TED Talks Storytelling: 23 Storytelling Techniques from the Best TED Talks

by Akash Karia

The premise of this book is that “the best speakers on the TED stage were the ones who had mastered the art of storytelling.”

The first 30 seconds are critical. “Opening with a story is a tested and proven method for grabbing audience attention and keeping your audience mentally engaged.”

As a rule, TED Talks are limited to 18 minutes. This gives the speaker only enough time to share one main idea. “If my audience was to forget everything else I said, what one single idea or lesson would I want them to remember?”

Karia says that the secret to an “irresistible” story is conflict. “As long as there are two strong, opposing forces that make the outcome of the story uncertain, a story will be gripping. It keeps us engaged. It keeps us curious.”

The author writes about creating a “mental motion picture” for your audience. “Engaging an audience is more than just giving important information… Patricia Fripp, an executive speech coach, says, ‘People don’t remember what you say as much as they remember what they see when you say it.’ Providing descriptions of the five senses “can help your audience to create a mental motion picture of your characters and stories.” How does it look, sound, smell, feel, or taste?

Being specific adds credibility. “Non-specific statements such as ‘the man was tall’ don’t help your audience members picture the characters and the scene in their mind. Saying, ‘He was about 6 foot 5, with ripped muscles’ provides enough detail for your audience to be able to see the characters and the scene.”

Personal stories add authenticity. “When you talk about events that have taken place in your life, you will naturally feel some of the emotions that you felt when those events took place.”

“Positive-message stories are inspiring… “Positive-message stories are stories where the main character managers to overcome the conflict. The character changes for the better as a result of having overcome the conflict. This type of story shows the audience what they should do and leaves them in high spirits.” In contrast, “a negative-message story… teaches the audience what not to do. While the story may be instructive, it is not inspiring. It leaves audiences on an emotional low, which is generally not how you want to end your presentation.”

What do you want your audience to learn from your story? “Between the conflict and the final victory of the character, we have what I refer to as the ‘spark.’ The spark refers to the process, idea or wisdom that allows the character to overcome the conflict. The spark is one of the most valuable parts of the story. It’s the process or the wisdom that audience members can take home with them and use to overcome similar conflicts in the own lives.”

In the wrap-up chapter, the author summarizes 23 tips for a successful presentation. This is a short book. I read it in about an hour.

Karia, Akash. TED Talks Storytelling: 23 Storytelling Techniques from the Best TED Talks. 2015. Buy from Amazon.com

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