Successful Public Speaking
Talk Like TED

Successful Public Speaking

Prolific author Carmine Gallo studied more than 500 TED talks to compile a guide outlining the methods of the best speakers.

The most valuable currency today is a great idea, says former journalist, author and news anchor Carmine Gallo. But an amazing idea is worthless if you lack the skills to communicate it effectively. Gallo watched more than 500 TED Talks and spoke with several speakers to glean insights into how best to share ideas and connect with audiences. He explains that the best TED speakers convey their ideas in emotional, memorable and novel ways. Gallo presents nine winning tactics that you can employ to deliver great presentations and harness the power of your authentic voice.


The most successful TED presenters share ideas that excite them. Displaying a positive emotional state triggers a contagion effect: Listeners tend to absorb a charismatic leader’s fervor.

When you’re passionate about your topic – obsessively so – the energy and enthusiasm you display will rub off on your listeners. Don’t be afraid to express yourself – your authentic self. Carmine Gallo

Gallo urges you to discover your passion by asking, “What makes my heart sing?” Identify your passion, then incorporate it into your professional life. Connecting to your passion is crucial to inspiring others and to career happiness.


Gallo explains that narratives make your audience members more likely to agree with your message. Embrace a story you find meaningful that authentically connects to your topic. Describe your topic with evocative emotion.

Autobiographical stories that relate to the theme of your presentation offer vivid detail and take your audience on a journey while conveying your authenticity. However, relaying another person’s experience helps your audience understand abstract concepts via a character to whom they can relate on an emotional level.

Close Friend

People trust those who speak to them as they might a close friend and confidante.

If your voice, gestures and body language are incongruent with your words, your listeners will distrust your message.Carmine Gallo

Solicit feedback from other speakers and friends to ensure your presentation triggers the right reactions. Record your presentation to assess your performance. Practice strong hand gestures. Gallo reminds you to be mindful of your pacing: Speak between 150 and 160 words per minute.


Present completely new ideas, novel solutions to familiar problems, or information you repackage so it feels fresh and different. Your audience has a natural, adaptive desire to learn new things. Gift them with novelty.

Embrace novelty in your life by meeting new people; researching fields outside your area of expertise; and embracing the quiet solitude that discovering creative solutions to issues and projects requires.


Do something shocking, unexpected or impressive to grab your audience’s attention. When you engineer an emotionally charged event, Gallo insists, audiences recall your message with more accuracy than they would recall it if you present with emotional neutrality.

Steve Jobs, for example, leveraged emotionally charged “wow moments” when presenting his ideas. Bill Gates applied this tactic when he opened a jar of mosquitos during his TED Talk about protecting children from malaria with improved access to vaccines and medicines. Using novelty as a device helped his video amass millions of views.


Gallo contends that an effective use of humor can lower your audience’s defenses while making you appear likable and worthy of support. Use humor subtly to convey your leadership status. People deem funny people to be friendlier and more considerate.

Don’t conflate humor with repeating jokes you heard elsewhere; retelling someone else’s jokes comes across as inauthentic and contrived. Elicit laughs through amusing anecdotes, personal stories, observations or analogies. Muster the courage to try to make others laugh. 

Time Constraints

The maximum time allotted to a TED presentation is 18 minutes. Many people mistakenly believe creative expression should be free of constraints. In reality, Gallo attests, constraining yourself with a hard time limit forces you to be more creative and guides you in deciding what to include and what to omit from your presentation. Former Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, for example, encourages people to better understand creativity by thinking of art forms, such as haikus and religious paintings, that demand creators work within strict constraints. Artists’ creativity thrives in response to these challenges. Gallo believes that you will, too.


When building your presentation, don’t limit yourself to provoking only your audience’s sense of hearing; incorporate one or more others. When you amplify your points with, say, photographs, your audience proves are six times more likely to remember the information you convey than they would remember if they only listened to your words. Prompt your audience to conjure imagery with evocative, descriptive language.

The bottom line is this: People remember information more vividly when more than one sense is stimulated.Carmine Gallo

This creates a powerful effect because your brain’s visual cortex responds to imagined visual scenes as it does to actual visual stimuli.


To inspire an audience, be yourself, says Gallo, because people have to perceive you as genuine to trust you. Build your self-confidence by practicing your presentation in front of your spouse or friend.

Entry Level Advice

Carmine Gallo writes many books – all featuring his articulate, conversational voice – and they sell well. So his entire career testifies to his skill as an evocative, compelling communicator. Indeed, he writes with enthusiasm and a charming personal fervor. And it’s a good thing he does, because his guidance either aims at absolute beginners or seems somewhat obvious. That said, his checklist approach will enable nervous speakers to create a practice program and the necessary self-confidence to deliver a worthy TED Talk. Those invited to speak on the TED stage tend to be seasoned speakers, however, and may not glean many insights from this primer. Nevertheless, Talk Like TED is an excellent guide for anyone making a speech or presentation for the first time.

Communications coach Carmine Gallo also wrote The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs and 10 Simple Secrets of the World’s Greatest Business Communicators. Other works on public speaking include TED Talks by Chris Anderson and Mastering the Art of Public Speaking by Michael J. Gelb.

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