How To Deliver a TED Talk: Secrets of the World’s Most Inspiring Presentations

How to Manage Your Physical Delivery

  • Your rest position should probably be the same one you use when talking to someone you trust. Many are acceptable but avoid: hands coupled in front (fig leaf), hands in pockets, hands coupled in back (parade rest), hands on hips, and crossed arms. When your arms are in motion, make natural gestures mostly between waist and neck. If you normally make hand gestures when you talk, just keep doing so. If not, you need to force yourself to make hand gestures so you don’t stand fixed like a soldier. Scale hand gestures to the size of the room and your audience. It you must point, do so with an open palm.
  • As for your face, shower your audience with a genuine smile to communicate confidence and build trust. After you ask a question, pause and nod. As you speak, establish eye contact for three to five seconds in a random pattern about the room. In a big room, divide it into sections and play to each one. Consider closing your eyes briefly from time to time.
  • Free yourself from a podium or lectern. Move towards your audience to emphasize key points. Remain in one spot when you make a point, then pause and move during transitions. Your manner of dress, grooming, and conduct should be consistent with your message. (Doug: Next time you watch a TED Talk, pay attention to the physical part of the delivery.
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