How not to give a TED talk

(Live from TEDActive 2012)

I was asked to play Bob Costas, or rather Mary Corillo, by a fellow TEDactive attendee during session 8 at TED2012. In other words, sit next to me and give me a play by play of what these speakers are doing to rock the house or in contrast, find a way into the land of the forgotten.

June, Bruno and Chris have been quoted and recorded ad nauseum on what TO DO in a TED talk. But reflecting on my probably unnecessarily critical analysis and other shocking reactions I’ve had to previous speakers during the week, I present to you my list of things not to do in a talk at TED.

1. Do not start with a sentence that includes the word “talk” as in “In my talk today…” People, we know you are here to give a talk so get to it.

2. Do not read. I loved Mr. Toy Story’s talk but weeped that the best storyteller had to read it. It also presents more challenging situations like when you try to remember a word not on the script and it simply doesn’t come to you. Eeek.

3. If you want people not to follow your talk, wander aimlesslessly from a string of unrelated facts. Your audience will be given license to bust out the blackberries even though they are forboden.

4. Do not forget to tell stories. Remember this simple equation. If it doesn’t take you to a time & place with characters, it is not a story. It will not take you to a visual place where you can then evoke an emotion. And emotion is the #1 way people will remember your talk. Kudos to Brian Stevenson for nailing this.

5. Do not have a conversation with yourself. A couple speakers forgot there was an audience. One way to overcome this is to make the audience the central character of your story. If you don’t get this, you shouldn’t give any talk at all.