On this date 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:
The Greek philosopher Aristotle is one of the founding fathers of communication theory. He believed that persuasion occurs when three components are represented: ethos, logos, and pathos. Ethos is credibility. We tend to agree with people whom we respect for their achievements, title, experience, etc. Logos is the means of persuasion through logic, data and statistics. Pathos is the act of appealing to emotions.
Gallo suggests that speakers analyse 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.
Quotation of the Day: Dale Carnegie wrote the first mass market public-speaking and self-help book in 1915, “The Art of Public Speaking” . . . . He recommended that speakers keep their talks short. He said stories were powerful ways of connecting emotionally with your audience. He suggested the use of rhetorical devices such as metaphors and analogies. -Carmine Gallo
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.