TED Conversations

Karla Boza

Sociology Student, Manhattanville College

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What are the top three characteristics a TEDtalk must fulfill to catch your attention?

We all have our favorite speakers; some of us like humor, others like to be filled with facts, sometimes we just want someone's talk to restore our faith in humanity.

So what are the top three aspects a speaker should fulfill in order to become a successful TED speaker?


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    May 2 2012: Natural flow. Ironically that only comes as the result of repetitive practice and rehearsing. :-p
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      May 3 2012: I think it can come from practicing public speech, but necessarily rehearsing the specific speech you will deliver that day (not sure if this makes sense). I think that when you over practice for a specific speech it will not come natural.
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        May 3 2012: when you want to be effective,practising is the predominant task that we need to work on!!
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          May 3 2012: How much practice would you recommend?
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        May 3 2012: The more you try it, the better you get at it. That does not mean renouncing to improvisation and doing whatever you feel natural. But the more you practice, the more at ease you will be and the more likely you are not to leave important facts out.

        Rehearsing, both anywhere and at the same venue where the talk is to be delivered adds confidence and brings ease to the delivery of the talk.

        In particular, hearing yourself (and letting others hear yourself) and identify where your message or talk is weak and what sounds right or not and thinking if there are better ways of saying or conveying something.

        I recently made a similar comment on a similar thread:
        What guidelines would you give someone preparing a TEDx talk?
        ( http://www.ted.com/conversations/10670/what_guidelines_would_you_give.html )
        I will paste below as I think it amplifies my point here...

        "Tell a story. Complete with an arch in the story line. Keep it simple. Watch Ridley Scott's Prometheus video and study its structure. That's what I did for my last 2 talks in TEDxSilkRoad and TEDxUChicago and the audiences enjoyed it (ppt at http://www.relief20.com/tedx ).

        Be creative, different, and then maintain a good flow and rhythm. Use anecdotes, stories and images the audience can relate to. That's what I did for my TEDxTokyo talk ( http://tedxtokyo.com/tedxtokyo-2011/program/carlos-miranda-levy/ ).

        Most important, be confident and practice, rehearse, monitor your talk, people's reaction to it, and your own opinion. Practice is the key to a good talk. Do you want to stand there and talk or do you want people to be moved by your words and stories?"
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          May 3 2012: Amazing reply!
          I agree with that you need to practice, but I still believe that when you over do it you talk begins to sound unnatural and might become boring.
          I think that being different is what makes the talk stand out. I have seen to many that are just a bunch of ideas put together, but they are not spoken correctly. I personally enjoy when the speaker incorporates a little humor or just makes something different about their speech.
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          May 3 2012: @Carlos,

          I just wanted to let you know I enjoyed your comment and wonderful tips for improving our speech making skills. All are very useful

          And, thank you for the links.

          I enjoyed reading about the Data Veil, and the Silk Road Ensemble as a result...Great ideas!!
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          May 4 2012: @Carlos,

          Great second explanation.......I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I can tell from your insights, that you are a fluent and natural speaker.......

          If you really want to see everything we have talked about here in action, and see someone who has mastered the act of speaking, watch this TED talk:


          * * NOTICE the following........his fluency, naturalness, eye contact with audience, physical contact with audience, where he stands, and finally, and more significantly, his very last words, which any effective teacher or speaker will tell you is the key to finding out if you have succeeded with your talk.

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        May 3 2012: Hi Karla, interesting points you make about practice.

        Let me just add a tid-bit of info for you...this might help you, it might not.

        In speech, there is a difference between fluency, and naturalness.

        Fluency: reading and speaking in such a manner that your words and thoughts flow smoothly. When delivery is fluent, speech is not jerky or painfully slow, and there is no stumbling over words or groping for thoughts.

        Naturalness: When you are being yourself, conversational, sincere, unaffected.

        BOTH are important in speech making.

        ** When a speaker lacks fluency, the minds of the listeners may wander; wrong ideas may be conveyed. What is said may lack persuasiveness.

        ** If you are nervous, stiff, or ackward in your speech because of being self-conscious, others may be distracted from what you say.

        Practice helps.....but the key to practice, is not memorizing words......for the sake of practice, it is better just to make certain that the idea is clear in your mind, and then to think of the words as you go. Too much emphasis on memorizing words could spell chaos.
        Carlos did a great job of giving you some very useful information in his last comment to you.

        I think we can all agree that most TED speakers have mastered the art of making presentations. I know I am thankful for that.

        The three characteristics I look for are:

        1. Enthusiasm
        2. Idea that I can quickly apply to self and spread
        3. It must lift my spirit....make me a better person.....move me to change

        Great question Karla!
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          May 3 2012: Mary M. did a great job of clarifying my and the point of others here.

          I love how clear she puts it: fluency and naturalness.

          A good speaker often relies on probing the audience, integrating them and carefully monitoring their responses. One of the challenges of TED and TEDx talks is that there is no interaction or Q&A with the audience.

          The attention is always on the speaker and it's up to the speaker to maintain the flow of the talk.

          Improvisation and spontaneity are an important part of a good talk in particular one where you connect with the audience.

          What we are talking about here is not "staging" the talk, but rehearsing it so that you have tested different ways of saying the same thing, until you are comfortable on how it sounds, the terms you're using and don't fumble with alternatives for expressing a concept you completely have a grasp on.

          There are infinite ways of saying something, ones better than others, and the more we practice and try alternatives, the better choices we have to sound secure, natural and to maintain our flow.

          In addition, if you do your talk without any script at all, often you will realize after you're done that you forgot to mention this or that, to include this example or to make a point about something. When you try again, then you remember to include it. Then you try again and find a better moment to mention it, etc., without losing your fluency and naturalness.

          Notice how my slides (most of them) only include a heading or a sentence. I improvise and use the words that come to mind to explain each sentence, carefully adapting this explanation and the details to the audience in front of me and the response I sense from them.

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