Talk Like Ted – Book Review

 Posted by on March 26, 2014  Books, Business, Marketing, Presenting  Comments Off
Mar 262014
Talk Like Ted 2

I am a fan of books on presenting, especially good ones, and this new book by Carmine Gallo, TALK LIKE TED – The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds, is definitely a good one. The approach Gallo has taken is to analyse over 500 Ted talks, looking at the videos, interviewing the speakers, and working with the people involved in making it happen.

The book highlights great Ted Talks, such as those by Hans Rosling, Amy Cuddy, and Amanda Palmer, and uses these to describe the lessons we can all learn from them. Gallo divides these lessons into three groups of three, and includes many of the well-known points about passion and storytelling. However, because TED talks are available via the web, we can read his descriptions and check out the videos – increasing our understanding of the points he is making, seeing them in action.

No book is going to be a complete solution, and I could quibble with some of the advice. For example, I would like the book to focus a bit more on identify the needs of a specific audience, and in my professional world I often have to deal with speakers and/or audiences who don’t share a common language, which can produce a different balance of words and images.

Most of the advice in the book is very sound and following that advice, watching the videos, and being more self-analytical would help any reader be a better presenter.


Dec 152013

For several years, when teaching presenting, I have been asking people to stand when they present and to adopt ‘high power’ body positions and avoid low power positions, for example not crossing your arms and legs, and not standing sideways on to the audience.

I arrived at this advice based on my own observations, tips from other trainers, and by applying learning from other fields – but there was limited, specific evidence for what I was saying.

However, I no longer need to rely on my homespun theories. Kristin Luck (a great presenter in her own right) has highlighted Amy Cuddy to me. Watch the video below, Amy Cuddy at TED, and you will understand the extent to which how you stand impacts a) how the audience receive your message, and b) the way you feel.

The ‘fake it till you make’ it part has two elements. Firstly, standing in a power position changes the chemicals in your brain to make you more confident, even though you are ‘pretending’ to be confident. Over time, you will change and you won’t be faking it. So faking it till you make it means getting a benefit in the short term and changing yourself in the mid-term.

Dec 182012

I am in the process of writing an introductory statistics book for market researchers. This post and some of the following posts are taken from that book, in an attempt to field test the style, approach, and depth I am employing. All comments welcome.

My recommendation is that most numbers in presentations and reports should be presented as 2 or 3 significant digits. I feel that the issue of significant digits is more important than the more frequently discussed issue of decimal places.

In a number, the significant digits are those that carry the key details. If a bank robber steals $56 million, the 5 and the 6 are the significant digits – and the million gives the scale of the number. If we say that PI is 3.1416 then we are showing it to four decimal places and five significant digits.

Table 1 shows the number of internet users in five key, original, members of the EU; showing the raw numbers and the same numbers using two significant digits.

Column B shows the estimates in the format they were downloaded from the InternetWorldStats website. These raw numbers contain 7 or 8 digits, and commas are used to help make the numbers more readable. These values, presumably, represent the best estimates for each country, but they require an active act to read and interpret. By contrast, Column C shows the numbers using just two significant digits.

The use of two significant digits in Column C has two advantages, when compared with Column B.

  1. It is much easier see the relationships in Column C, compared with Column B. For example, in Column C, it is easy to see that Italy has just over twice as many internet users as the Netherlands, and about half as many as Germany. This information is harder to see at a glance in Column B.
  2. Almost all numbers have errors in them, and they tend to relate to a specific moment in time. Statisticians talk of spurious accuracy when too many digits are displayed, for example when saying 37.67% plus or minus 10%. If we use all of the digits, as in Column B, then we are implying (to most readers) that all the digits are equally accurate. By using just the two most significant digits, Column C gives a message to the reader that these are approximations.

Methods of utilising 2 or 3 significant digits
Here are some tips for different situations:
  1. Percentages. Only use round numbers, e.g. 36% rather than 35.67%.
  2. Salaries. Round them to the nearest thousands, for example $136K, rather than $135,670.
  3. 7-point rating scales. One decimal place, for example 4.6 rather than 4.634.
  4. Sales. Round the numbers to the nearest thousands, million, or billions. For example, numbers like 36,785 and 76,230 could be expressed as 37K and 76K (two significant digits). However, 36,785, 76,230 and 148, 102 would need to be shown as 37K, 76K, and 148K (three significant digits).

Ralph Waldo Emmerson said “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds”, and it would be foolish to think that every set of numbers can be shown to two or three significant digits. Background documents, notes, and tables are often better with more digits.

However, in most cases, and in most presentations and reports, two or three significant digits are going to help the audience/reader understand the message better than showering them with digits.