Stellar storytelling: 3 tips for TED-caliber speeches

By: Brian Pittman
Published: Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016

Your job as a communicator is to compel, convince and convert audiences. That takes many forms—from press releases and pitches to white papers and presentations.

Presentations can be the most challenging. Here are three tips—gleaned from TED talks and Donald Trump alike—to help you win over audiences the next time you step up to the podium:

1. Apply TED’s most vital lesson—find your passion. The best TED talks are about somethingimportant, says Rob Friedman, a former senior director of global executive communications for Eli Lilly and a past editor of Ragan’s Speechwriter’s Newsletter and The Ragan Report.

A look at the most popular TED talks shows this is true: Sheryl Sandberg asserts we need more women in leadership, Michael Porter describes a new vision for corporate philanthropy, and Bill Gates explains the importance of tackling global problems such as malaria.

“This is why most TED speakers are passionate,” says Friedman, “the topics they’re discussing are important—to their audience, the world and them .”

The lesson: “Take on topics or issues of real importance,” he advises. “Aim to make a difference. Like the best of TED, try to make the world a better place. Your audience will respect you for it—even if they disagree with you.”

Watch Daily’s Jan. 14 PR University webinar “ Master the Tools of Persuasion: Secrets of TED-worthy Speeches” to delight audiences and deliver results every time.

2. Learn from presidential candidates—look unscripted and tell stories. The best presenters look natural and unscripted. That includes presidential candidates, from Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump.

“They’re at their best in town halls and interviews where they’re engaging with questioners,” says Friedman. “They’re at their worst when reading a script.”

That’s why TED rehearses speakers until they don’t need notes. Friedman recommends rehearsing presentations aloud at least three times. Even a few rehearsals can improve your delivery a full letter grade, he says.

The best speakers also tell stories. That’s why TED gets 1.5 million views a day.

For example, “Chris Christie has languished in the polls,” says Friedman, “but in explaining his interest in tackling addiction, he told a story of a friend who lived the American dream, got addicted to painkillers and began a downward spiral that ended in him losing his family and taking his life.”

The story went viral, garnering 5 million hits within a few days.

3. Know when to follow TED’s mantra—not Trump’s. TED’s mantra is “Ideas worth spreading.” Trump’s seems to be, “What can I tear down today?” says Friedman.

“TED’s goal is to lift people up and make the world a better place,” he says. “Trump’s is to tear people down and inflame racial and religious hatred.”

Take one characteristic: “He continually lies,” says Friedman. “Trump claims he saw thousands of Muslims [in metro New York] celebrating during 9/11. He claims the administration has plans to let in 250,000 refugees. These are lies, with the intent of stirring up hatred.”

The point: “When we’re communicating on behalf of an organization, there’s nothing worse than being caught in a lie or exaggeration,” says Friedman. “It will come back to bite you every time.”

RELATED: How to create a consistent message across multiple internal platforms.

Brian Pittman is a Ragan Communications consultant and webinar manager for PR Daily’s PR University. Former Eli speechwriter Rob Friedman will shared more presentation takeaways in the Jan. 14 PR University webinar, Master the Tools of Persuasion: Secrets of TED-worthy Speeches, Briefings and Presentations .”

Stellar storytelling: 3 tips for TED-caliber speeches

By: Brian Pittman
Published: Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016