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The Arcis Man

Book Review: Talk Like Ted by Carmine Gallo

11 October 2019

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What’s the difference between mind-numbing corporate presentations with bullet point slides and engaging Ted talks that attract millions of views?  It isn’t the technical content. Some of the best Ted talks have been ultimately based on very serious topics such as how we educate our children and how we can provide clean drinking water for people in the third world.  Yet, these presentations are sensational, informative and entertaining. Some of them even change people’s lives.

The true difference is that Ted presenters prepare and practice their presentations according to the 9 rules of presenting as defined by Carmine Gallo. These rules will dramatically change your ability to deliver an amazing presentation.


Dig deep to identify your unique and meaningful connection to your presentation topic.  Passion leads to mastery and your presentation is nothing without it, but keep in mind that what fires you up might not be the obvious.  Science shows that passion is literally contagious. You cannot inspire others unless you are inspired yourself. You stand a much greater chance of persuading and inspiring your listeners if you express an enthusiastic, passionate and meaningful connection to your topic.

The simplest way to identify what inspires you and you’re passionate about is to ask yourself the question “What makes my heart sing?”  Once you discover that, your stories and the way you tell them will come to life and you’ll connect with people more profoundly than you ever thought possible.  You’ll have the confidence to share what you’ve learned as a master and give the presentation of your life.

Watch the Ted talk by Cameron Russell and see how she focussed a talk about modeling into her real passion, raising the self-esteem of young girls.

Secret #2 – Master the art of storytelling

In our view, this is the most critical chapter of the book.  Ms. Gallo makes the point that storytelling is critical to making any public speech engaging with the audience.

The chapter focusses on the Ted talk given by Bryan Stevenson in 2012 on the topic of social justice that earned the longest standing ovation in Ted history and has been voted one of the most persuasive talks on  The notable thing about Stevenson’s talk was the way he wove stories into the topic he was speaking about.

Stories work because they are based on how the human mind works; how it processes and recalls information and how that information gets stamped in our brains.  Studies have proven that stories actually synchronise activity in the brains of the listener and the storyteller to create a kind of “mind meld”. Stories activate the whole brain as opposed to wordy Powerpoint slides that only trigger the language processing center of the brain.

There are 3 types of stories we can tell:


The most popular Ted presentations start with a personal story. They allow us to experience empathy and they are central to our identity.  If you’re going to share a personal story, make it personal. Take the audience on a journey. Make it so descriptive and rich with imagery that they imaging themselves with you at the time of the event.


Depending on your topic, personal stories may not work and stories about other people are better.  The most popular Ted talk of all time, by Sir Ken Robinson, centered around a story about someone else.  His talk was about how traditional education kills creativity and to make his point he told the story of Gillian Lynne who struggled at school until an open minded doctor diagnosed her as a dancer.  That empowered Gillian’s parents to take her to a dance school and she ultimately had a career at the royal ballet and choreographed some of the greatest musicals in the history of theatre.

Robinson’s call to educate their whole being would be hard to comprehend had he not told Gillian’s story because abstractions are hard for most people to process. Stories turn abstract concepts into tangible, emotional and memorable ideas.


Popular author and Ted speaker, Seth Godin, tells brilliant brand stories.  Godin tells the fascinating story of how for the first 15 years it was available, no one bought sliced bread.  Because people generally didn’t know about it, no one wanted it. It was a total failure until someone figured out how to spread the word about it.  Godin’s point was that it’s not about the idea, it about whether you can get the idea to spread.

Every brand, every product has a story.  Find it and tell it.

Great speakers tell stories to express their passion and connect with their audience.  Ideas are the currency of the twenty-first century and stories facilitate the exchange of that currency.  Stories illustrate illumination and inspiration.

Secret #3 – Have a conversation

Practice relentlessly and internalise your content so that you can deliver the presentation as comfortably as having a conversation with a close friend.  Authenticity doesn’t happen naturally, it only comes with a lot of practice.

