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  • I want us to talk or think a bit about

  • what is at the heart of what we do,

  • which is getting a speaker

  • and somehow getting something great out of them.

  • How on earth does that happen?

  • I think the start point on this is just to remember

  • how extraordinary a thing it is that a talk works.

  • Think about it.

  • You have a person with a brain and an idea

  • that no one else in the world has, maybe.

  • What is that thing?

  • It's some little unique pattern in their brain, right?

  • And somehow, they open their mouth like this.

  • Sound waves go out, through the ears of people in the audience

  • and, by some miracle, maybe, at the end of 18 minutes,

  • each of those brains has the same pattern in it.

  • This is astonishing.

  • It's truly astonishing that this can happen at all.

  • It doesn't happen in any other species in the same way, as far as we know.

  • There are a lots of ways in which this astonishing process can go wrong.

  • And, that's when talks fail.

  • How is it that a receiving brain can be rewired?

  • That brain may, as a result of that talk,

  • be different for the rest of its biological life.

  • We're giving someone a new world view

  • that 30 years later might make them

  • think differently, might make them act differently.

  • How on earth can that happen?

  • The way the brain works is step by step, incrementally.

  • You can't take a complex set of memes, a big knot

  • and just drop it into a brain and the brain goes, "Thank you!"

  • and we are done.

  • It doesn't work that way.

  • There are a lots of models that I find helpful

  • and sometimes I think a TED Talk is like playing Tetris with the brain.

  • All these ideas are coming in,

  • you're desperately trying to flip them into the right location

  • so they just slot and land somewhere where they will be received.

  • What would happen if you wanted to persuade

  • a bunch of people to come with you on a journey?

  • What are the two things you need to do?

  • You've got to start where they are,

  • and you've got to give them a reason to come with you.

  • I saw a great example of that in rehearsal just now.

  • There was a speaker there, Sonia Shah.

  • She was giving a talk about malaria.

  • Malaria isn't actually where everyone is right now.

  • For a lot of people, if you say malaria, they go,

  • "Oh, God. I suppose I'd better listen."

  • It's not what people are. It's not where they want to go.

  • So, she didn't start by saying,

  • "Ok. Let's get into malaria. Honestly, world, we have to fix this problem."

  • She said, "I'm going to tell you something that might surprise you.

  • Since the stone age,

  • more than half of the deaths of humans have been from one disease."

  • Boom!

  • Everyone is suddenly interested. Everyone cares about that.

  • So, she found the start point, the rallying cry,

  • "Come on! Let's go on this journey, together!"

  • So, let's think about the journey and how that happens.

  • The first part is that journeys happen step by step.

  • If you can't see the next step, you can't go on the journey.

  • So, let's think about that seeing.

  • Often, people in a talk feel like they are surrounded by fog.

  • They can't see. They can't see the moment.

  • What generates that fog?

  • Often it's language which doesn't land for you.

  • It's conceptual language.

  • It's language which makes sense in the context of speaker's world view

  • but it isn't where the people are.

  • So, if you want to build a concept, you have to build it step by step.

  • You have to use accessible language. You have to avoid jargon.

  • And, you have to give examples.

  • Bryan Stevenson, in his classic talk. It was so powerful.

  • He made this amazing conceptual statement

  • that blew up everyone's minds.

  • He said, "In many parts of the world, poverty is not the opposite of wealth.

  • It is the opposite of justice."

  • Those words landed like a bomb in people's brains.

  • They only landed that way because he had set it up.

  • He'd told stories about injustice and poverty,

  • and showed the relationship between them,

  • and then suddenly boom, gave a conceptual statement that landed.

  • But, it was built from the ground up, one step at a time.

  • Talks can't advance difficult ideas without populating them

  • with these rich examples that make sense to us

  • that allow our brains to use analogy, to absorb them and put them in place.

  • And, that means there is actually only a limited number of steps you can take

  • in an 18 minute talk.

  • The fog has to be cleared from it.

  • One of the biggest tragedies that can go wrong with a talk

  • is that speakers can try and go on too far a journey,

  • they put out all those stepping stones, without space between them,

  • allowing the audience to have a chance to make those leaps.

  • Without the examples, people would be left behind.

  • You think you've taken someone across this sweeping breadth of knowledge,

  • you've actually left them right where they started.

  • It's a tragedy.

  • The very first thing that has to be done with a talk is to buy into that idea of

  • "Ok. I can't do everything in 18 minutes. I need to pick a journey."

  • We can walk a mile in 18 minutes, right? We can't walk 10 miles.

  • So, pick a mile, but make it an interesting mile

  • a mile that takes you somewhere great,

  • and then make every little step on the way interesting.

  • What else can go wrong in this journey?

  • People might be able to see the next step,

  • but they might not want to go there with you.

  • Why might they not want that?

  • They might decide they don't like you.

  • So, we have a lot of pieces in this TED guide.

  • Commandments, and rules and whatever that we throw out

  • that actually go to this.

  • The reason why we say, too much ego on stage is a bad thing

  • is precisely for this reason.

  • If someone comes over as a blow-hard,

  • or is really trying to make themselves sound important,

  • there is an instant, natural human reaction of,

  • "Really? I don't like that." We don't like that.

  • We don't like arrogance. We don't like ego.

  • So, we start to shut down, the willingness to make the step goes.

  • The opposite of that is vulnerability and the power of speakers

  • who are willing to say, "I'm taking a risk here.

