introducing something new or questioning a commonly accepted idea (like suggesting that 2+2 doesn’t always equal 4).
  3. Introduce Concepts Step by Step: Break down the complex concept into smaller parts and explain them one by one. At the end, summarize the most important points.
  4. Use Metaphors: To make it more interesting and prevent boredom, use metaphors. Metaphors help explain your message in a relatable way and avoid confusing jargon.
  5. End with an Example: Wrap up your explanation with a practical example. Share a short story or anecdote that illustrates the concept. Make sure it’s something the audience can relate to for a greater impact.

Following these steps can help you explain complex ideas in a way that keeps your audience engaged and understanding your message.

4- Convince and change your mind orally

Changing someone’s mind can be tough because most people don’t like admitting they’re wrong or feeling pushed. As the author suggests, “Before you build, you must break down.” This means you should help your audience see things differently before presenting your argument.

But be careful, you shouldn’t attack them or make it personal. Instead, encourage them to be open-minded and consider a new perspective. I’ve learned that there’s often no absolute truth; it’s all a matter of how you look at things.

Imagine you’re pitching a brand new lawnmower that’s more expensive than a competitor’s. If someone questions the price, don’t just defend it; help them see the value. Explain that it’s not just about mowing the lawn but doing it quickly and quietly. Mention the comfortable seat and how the machine can easily navigate your garden’s every corner.

By opening up their perspective, you can justify the higher price.

public speaking

PART 3: TePreparation for your conference

Now that you have the fundamentals for your pitch, lecture, or speech, let’s talk about how to prepare properly. Preparation involves four key elements: visual aids, your script, practice sessions, and structuring your introduction and conclusion.

Don’t try to memorize a text that took you four days to write. According to Chris Anderson, public speaking should strike a balance between improvisation and memorization. However, there are two moments when you should reduce improvisation significantly: the beginning and the end of your speech. That’s why the preparation process includes a special focus on these two parts.

1- The end of slides

When it comes to visual aids, most people default to using a slide show. But do we always need slides for everything? Sometimes, a simple video or a few pictures can do the job just fine. Remember the saying: “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

The author shares an example in this Ted talk book about a lecture on squid. Instead of showing slides, the speaker and their team prepared a short film of a giant squid in its natural habitat. For over 10 minutes, the screen displayed nothing but the ocean floor, keeping everyone’s attention on the speaker. Then, suddenly, the giant squid appeared on the screen, creating a big “wow” moment in the room.

In some cases, especially in artistic fields, you can focus on aesthetics rather than practicality when using visual support. For instance, if you’re giving a speech in the arts, feel free to showcase your creations like paintings, videos, short films, or websites.

One more tip for effective public speaking: always use images, videos, or text for which you have the copyright. Avoid grabbing images from Google Images; instead, use image banks like Pixabay, Unsplash, or Pexels. These sources provide high-quality, freely available images and videos.

2- Create and learn your speech

Let’s clear this up once and for all: you shouldn’t memorize your entire speech! This rule especially applies to certain parts like the introduction, conclusion, or any complex sections in the middle. Here are some things that can go wrong if you try to memorize everything:

  • Your voice may become monotonous, making you sound like you’re reciting poetry.
  • It becomes challenging to maintain eye contact with the audience because you’re too focused on your script.
  • You’ll be stuck if a video or slideshow malfunctions because you didn’t plan for it.
  • You won’t know how to respond to the audience’s reactions because it’s not in your script.
  • You’ll be unsure about your movements on stage—should you move, stay put, or go to the side?
  • Worst of all, you might experience a complete memory blank!

To avoid the hassle of memorizing your entire speech while still delivering it effectively, the author offers two helpful tips.

  1. First, create a logical structure for your speech. The simpler and more logical your speech’s structure, the easier it will be for both you and your audience to understand. Think of it as leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for your speech. You can use chronological order, an analytical approach (explaining causes and consequences), or a dialectical plan (like thesis-antithesis-synthesis).
  2. The second method involves simplifying complex words or explanations. For example, if you have to explain a complicated 6-step experimental protocol, it might be tricky for you and even harder for the audience without visual support. So, include a diagram or video in your presentation to assist the audience and, more importantly, to save yourself from having to memorize every detail.

3- Repeat, repeat and repeat again!

When the stakes are high, like in an important speech, it’s crucial to practice, preferably with people you trust. By doing multiple rehearsals, you can fine-tune your speaking time. For instance, TED speakers are limited to 18 minutes for their talk, so each minute is incredibly valuable. Imagine if a speaker finishes 3 minutes early; they’ve wasted 16% of their speaking time, which is too much!

Rehearsing also gives you a chance to receive feedback. It’s essential to choose honest individuals who can provide truthful, objective opinions. Remember the checklist you created earlier in this article; now is the time to use it. Ensure that you cover all the points on your checklist during your rehearsals.

The ultimate goal is to become so familiar with the core of your presentation that you can focus entirely on delivering 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 why it’s crucial to make a strong start with your introduction! You can use dramatic effects, spark your audience’s curiosity, introduce a surprising element, or give them a tantalizing hint without revealing everything. All of these methods are inspired by Chris Anderson’s Ted talk book, which is discussed in this article about starting a speech or lecture.