Secret #4 – Teach me something new

Your presentation should reveal something new to your audience or package your content differently so that it will allow your audience to take a different perspective.  Maybe you can find a new way to solve an old problem.

Our brains are hardwired to focus on and retain new information.  Our brains achieve this by producing dopamine in response to new things or information.  Dopamine is a powerful chemical that is necessary for our brains to retain the information that it is being given.  Without it, the information goes in one ear and out the other.

You must aim to trigger a dopamine release in your audience’s brains in order for your presentation to be memorable and you can do this by teaching them something new or exciting.

Secret #5 – Deliver Jaw-Dropping Moments

Deliver a shocking, impressive or surprising moment that is so memorable, it grabs your audience’s attention and is so memorable that your audience will remember it long after the presentation is over.

In his 2009 Ted presentation, Bill Gates released a few mosquitos into the audience having just explained how mosquitos spread malaria.  The inference, of course, was that these mosquitos were carrying malaria and he waited for a few seconds to tell the audience that his mosquitos were not, in fact, carrying malaria.

This is another way to trigger a major dopamine release for your audience and will result in your presentation being memorable.  Just make sure its memorable in a good way!

Secret #6 – Lighten up

If you watch the most popular Ted presentations you will find that most of them weave a degree of humor into the presentation.  Humor lowers the defense of your audience and makes them much more receptive to your message.

In 2006, Ken Robinson delivered his first Ted presentation that has been viewed over 62 million times.  The topic (the importance of educating a child’s whole being) was quite serious but the presentation was framed as a humorous conversation with the audience.  Robinson poked fun at himself and his profession but he also used humorous stories to make his point.

Mixing humor and stories is a powerful concoction to connect with your audience.

You need to be cautious with humor though. Jokes are very difficult to pull off in a presentation and usually feel forced and out of place. Inappropriate jokes are worse. Don’t try to be a comedian but rather try to introduce humorous reflections or stories that connect with your underlying message.

Secret #7 – Stick to the 18-minute rule

By keeping your presentation to less than 18 minutes you will:

  1. Force yourself to be disciplined in what you write;

  2. Stand a better chance of retaining your audience’s focus until the end of your presentation;

  3. Make a presentation that is more attractive to watch online;

  4. Have enough time to make your point but leave your audience wanting more.

Researchers have discovered that presenting too much information, prevents the successful transmission of ideas. 18 minutes is the sweet spot of information transmission and concentration.

Make your presentation more powerful by using the rule of three:

  1. Create a twitter friendly headline;

  2. Support the headline with three key messages;

  3. Reinforce the key messages with stories, statistics, and examples.

Secret #8 – Paint a mental picture with multisensory experiences

Deliver your presentation with components that touch more than one of your audience’s senses.  The brain doesn’t pay attention to boring things, but it’s almost impossible to be bored if you are exposed to mesmerizing imagery, video or props that support your message.  Try to stay away from using too many words in visual presentations.

In his 2009 Ted talk, Michael Pritchard presented his invention of the portable LIFESAVER filter which turns filthy water into drinkable water.  Pritchard brought a fish tank of river water on stage and explained what might be in it. He then added a few scoopfuls of nasty stuff and explained how ill someone would get from drinking this having earlier emphasised that some children around the world have no choice.

Pritchard, then demonstrated how his LIFESAVER filter works by filtering the rancid water and drinking a glass of it live on stage.

The most common presentations use boring bullet point slides and put most of their audience to sleep.  Be original and use your audience’s need for multisensory interaction to make the presentation memorable.

Secret #9 – Stay in your lane

It is very common for people to adopt a persona when they step on stage to make a presentation. They try to project a personality to camouflage their discomfort with the situation. The problem is that your audience will spot in a few seconds that you’re not being authentic. The best presentations are an authentic display of the presenter’s personality.  This includes the humor you use, the confidence you project, your body language and hand gestures. Don’t try to be someone else, stay in your own lane and deliver an authentic presentation that connects with your audience.


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