  • I am actually feeling kind of shy and nervous,

  • and frankly, I may be screwing up here.

  • But this really matters to me. Please will you come with me?"

  • and the audience says, "Yes. We're with you."

  • and they come.

  • Talks in a theater like this, on this sort of scale,

  • they work on that level, that human connection level.

  • Orating, which you have to do for maybe a bigger crowd,

  • is a completely different biological phenomenon.

  • It doesn't really work in theater, or indeed on a TED video.

  • Here, it's people in your living room.

  • It's chatting human to human and finding that human connection.

  • It matters so much in making people want to come the next step with you.

  • That's why eye contact matters.

  • With eye contact, you feel like you can see into me,

  • you can feel like you can make a judgment,

  • whether I really mean this, or if I'm bullshitting you.

  • And, it helps you decide, do I want to be on this journey with this person?

  • Humor.

  • Humor is the ultimate, "Come on, we are going to keep going."

  • If you are going to on a long walk with someone who can tell great jokes,

  • you are totally up for it.

  • It really makes you want to be part of that.

  • Humor is hard to do right, not many people can,

  • it won't have escaped your attention

  • that many of the best TEDTalks have been fueled by humor,

  • seduced the audience.

  • I mean, education - honestly, who wants to talk about education typically?

  • Ken Robinson found this way

  • of making it the most delicious, delightful, charming, wonderful experience.

  • He seduced everyone along the journey with him.

  • Everyone was in love with him well before he got to the core ideas

  • that really opened people's minds and made them want to

  • change their lives, and commit to education reform etc.

  • Humor can't be forced, and not everyone can do it,

  • but what everyone can do is connect as a human being,

  • be themselves, be authentic.

  • So, it's the journey. It's scoping the extent of it,

  • and not trying to do too much, then taking people every step of the way.

  • What are the natures of some of those journeys?

  • There are different words we can give them.

  • Sometimes, a good word for a journey is just a story,

  • and a lot of talks are basically someone telling a remarkable story

  • from which there are takeaways.

  • This is a very profound and deep human experience

  • and our brains know how to do this.

  • They know how to start with the narrative, and just continue.

  • That is exactly what's happening.

  • But there are other journeys that tap into some of that same process.

  • You can go on a journey of discovery.

  • You reveal something, then, naturally, you reveal something else

  • and that leads to something else.

  • It feels like you are on this journey and every step feels natural.

  • You have anticipation about what the next step is going to be.

  • Or, it can be a journey of persuasion.

  • If you want to get a fantastic example of that,

  • look at Dan Pallota's talk from the last TED

  • where he set out to change for all time everyone's view of the non-profit world.

  • He just went through it step by step, making these arguments one at a time

  • that just seemed more and more compelling,

  • a beautiful interaction with the visuals when needed,

  • his own story telling, his own logic - a fantastic journey of persuasion.

  • A lot of the most interesting talks almost have the structure of the detective story.

  • So, it's a story, but it starts with a riddle.

  • It might be a question like as simple as,

  • "How on earth do we solve climate change?" or some problem.

  • You start with some issue that you think will intrigue people.

  • "I want to share with you how I learned

  • everything I thought I knew about stress is dead wrong."

  • There is a talk like that this week.

  • Then you take people on, you show them the clues,

  • you show them the moment of: "Aha!", or revelation, perhaps.

  • Doing that you are giving all those receiving brains the chance

  • to do something very human and natural, just put the pieces together,

  • clue, clue, clue, conclusion.

  • Wow! I get it! Mind reset, re-snapped.

  • You know, we talk a lot at TED, or people talk a lot

  • about inspiration and the importance of that in talks.

  • This is a topic where we have to be really careful because inspiration

  • is one of those things that you don't get by targeting directly.

  • A speaker who comes to you and says, "I can deliver an inspiring talk." Run!

  • It's the last thing you want.

  • Inspiration comes when an audience sees that someone is being authentic,

  • when they see that someone has expanded

  • their own sense of possibility in the world.

  • People who try and say,

  • "And, now is the moment, where you, yes you, can get out of your chair

  • and change your life. We can all do this together, can't we?"

  • We've all seen those talks now and we're all, honestly, tired of them.

  • We feel, when we hear them, we are being manipulated.

  • Those kinds of talks can have this massive push-back reaction,

  • and it turns out there are hundreds of people out there

  • who have been inspired by TED, and want to be that person

  • strutting the stage and delivering that inspiration.

  • There's a lot of pressure on you, as organizers,

  • to book them and put them on. Be careful.

  • People think that they have cracked the code of TED when they think emotion.

  • You know, a talk has to be emotional.

  • And, that's absolutely true. Emotion really matters.

  • But again, please not directly.

  • Don't go, "Ok. This is the moment when I am going to make the audience cry."

  • And, you slip out of your pocket the picture of your granddaughter,

  • or your sister, and describe her terrible disease or her whatever.

  • Don't do that. It's too familiar now.

  • A few people have done that and got away with it,

  • but it feels manipulative now.

  • The single thing that matters most in all this

  • is that someone actually does have something to say.

  • That there is a realistic journey that you can take someone on

  • in 6, 12, or 18 minutes, that actually is fresh and matters.

  • Absent of that, there is no chance of the talk landing anyway.

  • So, that is the single hardest thing to do.

  • Is this person really a leader in this field?

  • Do they really have an idea that the world needs to know about?

  • And have they found the way to make it accessible?