These days it seems like everybody wants to claim, “I gave a TED talk.” The reason? These talks are famous for being fresh and interesting. TED talks are no longer than 18 minutes — ever. Official TED talks take place at TED or TED-licensed conferences and deal with Technology, Entertainment or Design, though TED talkers interpret those labels pretty broadly.
So probably you are not going to be giving a TED talk, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use the hallmark ingredients of TED talks in your presentations.
- Use lots of visuals. Engage your audience with images, photos, graphs, freehand drawings or videos, not words. You want your audience listening, not reading.
- One thing per slide. To the extent you feel compelled to use text, don’t use more than one idea per PowerPoint slide or flip chart page — no bullet point lists. (If this column were a TED talk, each idea would be shown by a picture on a separate PowerPoint slide.)
- Use a sans serif font. Use something like Arial, not Times New Roman. TED recommends a font size of at least 42 points, which doesn’t leave room for a lot of words on a projection screen.
- Provide new information to your audience. If you are telling them what they already know, you are wasting their time.
- Don’t use notes. You should be familiar enough with your topic that the visuals prompt you to remember what to say. Rehearse!
Like a TED talk, a Chicago hot dog has specific ingredients:
- Kosher beef hot dog
- Steamed poppy seed bun
- Bright yellow mustard
- Sweet pickle relish
- Dill pickle spear
- Celery salt
- Sport peppers
Where I live, several hot dog emporia claim to sell Chicago hot dogs, but only one has the necessary poppy seed bun. Without the bun, it’s just not a Chicago dog. Yes, you can choose to omit an ingredient you don’t like, or substitute one for another. Purists will say that may be a good hot dog sandwich, but it is not a true Chicago hot dog.
Similarly, without the specific ingredients required by TED, your presentation is not properly a TED talk. Chances are, you wouldn’t really want to be doing an 18-minute TED talk about technology, entertainment or design anyway. But that doesn’t mean you can’t concentrate on making your talk concise, fresh and interesting — even funny.
Take a lesson from the TED speakers and use lots of visuals. Engage your audience. Humor and surprise them. Keep text projection to a minimum, and don’t load slides with a series of headings.
And the next time you’re in Chi-town have a hot dog for me. Get it with the works.