TED TALK TECHNIQUES CAN HELP WRITERS
Carmine Gallo's book, "Talk Like Ted" is a great read. It came as a surprise to discover that the techniques used to improve public speaking can also benefit writers. I'm sure Carmine Gallo never expected that reaction, but I think the formula popular with TED talk speakers can be used for writers of fiction and memoir. I've taken the liberty of demonstrating in this blog post how the Nine Public Speaking rules can benefit writers.
1) Unleash the master within. Carmine Gallo says passion leads to mastery and mastery forms the foundation of an extraordinary presentation. You can't inspire others unless you're inspired yourself.
NOTE FOR WRITERS: You must have passion to write.Writing is hard work. If you love the process of writing and are motivated as a writer, you will inspire others and have a much better chance of writing a successful book.
2) Tell three stories. Gallo says telling stories reaches people’s hearts and minds. Stories stimulate and engage the human brain. This helps the speaker connect with the audience. Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg's original TED talk was going to be “chock full of facts and figures, and nothing personal.” She told three stories and ignited a movement.
NOTE FOR WRITERS: In order to win the hearts and minds of readers, we must get personal with a deeper point of view. The "rule of three" is important in story: three sentences of description, three interconnected characters, three obstacles, three wishes, three trials, three rings, three in a series, etc. A character's backstory can be brought to the forefront through dialogue, internal monologue, and actions.
3) Practice relentlessly. Gallo says Harvard brain researcher Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor had this "stroke of insight"that has been viewed 15 million times on TED.com. Dr. Jill rehearsed her presentation 200 times. Practicing relentlessly and internalizing the content allows you to deliver the presentation as if having a conversation with a close friend.
NOTE FOR WRITERS: Revise relentlessly. Edit relentlessly. Critique relentlessly. Practice makes perfect or nearly so when it comes to refining content and literary style.
4) Teach your audience something new. Gallo says the human brain loves novelty. An unfamiliar, unusual, or unexpected element in a presentation jolts the audience out of preconceived notions and offers a new way of looking at the world. Robert Ballard an explorer who discovered Titanic in 1985, told Gallo, “Your mission in any presentation is to inform, educate, and inspire. You can only inspire when you give people a new way of looking at the world in which they live.”
NOTE FOR WRITERS: Readers search for universal truths in stories. This connects them, informs them, and helps them look at the world in a different way. Whether writing fiction or memoir, we need to include these universal truths and wisdom. We need to dig deep to understand ourselves, and we must do the same with our story characters. Our mission as writers is to inform, educate, and inspire.
5) Deliver jaw-dropping moments. The jaw-dropping moment that scientists call an ‘emotionally competent stimulus' can be anything in a presentation that elicits a strong emotional response: joy, fear, shock, or surprise. Gallo reminds us that such a moment grabs the listener’s attention, making the presentation memorable.
NOTE FOR WRITERS: A strong emotional response is important in story. We must strive to build that emotional connection through strong character development and an awesome surprise or two. Books and films that are remembered and discussed all have these jaw-dropping moments.
6) Use humor without telling a joke. Humor lowers defenses, Gallo says, making your audience more receptive to your message. Educator Sir Ken Robinson makes humorous, often self-deprecating, observations about his chosen field, education. “If you’re at a dinner party and you say you work in education—actually, you’re not often at dinner parties, frankly, if you work in education…” Robinson's humorous anecdotes and asides endear him to the audience. Lighten up.
NOTE FOR WRITERS: Humor can reveal character and alter perspective in story. A light moment can offset pages of terror in a mystery, put lovers at ease in a romance, and catch readers off-guard and allow them to come up for air.
7) Stick to the 18-minute rule. A TED presentation can be no longer than 18 minutes. Eighteen minutes is the ideal length of time to get your point across. Researchers have discovered that “cognitive backlog,” too much information, prevents the successful transmission of ideas.
NOTE FOR WRITERS: Too much information is a frequent complaint from editors. TMI means we've used manuscript pages as an information dump. We've included a ton of backstory, author intrusion, and Wikipedia research. Stick to Hemingway's "less is more" rule.
8) Favor pictures over text. Gallo says no matter what the software speakers use, there are no bullet points on the slides of the best TED presentations. Even though there are pictures, animations, and limited amounts of text, they are not cluttered with line after line of bullet points.
NOTE FOR WRITERS: As writers, we paint pictures with words. The scenes we write should not be filled with strings of adjectives, adverbs, or weak verbs. Concrete nouns and strong verbs are better. Avoid redundancy. The use of sensory detail is extremely important and paints a picture for the reader.
9) Stay in your lane. Gallo says the most inspiring TED speakers are open, authentic, and, at times, vulnerable. Researcher Brené Brown gave talk on vulnerability and how her research led to her personal journey to know herself. Opening up paid off big. Oprah discovered Brown on TED.
NOTE FOR WRITERS: We all have strengths and weaknesses. As writers, we need to know our strengths. Is it in writing dialogue, description, point of view, word usage, or plot development? We have vulnerabilities; so do our story characters. Staying in our own lanes can also mean finding our niche in writing and sticking with that particular genre until we excel.
"Make no mistake," Carmine Gallo says. "Your ability to persuasively sell your ideas is the single greatest skill that will help you achieve your dreams. Follow these nine rules and you’ll astonish, electrify, and inspire your audiences."
By reading Gallo's book, "Talk Like Ted," you'll be inspired to follow techniques used in public speaking to improve your writing skills.