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As a public speaking/presentation skills coach, I love to see the different speaking styles of the experts. Many of them are coached extensively before they present, and mentored by former successful TED speakers. It is no coincidence that TEDTalks describes these as "performances!" Online you see the cream of the crop, but if you were to attend a TED conference, you would probably see some not-quite-so-polished speakers. One of them, Nilofer Merchant blogs about what happened when she "didn’t deliver a seriously kick-ass talk" her first time around. She shares the lessons learned, and how she is applying them as she works on her successful comeback. This is valuable information for anyone prepping for any sort of talk. Merchant stresses that this time around, she has coaches and advisors to turn to when she has questions on content and delivery.
TED stands for technology, entertainment and design. It started out almost 30 years ago as a live conference to explore the intersections of those three worlds. Today, the magic of global internet allows us all to witness the lessons shared by speakers who see the world differently than we do, have made discoveries we would never dream of, have lived lives we cannot imagine. And throughout its long career, TED has relied on storytelling to get these lessons across.
What I especially love about the whole concept of TEDTalks, and the wonderful new NPR show TED Radio Hour is also the answer to last week's Radio Hour episode title: Do We Need Humans? The answer is YES! We need humans to tell us their stories. Every successful TEDTalk you see or hear is a good story, well-told. Personal narrative is included, but it does not overwhelm the message. It acts to contextualize it, or underscores the reason for the speaker's discovery or theory, relying on data gleaned through personal experience. My favorite talk this week is TED 2013 Prize winner Sugata Mitra's vision of education for the future. The stories he shares make him a more credible expert, his message accessible to the audience. He wraps up his findings and hypothesis with the story of how he came to be interested in exploring this type of learning. He draws us in and we are fascinated.
Humans have learned from story since before we had written language. Mitra says that "knowing" is what distinguishes us from the apes. But I say it is storytelling.