Make Your Next Presentation as Good as a TED talk

Giving a presentation is hard. Everyone knows this. But it’s because of this that TED talks are so popular. It’s refreshing to see (and for us to have worked with) TED speakers who actually know how to give a presentation and who put effort into every aspect of it, including their visuals. After watching so many TED talks, I struggle to sit through anything else.

And the way they do it isn’t rocket science. Like a lot of things, it’s a formula we can all duplicate.

TED speakers:

  • Never read from a script
  • Grab the listener’s attention
  • Tell great stories
  • Keep it short (under 15 minutes for the more recent talks)
  • Use great visuals
  • Aren’t afraid to break the mold
  • Speak plainly
  • Don’t let their slides lead the presentation

But perhaps the most important thing they do is think. They take the time to think about what they are presenting and how best to present that idea. Even though TED speakers can often sound quite similar, if you look at them more closely, they’re all quite different.  

We’ve been working with TED speakers to create visuals for their talks for a while now. One of the first things we do when working with a speaker is find out the goal of the talk. Do they want to convince someone of something? Do they want to share their findings? Or do they just want to tell a personal story? The answer to these questions determines the kind of visuals we create for them. And you can do the same too.

Work out what kind of presentation you’re giving and tailor your visuals around that.


Pitching something is basically making an argument. You’re making a case for yourself and your company. When you’re doing this you need go through things in a logical way, so your talk needs to be more structured. The slides will also probably be branded. You’ll need a mix of graphics, images, quotes and anything that can back up your argument.

It might not be a business pitch but there are a lot things we can take away from this talk from Mark Modesti about how to convince your audience.

Sharing something

Sometimes you don’t need to convince your audience of anything, you just want to share recent findings or discoveries. A lot of talks at conferences fall into this bracket. It’s less about convincing, and more about sharing. The information they present can be complicated so you really need to think about how to present it in a way your audience can understand.

We worked on this TED talk with Douglas Beal. As the talk was driven by lots of data and research we opted for a mix of animated and static charts and graphics.

Personal talks

When you have a great story to tell you might not even need visuals. Your words might be enough. Photos can be a great touch when used properly. In this talk by Kelly Lepley she includes personal photos which work really well with the very personal story she tells.

Whatever kind of presentation you’re making, make sure to keep it simple, keep it clear and keep it engaging. That way it doesn’t have to be as hard as you first thought.

If you’d like help putting together a presentation that’ll knock the socks off your audience, get in touch. Contact us via our website or tweet us @infographicly_.