TED Talks — The official TED guide to public speaking by Chris Anderson — part #4 and #5

#4 You can explain even complicated ideas using a five-step process.

Say you’re a psychologist who’s about to give a TED Talk on the prefrontal cortex and the experience simulator. How can you explain these complex, technical ideas to a general audience?

Simple, just use this five-step approach.

First, find your audience’s starting point. After all, you don’t know what your audience knows or cares about, so it’s best to begin with something that will definitely be relevant to them. Since you know they’re all here for a speech, you could open with, “I have 20 minutes to speak, but that’s nothing compared to the two million years that humans have been evolving.”

Your next move is to spark their curiosity. You’ll know you’ve succeeded when people start asking themselves “why?” or “how?” To get them to this point you might offer them the knowledge that the mass of the human brain has tripled over the last two million years.

The third step is to go over your concepts one at a time. Remember, it’s never a good idea to explain everything at once. Doing so will simply confuse your audience and, eventually, cause their attention to drift.

So, first you should explain that the prefrontal cortex is one of the causes of this remarkable brain growth you mentioned — the brain got bigger because whole a new section was added. After that you can introduce the second concept, the experience simulator, by saying that the prefrontal cortex is basically an experience simulator because it lets people experience things in their minds before they actually occur.

Your next move is to deploy some metaphors. Metaphors are helpful since they use images and models that people already know and therefore easily relate to. For instance, you could explain that the experience simulator is a bit like a flight simulator that lets people practice avoiding mistakes in the real world.

The fifth and final step is to use examples to make your speech vivid and memorable. You could say that Ben & Jerry’s doesn’t make an onion-mustard flavored ice cream because, thanks to their experience-simulating prefrontal cortex, they already know it wouldn’t sell.

So, those are the basics for delivering a speech on a complex topic. In the next blink, you’ll learn whether you should prepare visuals for your talk.

#5 If you use visuals, they should be strong and illuminating.

Thanks to modern technology, we have the option to dress up our words with all manner of captivating eye candy, like videos, photos, graphs — you name it. But not all talks benefit from visuals.

That’s because the goal of your talk is to form a connection with your audience that makes them trust you and open up to your ideas; using visuals might disrupt that connection. So, if your talk is on a highly personal subject, you probably don’t want to distract your audience with slides.

But many talks do benefit from some visual aids, as long they’re strong ones that reveal, explain and appeal to your audience. After all, images are secondary to words and should always reveal something that words alone can’t. An obvious example is the use of slides when talking about an artist, but visuals can just as easily be used to shed light on the work of scientists or explorers.

Once you’re sure that your slides will reveal something valuable, it’s important to check that they also illustrate exactly the concept you are describing and nothing else.

Say you’re speaking about colors and their symbolism in the paintings of Van Gogh. If you’re explaining his use of zinc yellow, make sure that your slides only show that color and not another like Naples yellow or carmine. Otherwise, you’ll risk confusing your audience. Stick to one idea per image.

Finally, make sure your visuals are aesthetically appealing to your audience, and if so, don’t be scared to use a lot of them, especially if you’re an artist. You can delight your audience with beautiful images — you may not even need to explain each one or spend much time on it.

Source: Blinkist app