You may have noticed that TEDx is exploding.
It started with TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) — an elite and costly yearly conference that made provocative “ideas worth spreading” available to a select audience.
Now that format has been franchised into a series of global TEDx conferences that open this unique public speaking platform up to hundreds of presenters, and millions of viewers, each year.
Watch and Learn: Public Speaking that Is Both Masterful and Appears Effortless
Until recently, most people had only seen bad (droning, mundane) presentations, which is mostly what you get in business. But TED and TEDx are changing that, by putting a vast array of successful, less successful, mundane, and inspired presentations online, before a global audience.
Here’s one great example, brought to me by a public speaking client who was preparing her own TEDx talk. In just four minute and eleven seconds, Daniel Kraft explains a breakthrough medical technology, and what it means for all our lives.
How Daniel Kraft Does It
For all its seeming casualness, Kraft’s talk is masterful. Here’s a short list of what he does right:
- Great use of visual aids: That bag of bone marrow is a real attention grabber. (Does it need to be refrigerated?!)
- Instead of describing bone marrow donation in the abstract, he creates “Bob, the volunteer donor,” and takes us right into Bob’s experience, and that of the operating room staff.
- Another great visual: The model of Bob’s pelvis, with swiss cheese punctures from the old (excruciatingly painful) collection device.
- And here comes the alternative: Kraft’s new Marrow Miner, explained through a video that’s elegant, clear, and mind-boggling.
- Kraft then walks us through the research that was done on his device, and how the outcome surprised even him (again, we’re there with him in the moment).
- He then poses the most important public speaking question — “So why should you care?” — and answers it by telling us the medical and social impacts of his invention.
- Finally, Kraft paints an upbeat picture of the future (you may be able to bank your own bone marrow!), and ends with an image of the many people whose lives have already been saved by this device.
Are you sold? I certainly was.
And that’s no surprise, because this presentation is a whirlwind tour of all the ways a speaker can engage his or her audience, delivered with low-key, seemingly “effortless” charm.
There’s No Such Thing as “Effortless”
The most important lesson from this and many other TED and TEDx videos, is this: The more effortless you want to appear, the more you’ll need to work your butt off.
My friend, the music and audio critic Wes Phillips, is fond of saying, “Easy reading is mighty hard writing,” and that’s just as true for public speaking.
Does anyone really think that Daniel Kraft spun this four minute gem off the top of his head? You’re looking at dozens, perhaps hundreds, of hours of work — conceiving, crafting, practicing, then presenting some very sophisticated ideas in a simple, accessible, and delightful way.
And that’s ultimately what TEDx is giving us. Beyond the many valuable ideas they presents, TED and TEDx conferences are doing more to promote the ideal of good public speaking than anything else that’s happened in our lifetimes.
And hey, eventually, even business might catch on!