By Alison Law, Marketing and Sales Manager, For Momentum
One of my chief responsibilities at For Momentum is creating and curating content for our website and on our social media channels. That includes the content found in the Cause Marketing Resources section of our website and the posts found here at the Cause Marketing Focus blog.
As an agency that offers strategic counsel, one of our unique service points is helping clients create targeted outreach materials and then coach or lead them through the cause partnership sales process. So it was no surprise to me that one of our most popular pins on Pinterest was an infographic on presentation tips and how to make a message stick. But that pin is a few years old. Light years have passed in the Digital Age! Content marketing and “sticky” messaging have lost a little bit of their luster in an oversaturated marketplace where PowerPoints, emails, posts and videos are bombarding our inboxes and streams faster than we can unsubscribe to them. How can we cut through the clutter and deliver messages valuable enough to read, like and watch?
For some answers, I turned to an organization whose platform is “Ideas Worth Spreading.” Or more accurately, I turned to Chris Anderson, president and head curator of the now-famous TED videos, and his new book TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking. For those of you unfamiliar with the TED talks, Anderson shares a little background in his book. TED, an acronym for Technology, Entertainment and Design, was originally a conference covering those topics that began in 1984. When the founders decided to leave TED, Anderson took over and turned a successful in-person conference into a nonprofit organization and movement. It’s from this platform that he writes about the lessons he’s learned in working with and talking to hundreds of speakers who have taken the TED stage. Here are some key takeaways that you can apply to your content creation and speaking skills.
What’s Changed in Public Speaking: The “Public”
One radical difference that has taken place since TED’s inception is that the “public” in public speaking has changed. TED has evolved from 1,200 attendees seated inside a conference hall to millions of viewers watching Internet video recordings or live streams on their phones. If the idea of speaking to that many people doesn’t make your heart race and your palms sweat, nothing will!
However, some of the most powerful messages are designed as if you’re speaking to one person. That’s the advice the author got from Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling writer and popular TED speaker. “Choose a human being—an actual human being in your life—and prepare your talk as if you will be delivering it to that one person only.” This tactic not only soothes nerves, it helps you create meaningful messages and come across as a human being speaking to another human being instead of a speaker trying to reach a key demographic. Watch Elizabeth Gilbert demonstrate her technique in one of her most-watched TED videos below.
What Hasn’t Changed: The Purpose
If you go into a speech with a goal of making the audience laugh or convincing everyone in the room to like you or buy your product, you are setting the stage for failure. According to Anderson, you should reframe your purpose. Instead of trying to get your audience to give you something, think of your message or talk as giving them a gift. The book goes into this even further by devoting a whole chapter to storytelling and delivering powerful gifts to your audience.
The Nitty Gritty
TED Talks does give advice on more than just general storytelling. Anderson does get into the nitty-gritty details of what makes a speech work.
As part of his “Preparation Process” section of the book, Anderson offers best practices on visuals. He says that having no slides at all is better than having bad slides. The best presentations limit one key idea per slide. TED speeches are limited to 18 minutes, and the topics are often pretty complex. You can always flip through the slides faster, but the audience won’t follow you if they’re trying to absorb a lot of text and images on one screen. It wouldn’t be a TED book if it also didn’t share the logic and big-brain thinking behind each piece of advice; Anderson uses anecdotes, interviews, scientific facts and research to back up his points. You can blame the idea that you should limit one idea to a slide on the concept of cognitive overload. Why, yes, there’s a TED talk for that. Here’s a video of communications expert Jessica Marshall teaching scientists how to “talk nerdy” without losing their audience.
If you’re trying to decide between the “tree book” or the e-book version of TED Talks, go for the e-book. Here’s why: Anderson’s book includes references to numerous different TED talks. The e-book includes an appendix with links to the TED videos mentioned in the book. At the very least, you’re going to want to have an Internet-ready device handy as you make your way through TED Talks so you can access these best-in-class examples on demand. Plus, one of the reasons I’ll read an e-book over a hard copy is the ability to highlight and search the text. Let’s just say that my e-copy has a lot of highlights. Already a New York Times bestseller, TED Talks is going to be one of those books that communicators refer to over and over again when challenged with enhancing their speaking styles and giving their audiences content worth spreading.