Our 10 Favorite TED Talks to Inspire Triumphant Public Speaking

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Let’s face it: speaking in public isn’t always a breeze. So take a deep breath and focus with this must-have set of fun, helpful, and innovative tips inspired by The MOXiE Institute’s ten favorite TED Talks on public speaking.

1. Show people why your ideas matter to them.

First of all, before you even dream of moving your mouth, you must think about how you will structure your talk. We recommend writing from the seats, not from the stage. That means really tuning in to your audience, what you want to accomplish with them, and especially centering your talk around your “Why.”

The why is the critical center, where you should start all presentations. Why does your topic and opinion matter? Why is it important for the audience? When you’re clear on why your idea matters and why it should matter to the audience, you’ll finally be able to identify your core message for your keynote. Simon Sinek explains this in his TED Talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.”

2. Breathe Deeply to Speak Powerfully.

Did you know that the difference between being viewed as powerful or timid lies in your breath?

You would think that everyone knows how to breathe, right? Maybe everyone thinks they do but, in reality, most people take shallow breaths instead of using their diaphragms.

Diaphragmatic breathing is a calming, centering and empowering tool for speakers, which is why it’s a cornerstone of our public speaking training. People always say “take a deep breath,” but when you do it correctly, you can instantly lower your heart rate and stay in the present moment, fostering a connection with your audience. It is the mission-critical tool behind a powerful presentation—because it works wonders.

In “The surprising secret to speaking with confidence,” Caroline Goyder, an accomplished voice coach, shares her inspiring (and even terrifying at first!) story:

3. All the world’s a stage – command it.

Whether consciously or not, your non-verbal communication influences your audience. In fact, body language accounts for more than 50% of what people think of us. So, body language and how you use your body while presenting your ideas is just as important as what you say.

Amy Cuddy’s talk “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are” has been seen over 51 million times. Why are people so interested in the body language of a stance?

Because we know that body language changes things. It changes how we feel, and it changes how others feel about us.

4. Play to the room. Every room.

Speaking of taking up space, watch how Tony Robbins truly commands the room by confidently taking up the entire stage in his talk, “Why We Do What We Do” (and wow, he truly rocks that “it factor” element):

5. Harness the power of your story.

Every single pitch is a story—whether you are trying to convince someone to consider a new belief, to invest in your product, or even that your ideas are worthwhile–there’s always an arc to what you are saying.

Who doesn’t love a story? And every story needs a good story-teller: someone who can translate dry facts or statistics into a memorable and compelling narrative.

We love Brene Brown’s observation that “maybe stories are just data with a soul” in her ultra-famous TED Talk on “The Power of Vulnerability:”

6. Strong foundation, sophisticated delivery.

And because it’s that important – to tell stories in every single presentation, we’ll help you out a little extra by adding “The Clues to a Great Story” by Andrew Stanton:

(Note: Though we love this speech and highly recommend it, you may want to stick on your headphones if you’re at work or around small children – he does use colorful language.)

7. Embrace infinite preparedness.

The process of memorization can seem monotonous, but it’s the most natural technique to choose when you have plenty of time to practice. This way, you become intimately familiar with your talk until it is second nature.

You’re even minimizing your body’s fight-or-flight response by knowing what comes next.

One of our favorite techniques for memorizing is called the memory palace. In “Feats of Memory Nearly Anyone Can Do,” science writer Joshua Foer describes the technique and shows off its most remarkable feature: anyone can learn how to use it.

8. Say so long to stage fright.

There are plenty of suggestions to overcome general fear, but the fear of public speaking, or glossophobia, is a bit trickier. 75 percent of the U.S. suffers from speech anxiety. That means three out of every four people would rather not talk in front of the others.

As Mark Twain famously said,

“There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.”

How do you turn fear into excitement? It comes back to your message. Be excited to deliver it because it’s important.

Know the significance of your message. Then, you’ll not only overcome your stage fright, you’ll rise above it.

In “The Science of Stage Fright and How to Overcome It,” Mikael Cho advises how to trick your brain and steal the show:

9. Learn how to grab your listener’s attention and hold it.

The best presentations target both the right brain (emotion) and the left brain (logic.) And the responsibility to light the fire in your audience is up to you, the presenter.

Both concepts of audience participation are illustrated brilliantly in Jane McGonigal’s deeply inspiring talk “The Game that can Give you 10 Extra Years of Life”:

10. Transform ideas into action.

Researchers have discovered that ideas are much more likely to be remembered if they are presented as pictures instead of words, or even pictures paired with words.

In case you just walked out of another meeting that was scheduled to talk about yesterday’s meeting (and all the meetings about meetings before that,) you’ll really appreciate David Phillips’ talk on making information truly meaningful, even in the board room, called “How to Avoid Death by Powerpoint”:

Use these techniques that exemplify our incomparable MOXIE Method well and you’re sure to leave your audience with something unforgettable.

Now, we’d love to hear from you! What are your favorite TED Talks for public speaking?

The ideas shared in this article are based on information in our Speak with Moxie e-book. To get the full action-packed book immediately at your fingertips, you can find it here.


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