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30 Presentation Tips From The Best TED Talks Around The World

by Adam Noar

how to give a great presentation ted talks using PowerPoint

Have you noticed how TED Talks are insanely persuasive and engaging?

We’re big fans of TED Talks and frequently use them as a source for both PowerPoint inspiration and public speaking tips.

There are so many valuable presentation tips that can be learned from watching TED Talks. Here’s a list of 30 of the best ones that you can easily start implementing in your next presentation!

#1.) Share a genuinely emotional story

Stories not only engage your audience, they enhance memory and increase empathy. As influential speaker Tony Robbins points out, “information without emotion is not retained.” Without emotion, even the best presentation will lack the je ne sais quoi that electrifies people.

#2.) Do what makes you feel “awesome” on stage

Wear something that makes you feel great on stage. If it’s boots, wear boots. If it’s jeans and a t:shirt (like Steve Jobs), wear that. You may also want to think about dressing around your presentation theme. For example, marketing influencer Pat Flynn once gave an awesome presentation called “How to Futureproof Your Brand” using a Back to the Future theme where he popped out of a DeLorean dressed as Marty Mcfly (watch the entire presentation here). Special props like that will make your talk incredibly memorable.

pat flynn back to the future presentation

How to Become Futureproof – Opening Keynote NMX ’15 

#3.) Smiling makes you look smarter

Research Studies analyzing TED Talks (yes, that’s a real job) have shown that the longer a TED speaker smiled, the higher their perceived intelligence ratings were. Speakers who smiled at least 14 seconds were rated as higher in intelligence than those who smiled for less.

#4.) Make sure your deck has a consistent look and feel

Watch any good TED Talk presentation and you will see that each slide in the deck has a similar look and feel. Keep your slides consistent in terms of images, layout, color palette, and typography. Presentation consistency helps your audience focus on the topic presentation, rather than trying to figure out what to make of your slides. If you need help you can buy a nice PowerPoint template online, use alternative tools like Canva, or simply pay a presentation designer to create the deck for you.

#5.) Make your stories “sensual”

Building on telling stories (from tip #1), try to be highly specific and sensory. Give the smell, the taste, the feelings, the textures. Providing this detail, people will transpose their own experience onto that. Studies have even shown that the most popular TED Talks rated 43% higher in charisma compared to less popular TED Talks.

#6.) Use minimal text

When creating your slides, think big fonts and limited text. We really recommend avoiding slides with a lot of text. This way your audience doesn’t need to split their attention between reading from your slides and listening to your speech.

#7.) Make sure your charts and graphs are extra simple

If your graph or chart is complex, your audience will most likely struggle to follow your presentation and understand your message. Instead, simplify your data and show the most important points. Here are some great examples of how to display data in your next presentation. If you come across an existing chart you like you should consider recreating it in PowerPoint. It may seem like unnecessary work but it can really make your presentation feel consistent and polished.

#8.) Don’t talk right away

Try not to talk as you walk out on stage. Sure you’re probably nervous and naturally want to start talking right away. But doing this only communicates insecurity and fear. It may sound long and tedious to walk out in silence but it will make you look confident and in charge of the situation. Walk out, take a deep breath, find your place, wait a few seconds and begin.

#9.) Use contrasting transitions slides to break your presentation into digestible chunks

While consistency is important (see tip #2.), you want to avoid monotony. Do this by creating one style for the slides that are “the meat” of what you’re saying, and then another style of slides for the transitions between topics. These transition slides will provide a nice visual cue that you’re moving onto a new topic/idea/point. If you want a nice set of transition slides to get started here is a beautiful set, created by yours truly, that you can download for free.

#10.) Use “emotionally charged” images that enhance meaning

Aim for simple yet “emotional” images to help compliment your spoken words without distracting your audience. Look for photos that speak strongly to the concept you’re talking about and aren’t compositionally complex. Also, look for images that are powerful enough to tell a story on their own. Unsplash is a great place to find emotional images for your presentation.

