Part 3 The Preparation Process
Should we use visuals? Well, according to Chris Anderson author of TED Talks, that’s up to us. One-third of TED speakers don’t use slides. But, two-thirds do. Slides are good when using the revelation tool of sharing ideas. They’re also good for explaining. And of course there is the aesthetic appeal. However, beware, no slides are better than bad slides. If we really want to use them, we might want to get professional help with our slides.
Some things to be aware of when using slides is that even though a picture is worth a thousand words because it shows and tells; we should limit each slide to a single core idea. Also, don’t put bullet points on slides because people will mentally leave us and read ahead. Instead, do something like putting a question on a slide, or a photograph, or video, maybe even some animation or perhaps just some key data will do nicely.
As mentioned earlier, visuals have aesthetic appeal. It’s actually okay for us to show a lot of images to help increase the audience’s delight. Some speakers even have a system that shows a new image every few seconds as they’re talking. If using pictures, remember that a black background will make it look like we are using a black border and will really help our images pop.
Here are some things to beware of. Don’t use multiple type effects in the same line. Don’t use bullets or dashes. And resist underlining and italics. Don’t put too much on one slide. Instead, let’s use feeds. It’s wiser to build onto the slide through clicks. Also use 24+ font size. We can use context photos, but have to be careful that they don’t look like year book photos. And we shouldn’t show videos longer than 30 seconds. Nor, show more than 2-4 videos. We should also avoid fancy transitions. It’s better to just go to cuts. And remember, with graphics, less is more. Finally, we need to always practice on the equipment that we’re going to use.
Should we script or not script? Or use some sort of combination of the two? Anderson believes that scripting can help us make the best use of our time up there on that stage for those short 18 minutes. But, scripting also has the danger of sounding like we are reading it. And even if we go the extra mile of fully memorizing the speech it can still sound off. Like it’s not real or authentic. Anderson calls this awkward place the, “uncanny valley”. The bottom line is that the best speeches come off as if the speaker is sharing his or her ideas for the first time.
It’s almost best to go somewhere in between scripting and not scripting. Write the speech. Make an outline. Memorize the opening and the closing. Then have a few notes for everything in between. Don’t worry. The audience won’t mind if we take a peek at our notes from time to time. A good way to do this is by taking a sip of water and glancing over at our notes before we continue our talk.
However we approach preparing for our speech, the most important thing is to practice, and practice a lot. The practice isn’t about trying to memorize our speech, it’s about becoming more comfortable with being up on that stage and in front of that crowd. When we’re more comfortable, our audience is more comfortable too. And that’s a good thing.
Anderson also expresses to always prepare a speech that is 9/10 of the time that we are given. Prepare a 54 minute speech for a 1 hour presentation. And a 16:12 speech for our 18 minute TED Talk. This gives us time to pace ourselves, pause, screw up a little bit, milk the audience and basically have some breathing room. This breathing room will add to our level of comfort and thus add to the level of comfort and joy our audience is experiencing.
Now, not to put any more pressure on ourselves, but we need to remember that in this modern era there is a tug-o-war for people’s attention. This is especially true in online formats like TED Talks where people can just click away. Our first words really do matter. So, let’s not waste them away with small talk.
A good way to open our speech could be with a dose of drama. Think about the movie industry. How would they approach this subject in the opening minutes of their movie? Another good strategy to open with is to ignite their curiosity. The best way to do this is by asking a surprising question that creates a knowledge gap our audience’s minds fights to close.
A third approach to opening our speech could be as simple as just showing an impactful slide, video or object. Finally, one can also open with teasing the audience a little bit by using words that excite curiosity like, “reveal”. This strategy encourages our audience to go on our journey. However, beware, if we tell them everything in the first 30 seconds they will have no reason to go on our journey with us. So, do tell them with some hints of where we’re going with this little talk, but don’t immediately tell them everything in your opening.
Dan Blanchard is an award-winning author, speaker and educator. To learn more about Dan please visit his website at: www.DanBlanchard.net. Thanks.