BOOK REVIEW: TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking By Chris Anderson

This book, the TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking was authored by Chris Anderson, the Head of TED and was published in 2016.

Since its beginnings in 1984 as an annual Technology, Education, and Design conference, TED has evolved into a global phenomenon, inviting experts in all fields to present what TED calls “Ideas worth spreading” where talks of 10-18 minutes are delivered.

Chris Anderson after heading TED for years has felt the need to represent the pinnacle of public speaking. This book does not provide the one “right way” to give a speech, but the possibility for the “best way” for each individual speaker. It demonstrates set of tools to enable us to deliver our most meaningful ideas, as authentically as possible referencing 48 talks from the great TED speakers.

The book is blissed into two sections:

  1. Section one: The foundation (looks at the tools and strategies to research, write and rehearse a great talk)
  2. Section two: The stage craft (conveying the information, the Dos and Don’ts, and the power of vulnerability )

Anderson draws much focus on section two and demonstrates how to turn curses into a great effect. One area that influences much of the speakers of today is nervousness on the stage and Anderson goes ahead to put in place tactics to fight it and deliver your message at convenience and in a friendly way. The following 6 tools might help in the process as he puts:

  • Use your fear as motivation. That’s what it’s there for. It will make it easier for you to truly commit to practicing your talk as many times as it takes. In doing that, your confidence will rise, your fear will ebb, and your talk will be better than it otherwise would have been.
  • Let your body help you! There is a series of important things you can do before going on stage that really help circumvent the adrenaline rush. The single most important one is to breathe. Breathe deeply, meditation style. The oxygen infusion brings calm with it. You can do this even if you’re seated in the audience, waiting to be called up. Just take a deep breath right into your stomach, and let it out slowly. Repeat three times more. If you’re offstage and you’re feeling tension surging through your body, it’s worth trying more vigorous physical exercise.
  • Drink water. The worst aspect of nerves is when the adrenaline sucks the water from your mouth and you struggle to speak.
  • Avoid an empty stomach. When you’re nervous, eating may be the last thing you want to do, but an empty stomach can exacerbate anxiety.
  • Find “friends” in the audience. Early on in the talk, look out for faces that seem sympathetic. If you can find three or four in different parts of the audience, give the talk to them, moving your gaze from one to the next in turn.
  • Focus on what you’re talking about. This is the single biggest piece of advice the author can give you. It’s not about you, it’s about the idea you’re passionate about. Your job is to be there in service of that idea, to offer it as a gift. If you can hold that in mind as you walk onto the stage, you’ll find it liberating.

Going forward, driven by our growing connectedness, one of humankind’s most ancient abilities is being reinvented for the modern era. we’ve become convinced that tomorrow, even more than today, learning to present your ideas live to other humans will prove to be an absolutely essential skill for everybody, and for that I can’t recommend enough this book because however much public speaking skills matter today, they’re going to matter even more in the future.


This book review is contributed by Luqman Yasin Gelle


Twitter: @LuqmanGelle

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