The 9 Public Speaking Secrets from ‘Talk like TED’

The 9 Public Speaking Secrets from ‘Talk like TED’ Janice Haywood Coaching

The 9 Public Speaking Secrets from ‘Talk like TED’

One of my all time favourite books about public speaking is ‘Talk like TED’ by Carmine Gallo. As you may have seen, it’s featured in my ‘Recommended Reading’ section in Resources on this web page.

Carmine Gallo studied hundreds of successful TED talks searching for what they had in common which made them so popular. He summarised his findings into what he calls the ‘9 public speaking secrets of the world’s top minds.’

Gallo separates the ‘secrets’ into three categories – emotional, novel and memorable. You can see a summary of each of them below.


Without a doubt, if you touch the emotions of your audience, your presentation will have impact.

In this category the three secrets are:

  • Be passionate. Gallo frames this as ‘unleashing the master within’. Emotions are contagious and especially the emotion of passion. Make sure you communicate with enthusiasm and a burning desire to tell your story. If the purpose of your story is to help others, that’s ideal. People can ‘t help but listen to you as they sense your passion.
  • Use stories. We all love stories as our brain is hard wired to connect to stories. Science has demonstrated how much more of our brain is activated when we hear a story. Partly for that reason we remember a presentation that involves stories.
  • Be conversational. Practice your talk so well that you’re able to give it as though you were having a conversation. Speaking in a natural, relaxed way will endear you to any audience.


  • Teach the audience something new. The human brain loves novelty. We love learning. What new ideas can you bring to your topic? If the topic is well known, how can you present the topic in a fresh way? Nancy Duarte in her book ‘The HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations’ talks about having a ‘Big Idea’ – your unique perspective on the topic. Explore different angles so your approach is original and unusual.
  • Surprise your audience. Gallo calls this ‘delivering a jaw-dropping moment’. An audience’s attention span is short so we have to do everything we can to make sure they don’t switch off. The most famous ‘jaw-dropping’ moment’ in a TED talk is from Bill Gates from his talkc ‘Mosquitos, Marlaria and Education . At one point he opened a jar of apparently lethal mosquitos and let the audience squirm a little before telling them they were in fact harmless.
  • Be lighthearted. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Using humour in a talk makes people smile making them more disposed to like you. This will in turn encourage them to pay more attention to your message.


  • Keep it short and concise. TED talks have an 18 minute duration limit for a reason. Audiences want to be entertained and persuaded but they don’t want to be overwhelmed with too much information. It has been discovered that approximately 18 minutes is the sweet spot, longer than that and our concentration wanes.
  • Evoke all the physical senses. ‘Paint a mental picture with multi-sensorial experiences’. When you give a talk engage not only the ears with your words, but vary the experience by using impactful, thought-provoking images, videos and other people’s voices. Also think about evoking smells and feelings by using vivid descriptions in your stories.
  • Be authentic, open and transparent. We often say that public speaking involves giving a performance, but we don’t mean that you should be acting, being someone you’re not. Giving a performance in this context means bringing the best of who you are to the moment. Effective communication is about connection and if you are being false, putting on an act, the audience will instinctively spot this and they won’t trust you. Without trust, you will find it difficult to convince your listeners of your arguments.

So there you have the 9 public speaking secrets of the world’s top minds according to Carmine Galla and his study of hundreds of TED talks. They really are great tips.

How can you incorporatet them into your next presentation?



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My mission is to help employees in multinational companies learn the skills and techniques they need to give outstanding presentations in English and receive the visibility and recognition they deserve.

feel confident and engage with your audience Janice Haywood