November 13:  TED Talks Day

On this day in 2012, TED.com presentations reached one billion views.  TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) was created by Richard Saul Wurman, who hosted the first TED conference in Monterey, California in 1984.  Attendees paid $475 to watch a variety of 18-minute presentations.  In 2009, TED began to depart from its once a year model by granting licenses to third parties for community-level TEDx events.  The TED.com website was launched in 2006, and today there are TED events in more than 130 countries.

While the number of TED talks has increased over the years, the basic template of each talk remains the same as the first talks in 1984.  Each presentation is crafted to be emotional, novel, and memorable.

In his book Talk Like TED, communication coach Carmine Gallo acknowledges that the success of any TED presentation relies on a communication theory that goes back to an era long before TED talks.

It was the Greek philosopher Aristotle who invented rhetoric – the art of persuasion.  All modern communication theory owes a debt to the three rhetorical appeals that Aristotle called logos, ethos, and pathos. Logos means grounding your ideas with reasoning and evidence.  Pathos acknowledges the fact that humans have a heart as well as a head; therefore, it is not enough to merely make your audience think; you should also make them feel.  Finally, ethos is about the relationship between the audience and the speaker.  In order to keep an audience’s interested and persuade it effectively, a speaker must be both credible and trustworthy.

Gallo suggests that speakers analyze their presentations by assigning each sentence of the speech to one of the three appeals. The best presentations, Gallo says, will contain a high percentage of pathos.  Persuasion is defined as “influencing someone to act by appealing to reason”; however, reason alone will not win the day. We’ve been telling stories much longer than we have been arranging formal arguments or writing our ideas down on paper. Great speakers know the power of story and imagery to inject emotion and meaning into a speech (1).

Today’s Challenge:  Make a Persuasion Pie

What are the key qualities that make an effective oral presentation?  Watch a TED talk of your choice, and as you watch, take notes on where the speaker uses logos, ethos, and pathos.  After you’ve watched the speech, create a pie chart in which you assign each of the three appeals a percentage.  Write an analysis of the presentation in which you explain the percentages and the impact of each appeal.  For the full effect, watch a second TED Talk and compare your second pie to the first to decide which talk was more effective. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

1-Gallow, Carmine.  Talk Like TED:  The 9 Public-speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds.  New York:  St. Martin’s Press, 2014:  47-48.

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