You typically have only about 10 seconds to grab your audience’s attention as soon as you step onto the stage. So, what will you do to show your expertise, charm, and consideration to your audience? You can choose one of the four methods mentioned earlier, or even use a combination that makes sense. However, it’s best to avoid using all four at once.

When it comes to concluding your speech, it’s essential to avoid common mistakes and end on a high note.

One common pitfall is when a speaker apologizes to the audience. This can happen if they forgot their lines, ran over the time limit, or encountered technical issues. Whatever the reason, it’s best not to apologize at the end of your speech.

Another mistake is when a speaker decides to skip a section of their presentation because they realize they won’t have enough time to finish. If this happens to you, don’t bring it up; instead, show the audience that you have the situation under control. Mentioning it can make you appear unprepared and unprofessional.

Lastly, avoid ending your speech with anything other than yourself. Your conclusion should be about you and your message, not a guest, video, or animation. It’s your moment to leave a lasting impression.

ted talks book summary

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

You’re here, ready to step onto the stage, and this is your moment to shine. The audience is eagerly waiting to hear you, so make sure you deserve their attention.

First, consider your attire. There’s no one-size-fits-all dress code, but it’s essential to connect with your audience through your outfit. Take inspiration from Steve Jobs, a great example. He would wear sneakers, jeans, and a t-shirt when presenting his company’s products. He dressed like his audience and talked in a relatable way, using an iPhone or a Mac.

Secondly, focus on your mental preparation. This step is crucial because if you don’t manage your stress, it can drain your confidence in front of the audience. Try visualization techniques the day before your speech. Picture yourself giving a successful presentation. You can also use breathing exercises or meditation to control your stress before speaking.

Also, be mindful of the room setup when you’re about to speak

If you’re in a small meeting room, take advantage of the close proximity to your audience. Get near them, speak softly, and create a friendly and comfortable atmosphere. Consider whether you’ll have a teleprompter, note cards, or the option to display slides; these are all factors to plan for. On the other hand, if you’re speaking in a large conference room, you’ll need to adjust your eye contact, the strength of your voice, and your movement on stage to keep the audience engaged.

Now, let’s talk about your voice when you’re on stage. Don’t worry; you’re not there to read a script. Bring your speech to life! A compelling voice involves variations in pitch (high and low notes) and pacing (slow and fast delivery). Remember, your vocal expression (how you use your voice) accounts for more than 30% of the impact of your speech. Nothing is more boring to an audience than a speaker who lacks conviction.

Treat your presentation like a performance. Your physical presence on stage should match the way you speak, with moments of high energy and slower, more deliberate moments. The author also suggests that moving around on stage can help you release stress by adding motion. If you stay in one spot without moving, you might feel stuck and less confident, so don’t hesitate to move around!

PART 5: Reflections on communication

In the final part of his fundamental Ted talk book on speaking, Chris Anderson shares some philosophical thoughts about communication. He aims to make us realize that developing this skill is as important as learning to walk or ride a bike. Communication is relevant to all of us:

  • It’s important for a high school student seeking a good insurance policy.
  • It matters to a recent graduate with career aspirations.
  • It’s crucial for any employee aiming for advancement within their company.
  • It’s vital for those who want to build a strong reputation.
  • It’s essential for individuals eager to connect with like-minded people worldwide who share common interests.
  • It’s valuable for anyone looking to drive action and make a positive impact.

In short, communication matters to everyone.

Around 20 years ago, in the early 2000s, conferences and meetings were often viewed as a necessary inconvenience, especially in the corporate world, where communication is central to every department. However, with the advent of digital tools and advancements in communication technology, these potentially dull moments can now be transformed into engaging, interactive, and constructive exchanges. But, it’s essential for the older generation to adapt and embrace this change to ensure that the new generation is equipped with a modern perspective on communication.

Moreover, knowledge has become increasingly accessible to everyone, and we’re all aware of how interconnected knowledge is

 In the past, most knowledge came from schools and, for some, family. It was then specialized within professional settings. Today, you can work independently in fields like food science while also learning about management and communication. Books, blog articles, mobile apps, radio, TV, training programs, and coaching are all tools that weren’t widely available to everyone 50 years ago.

Furthermore, in addition to this interconnected knowledge, there’s the richness that comes from connecting with people. Never before in history has it been so easy to communicate with others. You can have real-time conversations with people on the other side of the world. It might sound simple, but the rapid growth of communication channels has significantly impacted various sectors. For instance, in the arts, you can showcase your talents to the world within seconds through platforms like Google, Instagram, and YouTube.

Ted talk book: conclusion

In this column, we explored the main highlights of Chris Anderson’s book, “Public Speaking in TED: The Official Guide”. The book offers a multitude of tips and techniques for delivering effective speeches, applicable to both small presentations and larger conferences with hundreds of attendees.

The immersive aspect of the book, which delves into the preparation and execution of TED conferences by accomplished speakers, is also noteworthy. It provides readers with insights into the inner workings of TED talks.

Overall, “Public Speaking TED” is considered one of the top resources in the field of public speaking and communication, as mentioned in this column.

The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking” include its logical structure, which guides readers through the flow of a speech, comprehensive explanations of communication methods such as rehearsal and storytelling, and a thought-provoking final chapter that touches on broader philosophical aspects of communication.

There is however an absence of a dedicated section addressing self-confidence and stress management techniques for successful public speaking.


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