“Ideas are the CURRENCY of the twenty-first century.”
Talk Like Ted, Carmine Gallo
If you haven’t heard of the infamous Ted Talks, go climb back under the rock you’ve been living under since… forever! I was introduced to Ted a few years ago and became instantly hooked. It’s the new google of ideas. It’s hard to believe it was founded in 1984 and has since been catching on like wildfire. In millennial time that’s more like dog years. TED and I became re-acquainted during a rehearsal for the greek tragedy, Medea. One of my co-stars was preparing to do a speech for TED discussing her arts organization. And of course she kept us ted-sters entertained with every detail of her preparation. I thought she was so brave to do something so daring and ambitious. I could never fill such big shoes… so I thought. Fast forward to June 2016 as I read the last page of Talk Like Ted, I just sat in silence for an hour reliving every page-turning chapter I had just digested. If I ever had to choose a favorite book, this was it! I wish I could just vomit everything from its jaw-dropping moments to the very visceral multi-sensory experiences you dive right into from the jump, but if I did I suppose the world just simply couldn’t handle it. However, what I can do is share 3 things I learned that have forever changed my art of communication.
1.) Find what speaks to your MASTER within! Similar to Jay Z, I believe everyone has genius level talent or a master within that needs to be nurtured and broken. No one enters into this world at a Serena Williams, Beyoncé or Oprah status. It takes blood, sweat, tears and sometimes resuscitation to get to a point where grit and the holy grail of your dreams collide. To identify the master within it takes an honest internal assessment. Most times the only thing blocking ourselves from the answers we are seeking is us. Get out of your own way. Find out what makes your heart sing. Think about what makes you get out of bed in the morning. Think about the last thing you meditate on at night, and the first thing that pops in your head in the morning. If you have a choice, always pick a topic that speaks to your level of mastery. If not, connect your blah blah boring topic with something that makes your heart skip a beat. A great way to find connections are by identifying real life applications or personal stories to share.
By identifying your connection, it is something that will come across as authentic and honest. Emotionally you become more invested, because it is something you can identify with. This quickens the trust belt between you and your audience. Is this a positive? Absolutely. Will it lead to a downfall? Yes. Why? Because the moment you break that trust belt or in my words B**S*** your audience, they will quickly identify your flaw. You will then have to work twice as hard to gain them back. This will ultimately take 5-15 minutes off of your presentation, which can be pivot in leaving a positive long-lasting imprint. At the end of the day, do yourself a favor and keep it 100 with your audience, by incorporating something you know like the back of your hand.
2.) The brain loves HUMOR! Stop taking yourself so literal and don’t be afraid to laugh. Most presentations are stuffy, lack creativity and can be down right flat, jaded and stale. Way to be honest right. I mean think about it! We’ve all been stuck in a room where the walls felt like they were closing in on us, and the clock couldn’t move any slower. The mere tone of the person’s voice on stage caused your sleep drive to kick into high gear. Maybe you couldn’t identify what it was about that presentation that sucked. Maybe you could have cared less. But who wants to be the one pouring out their life in a speech (albeit boring) and someone is catching z’s after the first 5 minutes. Not I said the cat! So what can you do to not be that guy? Elicit laughs from your audience through anecdotes and using humor. However, comedy is hard work (page 167). I mean everyone can’t be Kevin Hart, Robin Williams or Richard Pryor. That’s why those guys get the big bucks. What you can do is become a master craftsman. Craft comedic timing to deliver a rather dry topic.
By delivering a conversation-based presentation you take the pressure off yourself to be perfect. Incorporating laughable moments can transform a 5,000 seat venue into an intimate fireside chat with friends. If you find pleasure in your topic, so will your audience. According to helpguide.org, studies have shown that laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving one’s resistance to disease. In layman’s terms, laughter is healthy for the body and great for the soul. Who knows, laughing may be apart of the cure for an incurable disease. If not, it sure will have your audience talking about your presentation for years to come.
3.) Remember your GOAL! The main goal in a presentation is to deliver an authentic presentation. Most times when we have to stand in front of a group of people and talk, we put on a facade. We mimic someone we’ve seen or read about. I am sho’nuff guilty of it. Now if you are an actor and you’re being paid to duplicate a performance, by all means disregard this comment and mimic away. Do your thang! However, if that is not your situation, do the right thing. Sometimes it happens unconsciously. There have been plenty of times where I was preparing to read Dr. King’s Dream Speech and I caught myself dropping into a baritone voice, stretching my arms wide repeating, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation, where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” In my mind I thought I was giving justice to doc. However, there was and will only be one Dr. King and I am not him. What I can do is bring my voice to these powerful words and fill the air with honesty. So how can one combat this? Before delivering your scheduled presentation, do a test run with a group of people who actually know you. If you can move and inspire your family and friends to dream bigger — You’ve got a winner!
The process of finding your voice is a daunting task. At least it was for me. I was brought up in a home that encouraged me to speak my mind. That has never been my issue. As my momma used to say, “before I’ll take it back, I’ll add more to it.” My issue was not having the power to say no, I disagree without feeling ostracized and miniature. To stand the heat as a lone ranger. It was people pleasing to keep the peace. I was as bad as those who see injustice, but do not speak against it. I lacked integrity in my own thoughts. However, I found that my freedom came in listening, processing and responding honestly, regardless if my perspective matched the person whom I am communicating with. We live in a society that disregards the difference of opinions. Yet, I am a believer that I can disagree with someone’s opinion, actions or lifestyle and do not have to spew hate to get my point across. Speaking in love is the boldest statement one can make, and defending my thoughts is the greatest anchor in vindication. It takes openness, vulnerability and breaking down layered defense mechanisms. Once I read that all I had to do was be myself during a presentation, I should-be relieved right? Easy for one to say. The question was who am I. For you, the answer may be simple. For another, it may be an ongoing question. But it is a question worth answering and Talk Like Ted asked it.
This book was not only 9 public-speaking secrets of the world’s top minds, but it was secrets for communicating in life. Talk Like Ted challenged me to sell myself and my ideas persuasively; to think like a world innovator; and speak like a global leader. This book will give you the tools to inspire any team in front of you. I wouldn’t change anything about this read. It was just enough information to digest, yet not enough to feel overwhelmed by the material. I particularly enjoyed references to some of the featured videos on ted.com, because it gave me an opportunity to see the visual implication of the topics discussed in the book. To anyone interested in overcoming your fear of public speaking or simply looking to achieve your most audacious goals, read Talk Like Ted by Carmine Gallo.
I leave you with this “LET HER B” Moment inspired by Alice Walker:
“Look closely at the present you are constructing, it should look like the FUTURE you are dreaming.”