by Peter Spann

18 minutes isn’t long but TED talks have made a massive difference in that time.

If you are not familiar you get 18 minutes to give the “speech of your life”.

And they are very strict on that time limit.  And they are renowned for their powerful ideas.   But there’s a lot to learn about presenting from these great presentations too.

As part of my preparation for presenting my Billion $ Sales Machine online course I have been watching a number of talks recently.

They started as closed events open only to invited elite guests but are now done world wide as TEDx (with varying degrees of success).  However the core TED talks still remain highly popular.

Presenting takes practice and study.  Here are 5 of my favourites – take an hour to watch them.  See why they are so powerful and start to understand what you would need to incorporate in your presentation to grip your audience so well in such short time frame…

This one is only 3 minutes – it’s the 2nd most popular TED talk.


(Simon also presented the most popular TED talk of all time so if you like this one watch his “The Power of WHY”)


I love these two because they are by non-speakers who still manage to deliver a powerful message:


Here’s the notes I took on the presentation (not the content) of the above TED Talks:

Few and powerful slides

How awesome are Cameron Russell’s? I also love her because she favourited a Tweet of mine but that’s a whole different conversation.


Or Richard St John’s.

No notes

Know what you are going to say.  I used to do a whole 4 day program without notes.

Magic Formula Stories

Tell Your Story – but be on point – no unnecessary waffle, no ego, here’s a story, this is what it means to you, you can use what I learned in these ways…

Dale Carnegie developed the magic formula for speakers telling stories:

Pick something with drama, colour, impact and interest from your life (ideally), or adapt it from something you know, then tell the story this way:

  1. Incident (the bulk of the story)
  2. Point (the point you feel is important; action required)
  3. Benefit (the benefit to the audience of acting on your message)
  4. Deliver inside the structure of High, Low, High to take your audience on an experiential journey!


Key Message

The key message is delivered early, it is delivered often and everything else builds to it and supports it – no superfluous content; (the only talk where the key message isn’t well delivered is Jane McGonigal but here content is so powerful and she is not a speaker’s speaker so I thought I’d include it for you);

Talk about impact

Really these talks are all about impact – what was learned is subjugated to the impact that learning made upon them and more importantly the impact the content will make on the audience if they do what the presenter has done;

Challenge Beliefs

In every presentation beliefs are challenged, in subtle, powerful ways.  Image doesn’t matter.  How you can add 7.6 minutes to your life.  What 500 people say makes you successful.


Each of the presenters (apart from St James who I find annoying) engages the audience in some way – I like how Jane McGonigal actually plays her game with the audience.

Sell, sell, sell

TED talks are not to achieve anything apart from getting an idea across – it is an idea exchange after all.  In fact I believe the rules prevent you from selling from stage, so we can’t take much from them when it comes to selling, although if your videos is watched 7,000,000 times I guess a few of those people have Googled you and gone to your site.

Unfortunately you don’t have that luxury.

So you have to sell.  Focus on the benefits, focus on how whatever your product or service is will change their lives.  Address the obvious.  And make it compelling.

Prepare and Practice

Fact is everybody is better when they prepare and practice.  That’s a fact.

Don’t wing it.

You’re not good enough to present for 18 minutes and not do so.

Why?  Because NOBODY is good enough to do that – “If you want me to speak for a day I will prepare for 5 minutes, if you want me to speak for 5 minutes I will prepare for a day” – Winston Churchill.

Have the collateral – you need your Expression of Interest forms, pens, business cards, brochures, website references all ready to go.

Deliver with passion.  Passionate is powerful, but a lot of presenting is boring – why?  Because people focus on the content.

And their stories focus on themselves not their audience.  Your stories can BE about yourself but they need to focus on the audience – what will they get out of this, how is it entertaining, what message am I delivering here?

And repeat after me “it’s NOT about the content!” 

And finally think about it this way – if you are in front of 300 people you should be able to convert 20% of those to a free event – that’s 60

And 20% of those to your paid event – that’s 12

Or $47,760 in revenue @ $3,980, or $11,976 @ $998 or $6,000 @ $500 per ticket.  That number deserves respect both as a target and a motivation to prepare, present and pitch properly.


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Written by Peter Spann

Peter Spann is a business coach, writer, presenter and investor.

His goal is to help people make their dreams come true.

© Copyright: 2014 Peter Spann – All rights reserved

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