“Be on the Books” is a regular series in which Braithwaite staff break down what they learned from the best business and marketing books, focusing on the ideas and stories that they find useful on a regular basis.
We’ve all been captivated by a TED Talk at some point. Whether it was Simon Sinek on How Great Leaders Inspire Action or J.J. Abrams talking about The Mystery Box, few presentation platforms have the power to hold our attention and inspire us like a TED talk.
Carmine Gallo tackles the art of the TED Talk in his most recent book, “Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds.” He describes in great detail why so many presentations given at TED conferences have gone viral, and explains the traits successful TED presenters share.
Here in the Braithwaite office, we have dozens of books on our shelves dedicated to the art of public speaking, and that’s just a small selection of the countless more resources out there. What makes “Talk Like TED” special?
It’s basically like reading a TED Talk … on TED Talks. Gallo seamlessly weaves instruction and compelling storytelling into the book, bringing his writing to life through unique, current insight from some of the greatest innovators of the 21st century. He discusses specific presentations that are easily referenced by a quick YouTube search, allowing you to watch his tips being put into practice. The end result is that Talk Like TED provides a multisensory experience.
There are stories about everyone from Steve Jobs, who was so nervous during his first TV interview that he told an assistant he could throw up at any moment, to Bryan Stevenson, a civil rights lawyer who connected with his audience so well he received the longest standing ovation in TED history without using any visual aids or other presentation gimmicks.
Gallo argues all great presentations have three things in common: they’re emotional, novel and memorable. He structures the book around these principles, digging into three “public-speaking secrets” to be found in each trait. The “Emotional” portion covers the secret of having a conversation during your presentation. Delivering jaw-dropping moments is fully outlined within the “Novel” section of the book. The importance of sticking to the 18-minute rule resides in the “Memorable” section.
As Gallo states, “Ideas are the true currency of the 21st century,” and stories facilitate the exchange of that currency. This book has a lot to offer on how to share your stories more effectively. Here are some lessons that the Braithwaite team found particularly worth sharing.
Alex Irwin, Editor
The first thing that struck me about Talk Like TED was how closely Gallo’s mantra that “Ideas are the currency of the 21st century” gels with Braithwaite’s ethos of crafting and telling stories worth spreading. Clearly, our agency owes much to TED’s tagline of “Ideas Worth Spreading,” and in fact we have quotes from TED founder Richard Saul Wurman hanging on our walls.
Like Wurman, Gallo explains how the most compelling and persuasive ideas have that perfect combination of data and story. As someone who does a lot of researching and storytelling for our clients, I constantly seek that sometimes-elusive ratio of facts and emotion.
It was Gallo’s fourth “secret” – Teach Me Something New – that resonated most with me. People are naturally drawn to new solutions, Gallo argues. Sometimes that means saying something in a different way that conveys new meaning. That’s what content marketing is all about – providing information that answers a question or serves a need. We don’t always have earth-shattering new facts or compelling new stories to work with, but that doesn’t mean we can’t present the ideas in a fresh, engaging way. I particularly liked Gallo’s anecdote about a presentation to investors at SanDisk, the world’s leading maker of flash memory.
To convince analysts and investors that SanDisk was poised for growth with high-capacity storage cards, the company executive started with a personal story. As an avid photographer, he had 80,000 images at home, all stored on SanDisk memory cards. As he flipped through pictures of his kids, he reassured investors he only trusted SanDisk to protect these memories. Then he showed some of his beautiful panoramic landscape photos. That’s when he hit them with the statistic – a panoramic photo requires 10 times as much storage space than a traditional photo. That represented “10 times the opportunity for SanDisk,” he concluded.
Even reading Gallo’s summary of the presentation, I found myself captivated by digital memory cards. The key was finding that perfect combination of storytelling and data and presenting it in a fresh, thought-provoking way.
Ryan Richmond, Marketing Intern
Did you know that you can actually hijack the minds of your audience members when giving a presentation? It’s true. The secret to this tactic is dopamine, and it plays a huge role in memory and information processing.
To tap into the power of dopamine, Gallo recommends sharing personal experiences during your presentations. Many times, our personal stories carry very strong emotions with them, which your audience is easily able to pick up on and relate to. Well, emotions cause your brain to automatically release dopamine, and once you have that emotional investment, everything you share from that point on has much higher chances of being understood and remembered later on.
It’s natural for us to foster connections with other people, and the easiest way to do that is through the use of emotional storytelling. Whether it be happy, shocked, surprised or giddy, emotion has long been used to persuade the hearts and minds of audiences, and it never gets old.
Lee Procida, Senior Account Executive
Everyone at our agency watches TED Talks constantly. Many of us subscribe to TED podcasts and receive new talks on our phones every day. Whenever we’re putting together a presentation, we often refer to the best TED presentations for inspiration. They’re a major reason we aim to weave storytelling through all our communications.
However, my favorite takeaway from Talk Like Ted wasn’t a story – it was actually a statistic. It’s contained in Gallo’s second public speaking secret, “Master the Art of Storytelling.” Here it is:
“Tell stories to reach people’s hearts and minds. Bryan Stevenson, the speaker who earned the longest standing ovation in TED history, spent 65 percent of his presentation telling stories. Brainn scans reveal that stories stimulate and engage the human brain, helping the speaker connect with the audience and making it much more likely that the audience will agree with the speaker’s point of view.”
First, I was surprised to hear that they actually measure the length of standing ovations. Second, I love that they also measured how much of this remarkable speech was dedicated to storytelling, as opposed to the data and messages he wanted to communicate. We can talk about the importance of storytelling all day – believe me, we do – but it’s helpful to say in a concise, concrete way, “More than half of one of the best presentations ever was dedicated to storytelling.”
Even when we convince a business leader that stories are valuable, that they resonate more than canned messages without any context or emotion, we still get the sense that they underrate them. Many think that they’ll only need to open with a quick anecdote, and then can dive into their talking points, whereas this example shows that they’re better off flipping that ratio.
Leave it to a piece of data to show the power of story.