And now, for something entirely different… I’d like to introduce you to your personal trainer in public speaking. Let’s face it: in order to effectively create a learning site for others, having good content is only half the job; a good presentation is equally important. In this issue, I turn to TED Talks as a training resource to help us improve our public speaking (or that of the people we lead). As an aside, this issue has perhaps been the most enjoyable one to prepare, thanks to a number of excellent presentations I had to watch to come up with this selection.
TED has become quite an institution on the Web. Here is a brief introduction, in case you are not familiar with it. TED Talks are short speeches, usually less than 20 minutes. They cover a single idea or subject. Originally its focus was the areas of Technology, Education, and Design (therefore “TED”). Today, TED defines its mission as that of spreading ideas. The video recordings of TED Talks (there are over a thousand now) are available on the Internet and on YouTube, where a number of them belong to the most watched web videos of all times.
Obviously, each TED Talk is an example of good or even superior public speaking. That alone makes them useful to watch if we aim to improve our speaking skills. Since some of them touch on the subject of public speaking and communication itself, they offer a double benefit.
So what I will do is offer you a selection of relevant TED Talks with some questions to guide you in your reflection. The selected talks are less about content and preparation than they are about delivery and speaking. I believe watching them is a simple and effective way to improve in this area. The total play time of these 10 videos is less than 2 hours, so it is not like you have to quit your day job to take this course.
It may work best if you read the questions before you watch the presentation.
Amy Cuddy (21:02) Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are
What do you think of Amy’s way of speaking (we will compare it with the next video)?
How does a personal story toward the end make a difference? How important is telling stories in teaching?
How do you feel about “power posing” to gain confidence? What other inner values or attitudes may also be important (or more important) to “pose”?
Julian Treasure (9:58) How to Speak So That People Want to Listen
How does this speaker differ from Amy Cuddy in the way he speaks and uses his voice?
Which aspect of speaking mentioned in this talk is something you should pay more attention to?
Christopher Emdin (6:54) Teach Teachers How to Create Magic
In what ways does Christopher Emdin remind you of a stereotypical black preacher? What does he do in this brief talk?
To what extent have you mastered the kind of “magic” he describes? What could you do to improve?
Cameron Russell (9:37) Looks Aren’t Everything. Believe Me, I Am a Modell
This talk is a bit off topic, but it is a brilliant presentation. Its biggest strength is vulnerability. On a scale from 1 to 10, how confident in public speaking do you think Cameron Russell feels? Do you notice signs of nervousness?
What nonverbal tools does she use?
What role does humour play in this talk?
Chris Anderson (23:39) What Makes a Great Talk, Great
How are the style and pace of this presentation different from the previous ones?
Which pitfalls in public speaking mentioned by Chris Anderson do you recognize from yourself or others? Which ones have you managed to avoid?
Sunni Brown (5:50) Doodler, Unite
How could we get our students or other audience to doodle more?
Ramsey Musallam (6:29) 3 Rules to Spark Learning
What are the three principles listed in this talk? How could you apply them in your teaching context?
Melissa Marshall (4:34) Talk Nerdy to Me
This is a short one, on getting science nerds to talk. We need to get the Bible nerds talking as well. Does anything in here help you to improve?
Ken Robinson (20:03) Do Schools Kill Creativity?
What strikes you about Ken Robinson’s way of communicating?
What tools and multimedia does he use?
When does he get serious? When does he (finally) get to the real point and present his appeal?
More importantly, how could you take his plea to heart and change something in the way you teach?
Will Stephen (5:55) How to Sound Smart in Your TEDx Talk
In case you have nothing to say, this will show you how to say it.
The speaker is very direct about his lack of content. What makes this a presentation many people (I included) nevertheless enjoy?
Any other great tools you know of to improve public speaking skills? Leave a comment!