#11.) Direct your audience attention by masking certain parts of an image

If you want to point something out in a photo, you could use a big arrow (which often looks amateur and tacky) or you could use a mask to subtly fade out certain parts of the image that are not important. Object overlays are a great way to do this. You can also use tools like Pic Monkey to focus on certain parts of images (and blur out the rest).

#12.) Go easy on the transitions and effects

PowerPoint comes loaded with different effects and transitions. We do use them.However, in my opinion, most of these don’t do much to enhance the audience experience. At worst, they subtly suggest that the content of your slides is so uninteresting that an “origami bird” transition (yes, that’s a real option in PowerPoint!) will snap the audience out of their lethargy. If you must use them, use the subtlest ones, and keep it consistent.

#13.) Wave your hands around

Data from analyzing TED Talks showed that people who used more hand gestures had almost double the views online compared to those that didn’t. Why is this? Studies have shown that when we see someone’s hands, we have an easier time trusting them. Also, when someone uses their hands to explain a concept, we have an easier time understanding them. Speakers who use hand gestures are speaking to their audience on 2 levels–verbally and nonverbally.

great presentatin - ted talk tips - use hand gestures

Google Co-founder Sergey Brin giving a TED Talk on China. Photo by Steve Jurvetson 

#14.) Keep your viewers hooked by surprising them

Your audience wants to be entertained. Start your talk with a question that can’t be answered. Give the counterintuitive conclusion at the end. People turn off when they think they’re hearing something too familiar. Jolt them awake with shocking ideas and images. For example, if you were giving a presentation on Social Media trends and you had a slide that said “Facebook is dead” your audience’s ears would surely perk up.

#15.) Pause for 10 seconds

Seasoned speakers like Seth Godin know how to use the power of pause. Pause for two or three seconds and audiences assume you’ve lost your place; five seconds, they think the pause is intentional; after 10 seconds even the people texting can’t help looking up. Confident speakers are secure with silence. Take one long pause to gather your thoughts and the audience will automatically give you speaker bonus points.

#16.) Use power words

Great presentations engage the audience emotionally (see tip #1) while emphasizing the message with keywords. Here are some attention getting words to help you deliver a persuasive message: Afraid, Astonishing, Beware, Bottom Line, Breakthrough, Competitive Edge, Cutting Edge, Daring. You get the idea.

#17.) Share one thing no one knows

Find a surprising fact or an unusual analogy that relates to your topic. Audiences love to cock their heads and think, “Really? Wow…”

#18.) Don’t read from your slide

You will hardly ever see any TED Talk where someone is reading from their slides. Your audience should be able to almost instantly scan your slides like a billboard (a great tip from presentation expert and TED speaker Nancy Duarte), and you’ll definitely lose them if you read to them. Your slides should accentuate your points; they should never be the point.

nancy duarte - ted talk tips for great presentation

Nancy Duarte giving a talk on storytelling and effective visual communication. Photo by Paul May

#19.) Arrive extra early and know your setup

Have a run-through in the space you’ll be speaking at if possible, especially if you’ll be talking in front of a large audience. Often there will be someone to assist with tech support, but make sure to test the tech system during that practice run to troubleshoot possible problems in advance. Also, make sure you pack correctly for your presentation so you have everything you need for your talk (remotes, speakers, laptop display adapters, etc.).

#20.) Repeat audience questions

Unless microphones are available, rarely will everyone in the audience hear questions other audience members ask. Always repeat the question and then answer it. It’s not only courteous, but it also provides you with a little more time to think of an awesome way to answer each question. And another very important tip from influential speaker Lewis Howes: if you ever get challenged by an audience member with their question, keep your cool. It’s important not to disqualify the statement or get defensive. Instead, listen, reflect, and evaluate the comment, then try to move the conversation in the right direction.

#21.) Talk slower than normal

It’s almost impossible to speak too slowly on stage. When you get nervous, it’s not just your heartbeat that quickens. Your words also tend to speed up which turns people off. When you slow down, people will hang on to your every word and connect more to what you’re saying.

