Story telling has been one of the most memorable and influential ways to spread ideas. The TED conference is so popular because the speakers in the conference are mostly good at telling stories – stories that they are passionate about and that passion spills over to the audience and we are able to connect. Also, note that the duration of these talks are not very long.
So, I wanted to learn if there are any story telling secrets that i can learn from the TED speakers. Also, I thought that it would be interesting to figure out if there are any common threads that we see in a lot of other speakers do but is missing at these TED conferences.
Here is a list of things that I have learned watching TED speakers tell compelling stories:
Keep it Short and Simple:
The TED format makes it extremely difficult for anyone to tell a long story. The speakers are forced to keep their stories short. Telling a compelling story is not easy. It takes a lot of time, practice and learning to be able to do so. Try telling a story that is longer than 5 mins and you will know the difficulty of keeping the audience glued to your story, specially when we are speaking live or presenting over the web. So, it’s better to keep our stories short, crisp and to-the-point.
I have hardly seen any TED speaker tell their audience that they are about to tell a story. They just start with a story. As human’s we are wired to know when someone is about to tell us a story. We do not have to tell the audience that we are about to tell a story. There is no preamble, just directly start with the story.
Most compelling stories are personal. When telling a personal story, we instinctively access our emotions and it shows. This enables the audience to emotionally engage with the speakers as well. The second best kind of story to tell is about something that we are extremely passionate about. This passion needs to be evident in every aspect of the story. It ensures that you are able to connect to the audience.
What do you want the audience to do:
Telling stories for the sake of telling stories is a different art form. However, most of us have something that we want to do with the audience. We want them to think about something in a way that we think about or we want the audience to take action or we want the audience to spread our ideas or something else. We want them to do something. We need to be extremely clear about what is it that we expect the audience to do after hearing the story.
Practice Does Make it Perfect:
Anyone who gets invited to the TED Conference as a speaker has already done something unique, interesting or has a unique perspective, which led to their being invited to present. What makes it very compelling is that the TED team ensures that the speakers do practice their talks multiple times. The team even gives feedback on what aspect of the talk needs more work. This practice is what makes the speakers at the TED conference sizzle. If we want to tell compelling stories, we need to practice at least a few times, if not much more.
In conclusion, the ability to deliver compelling talks, like the one’s we see on the stage of TED conferences is a skill that we can all do well to learn – irrespective of the profession we are part of. If you look at these learnings that I have from watching countless TED talks are all pointing to one basic thing – they are simple basic skills, honed to perfection through practice.