Talk like TED book by Carmine Gallo
Talk like TED by Carmine Gallo

Talk Like Ted. The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds is a very useful book if you want to improve your presentation skills

(For an Italian version of this article, Comunicare come Steve Jobs e i migliori oratori degli eventi TED).

“Ideas are the currency of the twenty-first century… there is nothing more inspiring than a bold idea delivered by a great speaker” (Talking Like TED, Introduction)

Carmine Gallo is a communications coach and a speaker. He used to be a journalist and anchor, but since 2009 his focus has been speaking, consulting, and writing books.

His most popular books are about Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs, where he analyzes Job’s style of communicating and presenting. Talk Like TED is his newest book, where he reviews and explains  what makes the most popular TED talks so effectrive.

After analyzing more than 500 TED talks presentations, Carmine Gallo discovered that they share nine common elements. These insights have been confirmed by neuroscientists, psychologists, and communication experts.

When these same principles are applied in your own presentations, they will enhance your ability to speak, present, and be successful.

Talk like TED is divided in three main parts, and each of these three parts is also divided in three chapters so that each chapter covers one of these nine elements.

Part one: Emotional. Great presenters don’t only reach your head, but they also speak to your heart.

In chapter one, “Unleash the master within”, you will learn how to let the master within you take the lead by discovering what you are truly passionate about. Research will be used to explain why passion is key to success. “Passion is the thing that will help you create the highest expression of your talent” (Larry Smith, TEDx, November 2011). Passion is contagious, and you cannot inspire others unless you are inspired yourself. This is why the most popular TED speakers don’t have a job, but they have a passion, an obsession, or a vocation. Bored presenters are not engaging!

In chapter two, “Master the art of storytelling”, Gallo explains why stories are so important to get your public to attach emotionally to the topic of your presentation. Research confirms that stories have the power to “sync” the mind of the speaker with those of the audience and create a powerful connection. “Stories are just data with a soul” (Brené Brown, TEDx Houston 2010). The speaker who got the longest standing ovation in TED history used 65% of his presentation time by telling stories.

In chapter three, “Have a conversation”, you will learn why you need to speak as if you were having a conversation with the audience by using a natural and genuine body language and verbal delivery. It takes a lot of practice to look natural, but this is the secret to presenting as if you were having a conversation with your audience. You should practice in front of people, and even record it and watch it. You should talk, walk and look like a leader, and practice talking at the ideal rate (150 to 160 words for minute), while avoiding things like fidgeting or tapping.

Part two: Novel. The best way to attract someone attention is to present something new, because the brain cannot ignore novelty, they are trained to look for something exciting and different, something that stands out.

In chapter four, “Teach me something new”, Carmine Gallo describes how the best TED presenters connect with their audience by presenting unique information or a particular way of approaching a subject. Martha Burns, adjunct professor of neuroscience at Northwestern, explains that learning something new activates the same areas of the brain that are also activated by drugs and gambling and releases dopamine. Dopamine is a powerful and addictive chemical, and when is released gives people “mental highs”. When people use drugs, those “highs” are artificial and dangerous, but when people learn something new and exciting, dopamine levels naturally increase to help retain the new information by acting as a “save button”.

Chapter five, “Deliver jaw-dropping moments”, is all about learning how to deliver unforgettable “wow” moments to your audience. The classic example comes from Bill Gates, who, during his presentation, released mosquitos into the audience creating surprise and shock. John Medina, a molecular biologist said: “The brain remembers the emotional components of an experiment better than any other aspect.”

In chapter six, “Lighten up”, focuses on the contribution of humor to public speaking, including how to be really funny without resorting to tell jokes. The brain loves novelty, but it also loves humor. When a presenter can combine both novelty and humor, success is almost guaranteed. This is what was achieved by Sir Ken Robinson in the most popular TED talk ever, even if he was talking about a potential boring topic, why schools kill creativity.

Part three: Memorable. You want your audience to remember your presentation forever. If you talk for too long, it becomes harder to be memorable.

In chapter 7, “Stick to the 18-minute rule”, Gallo reviews why the 18-minute TED presentation rule help you be more effective in your talks. Too much information creates cognitive backlog, and this hampers the communication of ideas. TED curator Christ Anderson explains that a presentation of 18 minutes “… is long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people’s attention”.

In chapter 8, “Paint a mental picture with multisensorial experience”, you will read about creating strong, multisensorial experiences to enhance learning and retention in your audience. We have all heard the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”, and is actually true. Multimedia experiences enhance learning, but “use visuals to enhance words, not duplicate” (TED Commandment)

Chapter 9, “Stay in your lane”, will review how to be a genuine speaker that people can trust. You cannot convince and move an audience unless they think that you are real and honest.

I really enjoyed reading this book by Carmine Gallo, Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds. It has helped me prepare for presentations and talks by giving simple but effective advice.


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