Talk Like TED: A book review by Bob Morris

Talk Like TEDTalk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds
Carmine Gallo
St. Martin’s Press (2014)

How and why a TED presentation resembles “a Cirque Du Soleil for the mind”

As Carmine Gallo explains, Richard Saul Wurman created the TED conference in 1984 as a onetime event. (TED refers to Technology, Education, and Design.) It became a four-day conference six years later. Chris Anderson purchased TED in 2001. Until 2005, it remained a once-a-year conference: four days of programs, 50 speakers, and 18-minute presentations. Anderson added TEDGlobal to reach an international audience. was launched in 2006. Thus far, the website has attracted more than one [begin] billion [end] views, averaging about two million day.

The video programs have been translated into more than 90 languages. There are no charges to access any of the TED programs. After attending the 2006 conference, documentary filmmaker Daphne Zuniga described it as “Cirque Du Soleil for the mind.” Oprah Winfrey later observed, “TED is where brilliant people go to hear other brilliant people.”

Those who have already read Carmine Gallo’s previously published works, notably The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience, will be especially interested in what he shares in his latest book because the “secrets” to which its subtitle refers are provided by a remarkably diverse group of thought leaders. They include Chimimanda Ngozi Adiche, Brené Brown, David Christian, Amy Cuddy, David Gallo, Bjarke Ingels, Sarah Kay, Johnny Lee, Sir Ken Robinson, Hans Rosling, and Bryan Stevenson. All of them have made one or more presentations under the TED auspices.

Those invited to make a TED presentation receive a copy of a Guide and of these “Commandments”:

1. Thou Shalt Not Simply Trot Out thy Usual Shtick.
2. Thou Shalt Dream a Great Dream, or Show Forth a Wondrous New Thing, Or Share Something Thou Hast Never Shared Before.
3. Thou Shalt Reveal thy Curiosity and thy Passion.
4. Thou Shalt Tell a Story.
5. Thou Shalt Freely Comment on the Utterances of Other Speakers for the Sake of Blessed Connection and Exquisite Controversy.
6. Thou Shalt Not Flaunt Thine Ego. Be Thou Vulnerable. Speak of thy Failure as well as thy Success.
7. Thou Shalt Not Sell from the Stage: Neither thy Company, thy Goods, thy Writings, nor thy Desperate need for Funding; Lest Thou be Cast Aside into Outer Darkness.
8. Thou Shalt Remember all the while: Laughter is Good.
9. Thou Shalt Not Read thy Speech.
10. Thou Shalt Not Steal the Time of Them.

The dozens of videos available at no cost bring the stated and implied advice on this list to life and can also be of substantial value to anyone else who is preparing a presentation, whatever its nature and extent may be. Gallo is thoroughly qualified to explain HOW to do it, based on vast experience that includes but is by no means limited to Steve Jobs and others who have made TED presentations.

In fact, one of his book’s greatest strengths is that it creates a context, a frame of reference, for each of the nine “secrets” that are actually guidelines. My strong recommendation is to proceed from one chapter to the next, pausing to visit the TED website and check out the speakers to whom Gallo refers, then re-read the relevant portion in the book’s narrative. With rare exception, body language and tone of voice have much greater impact than what is actually said. It is therefore important to experience first-hand what Gallo explains so adroitly.

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