#22.) Be authentic

Some speakers may try to sound like someone they admire instead of being themselves. Authenticity—sounding like yourself and using everyday language—is key to getting your message across to an audience. In other words, as Tim Ferriss says “Don’t steal someone else’s style. Be you. If you’re someone who is slightly uneasy, who says “uh” a few times on stage, no problem. As long as you have something interesting and relevant to say – you’ll be fine.”

#23.) Repeat yourself to emphasize key points

Your audience probably hears about half of what you say, and then they filter that through their own perspectives. So, create a structure that allows you to repeat and reinforce key points. First explain a point, then give examples of how that point can be applied, and at the end provide the audience with action steps they can take based on that point. Since no one can remember everything you say, what you repeat has a much greater chance of being remembered–and being acted upon. So, repeat away!

#24.) Boost your confidence right before going on stage by “power posing”

Studies conducted by Dr. Amy Cuddy have shown that testosterone and cortisol (a stress hormone triggered by low-power poses such as slouching and looking at the ground) are inversely triggered depending on your body pose. Closing your eyes, breathing deeply, and holding a power pose (e.g. such as standing with your chest stuck out and your hands on your hips) for just two minutes will give you an instant boost of testosterone right before you step up to the podium.

#25.) Harness the power of three

Talk to any professional TED speaker and he/she will surely tell you about the power of three. Three is the archetypical number for a reason, and thinking in three will help you build arguments. It will also help you narrow your focus. If you are trying to do too much, think about: are there three things that are most important.

#26.) Look at audience members in the eyes one by one

Scanning and panning is your worst enemy. While it looks like you’re looking at everyone, it disconnects you from your audience. Instead, focus on different people around the room one at time until you’re done speaking.

#27.) Ditch the jargon

We spend a lot of time talking to people in our fields. But when we talk to people outside of the club, jargon is distancing. It tells us, ‘This talk is not for me.’ Present like your talking to someone who you care about, but who isn’t in your field. It can help you peel back technicality in a warm way.

#28.) Spend extra time crafting your slide headlines

Put effort into making compelling and concise headlines that will speak directly to your audience. Remember, headlines are the first impression, which must entice your audience to continue listening to what you have to say.

#29.) Get your audience involved

People don’t have long attention spans and will turn off if they are not engaged. Beyond having an awesome deck, try to use video or other media to present various aspects of the topic. You can also break up a longer talk by posing questions to the audience. If you want to take things to the next level you can use polling apps like Poll Everywhere, where you can display audience feedback to your questions in real time.

#30.) Make a grand entrance (You’ve got 7 seconds … no pressure!)

TED talk research shows that you have 7 seconds to make good first impression. The brain makes snap judgments of people within the first few seconds of meeting them. What’s more interesting is that this usually happens before any words are exchanged. Therefore, make sure your opening lines are great and your first few slides look extra great.


As we’ve discussed, TED Talks can act as a crash course on giving a presentation. Take a closer look at some of the most popular TED Talks and you will notice important design elements ( simplicity, consistency, powerful visuals, etc.) and public speaking elements (showing charisma, slowing down, projecting confidence, etc.).

Here’s my question for you: Have you watched any TED talks that have inspired you? Tell us about the presentation and how it captured your attention in the comments below.

Also, do you have a friend that is currently creating a new presentation and could benefit from learning about these awesome TED Talk presentation tips? If so, send them a link to this blog post right now. I’m sure, they will return the favor to you one day!

Finally, if you enjoyed reading this post, please remember to like and share using the sharing icons to the left.

Hungry for more presentation tips from influential speakers? Want to know more about how to deliver a kickass presentation? Check out some of these posts:

10 Killer Presentation Tips From Highly Influential Speakers

How Tim Ferriss Structures His PowerPoint Presentations (And Five Other Useful Public Speaking Tips)

Is It OK To Swear During Your Presentation?

20 Killer Presentation Accessories For Public Speaking

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