• Author:Ralf
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The secret of a good talk


When we from the TEDxMünster community talk about TEDxMünster to a wider community, we often hear: „Tedx, I’ve never heard of it.” Six years ago, I was in a similar position and as it was described to me as an ‘Idea Conference’, that didn’t really say much more to me. Today, I think I should have read this book but I only came across it later, after I’d seen three TEDx Conferences.

Nevertheless, it was worth reading the book, because I only then really understood the idea of the TED conferences Chris Anderson, who took over the main TED Conference from its founder Richard Saul Wurman in 1998, tells us how he was sceptical at first, used to endure lectures at conferences more as a necessary evil, and how the TED Conference changed all that.

Above all, Anderson says that he was never a great speaker himself, but today he thinks: “If you can talk to strangers at dinner, you can also speak in front of an audience“.

The book is on the one hand a guide for anyone who wants to give a TED talk, but it is fundamentally interesting for anyone who wants to learn about knowledge transfer – and how to speak in front of an audience in a way that will make people listen.

The audience in you pocket

For example, before you start talking about your topic, you have to get the audience on your side. But how does that work? For example, with humour.

“For great speakers, humour is something of a magic bullet. Ken Robinson’s lecture on the failure of today’s schools to promote creativity (which by the end of 2015 had been clicked on about 35 million times, fell on the last day of the conference. He started with the words: It was great, wasn’t it? It blew me away completely. I’m already on my way.” The audience laughed. And he never stopped. From the first moment he had us in his pocket. Humour puts aside the greatest resistance to listening. By distributing small gifts from the beginning, they signal to their audience: “Come along, friends. It’s fun.”

On the other hand, a good talk doesn’t need humour. One piece of advice from the book is: “If you’re not a funny person, don’t try to be on the podium“. Basically, it doesn’t work to strictly adhere to rules when developing a talk. It’s about using specific techniques: to talk about yourself, to become personal, to show one’s own vulnerability.

Ultimately, however, all advice can be reduced to one main insight:

“A talk does not depend on self-confidence, stage presence or eloquence. Only one thing counts: that you have something to say.

Bring together thinkers

The ideal result is a live talk that is then broadcast on Youtube in just one day. 20 years ago, speakers had to travel through the country for months and hold hundreds of lectures to reach a similar audience. When Richard Saul Wurman held the TED conference for the first time in 1984, he had to think in smaller dimensions because the technology did not yet exist.

Wurman wanted to bring together thinkers and designers from the fields of technology, entertainment and design. His aim was to overcome the problem that many thoughts stagnate in professional silos and nobody hears about them or really groundbreaking ideas often only emerge when they are linked from different disciplines. It was this idea that ultimately motivated Chris Anderson to take over the TED conference. He writes:

(…) finally a passage from David Deutsch’s book ‘Die Physik der Welterkenntnis’ convinced me, which I read at that time. (…) Deutsch convincingly explained that there is a difference between knowledge and understanding. (…) In order to understand something, we (…) have to consolidate knowledge. (…) If we think of knowledge as a giant spider’s web, then we can only understand the small knots at any point of the web if we take a step back and see how the strands are further connected to each other. Only when we see the whole can we really understand.

I myself have been to five TEDx conferences and co-organized two. The fact that I have come back again and again is mainly due to the spirit of the conference, to bring together inquisitive and open-minded people in one place and to introduce them to good ideas – but also due to the fascination that the book has awakened in me.

You can buy a copy on Amazon. We are not earning anything on sales.

Tickets for the TEDxMünster are available here.