5 TED Talks Every Public Speaker Should Watch

November 25, 2017 - Dom Barnard

Great public speakers motivate their audience and inspire them to take action.

Viewed regularly by millions of people all over the world, TED Talks highlight valuable new perspectives and discussion points.

Here are five of our favourite TED Talks, from the impact of body language, to telling stories, to using your vocal toolbox.

1. TED's secret to great public speaking

There's no single formula for a great talk, but there is a secret ingredient that all the best ones have in common. TED curator Chris Anderson shares this secret - along with four ways to make it work for you. Do you have what it takes to share an idea worth spreading? [Link to talk]

Key quotes

"Your number one task as a speaker is to transfer into your listeners' minds an extraordinary gift - a strange and beautiful object that we call an idea."

"Your number one task as a speaker is to build an idea inside the minds of your audience."

"Ideas are complex things; you need to slash back your content so that you can focus on the single idea you're most passionate about, and give yourself a chance to explain that one thing properly."

"Stir your audience's curiosity. Use intriguing, provocative questions to identify why something doesn't make sense and needs explaining."

"The speakers often forget that many of the terms and concepts they live with are completely unfamiliar to their audiences."

2. How to speak so that people want to listen

Have you ever felt like you're talking, but nobody is listening? Here's Julian Treasure to help. In this useful talk, the sound expert demonstrates the how-to's of powerful speaking — from some handy vocal exercises to tips on how to speak with empathy. A talk that might help the world sound more beautiful. [Link to talk]

Key quotes

"Many people have the experience that when they speak, people don't listen to them."

"It's very hard to listen to somebody if you know that you're being judged and found wanting at the same time."

"We vote for politicians with lower voices, it's true, because we associate depth with power and with authority."

"What would the world be like if we were speaking powerfully to people who were listening consciously in environments which were actually fit for purpose?"

3. Your body language may shape who you are

Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy argues that "power posing" — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don't feel confident — can boost feelings of confidence, and might have an impact on our chances for success. [Link to talk]

Key quotes

"Judgments of political candidates' faces in just one second predict 70 percent of U.S. Senate and gubernatorial race outcomes."

"Our bodies change our minds and our minds can change our behaviour, and our behaviour can change our outcomes."

4. The clues to a great story

Filmmaker Andrew Stanton ("Toy Story," "WALL-E") shares what he knows about storytelling - starting at the end and working back to the beginning. [Link to talk]

Key quotes

"Does a greater affirmation than when we connect through stories. It can cross the barriers of time, past, present and future, and allow us to experience the similarities between ourselves and through others, real and imagined."

"Probably the greatest story commandment, which is "Make me care" -- please, emotionally, intellectually, aesthetically, just make me care."

"Stories are inevitable, if they're good, but they're not predictable."

"And that's the first story lesson I ever learned. Use what you know. Draw from it. It doesn't always mean plot or fact. It means capturing a truth from your experiencing it, expressing values you personally feel deep down in your core."

5. This is your brain on communication

Neuroscientist Uri Hasson researches the basis of human communication, and experiments from his lab reveal that even across different languages, our brains show similar activity, or become "aligned," when we hear the same idea or story. This amazing neural mechanism allows us to transmit brain patterns, sharing memories and knowledge. [Link to talk]

Key quotes

"We think we can communicate because we have this common code that presents meaning."

"So production and comprehension rely on very similar processes. And we also found the stronger the similarity between the listener's brain and the speaker's brain, the better the communication."

"Our ability to communicate relies on our ability to have common ground."

These TED Talks demonstrate how a topic delivered in a unique and persuasive way can leave a lasting impression on the audience.

It's not always easy to think of a topic to present to an audience, or even motivate yourself to sign up for an event. TED Talks like these will hopefully motivate you to take the step onto a stage and deliver a memorable speech.