What Makes for a Great Attention Getter?

I LOVE this acceptance speech.  And a big part of what makes Sam Rockwell’s acceptance of the 2018 Best Supporting Actor Award so excellent is the attention getter he gives at the top.  What makes it so great?  Here’s my thoughts:

  1. It includes a touching personal story about his parents! – Stories are your STRONGEST weapon against audience boredom, y’all.
  2. It’s not only a story, but, also, a short joke, with a great punchline – notice the way that Mr Rockwell sets up his story to be solemn, and then takes us in a surprising direction.  Jokes are GREAT icebreakers.  A great joke needs to be BRIEF and have the ELEMENT OF SUPRISE.  Mr Rockwell’s joke has both.
  3. His icebreaker is appropriate for the occasion – it’s about going to the movies with his parents, and he uses the story as a way of demonstrating both his love of movies and his appreciation of his parents.

How to Pace a Tech Talk

A good percentage of my client’s presentations deal with technology and science.  There are numerous hurdles to overcome when presenting technology; how to make data interesting, how to use metaphor to make complex concepts digestible, how to use wit and humor to engage the audience, etc.  But the most difficult aspect of talking science for many presenters is the manner in which they speak.

I think Pranav Mistry gives a good speech here despite having imperfect English.  There are moments when his excitement gets the best of him, and he talks too quickly, but the bulk of his presentation is done at a measured pace.  When he takes the time to breathe in between thoughts, and slow down, he is much more clear.  These “micro-pauses” allow his brain to process what his articulators (lips, tongue, lower jaw, and soft palate) are doing and gives him a moment to think about language.  Most of Mr. Mistry’s pronunciation mistakes (some w-v confusion, syllable stress mistakes, problems with phrasing) occur when he is speaking quickly.  His brain doesn’t have time to think about pacing, articulation and the like.

You can imagine the left frontal lobe to be a little like a busy highway.  The more congested the neural pathways are that connect the brain together, the less likely they are to transmit information.  If you speak fast, you clog your frontal lobe with information, and it cannot do what it does best, produce language.   So take your time!

 

Should You Promote Your Product in Your Ted Talk?

The short answer is yes, but how you do it is very, very important. If you make your product the primary focus of your speech, or Q and A, you will bore the audience, or worse, annoy them. Nobody comes to a major conference like TED to hear a product pitch. People come to hear new ideas. You must be able to craft a dynamic, purposeful, wildly creative premise to your speech first, and then strategically weave mentions of your product into the speech as you develop your material.

Take Elon Musk’s brilliant TED Q and A. The premise of his talk is really the nature of innovation, but he manages to use his three current companies, Tesla, SpaceX, and Solar City, as examples. It never really appears that he is promoting his companies, because his first loyalty is to his premise (the nature of innovation). As long as you prioritize your premise and keep it innovative, inclusive, and not sales oriented, then, ironically perhaps, it is safe to do a little selling.