How to deliver a good talk

Dear speaker,

Thank you for accepting our invitation. I am writing to you in the hope of providing some guidance and to give you some ideas of how to prepare for this event.

6 min and the hidden agenda.

We invited you as a speaker to deliver a 6 min talk at our TEDx event. As of now, some of you may have a question: 30 speakers times 6 min equals to 3 hours – why will this event last for a whole day?

The hidden agenda we have in mind is that you are going to share a lot more: between each track, there is going to be a lot of breaks where people will come to ask about your work. From last year’s experience, the break might even be a more efficient mean for sharing: you have a two-way communication. If you look at it this way, then the question will become: What do people need to know, so that they will be able to have an interesting conversation with you?

“If you want to people to ask quality questions about your work, what kind of information do they need to know beforehand?”

Don't describe, show.

Think of a cook ready to show his work on stage, he will prepare very delicious videos, pictures, articles or speech about it, and talk about it. At its best, it will be a state of the art video, picture, article or speech, but one can't say anything on the quality of the food. People tend to confuse the two, think of McDonald's poster: it conveys no information on the burger, only that it is good photography.

Yet, many cooks insist in giving a “presentation” instead. There is a mindset that successful people delivers good “presentation”. So when invited, people feels like they need to prove that can deliver one as well. The standard “presentation” consists of a slide deck with bullet points, photos, and sometimes, a movie clip that convey a concept.

Some may argue that it is because of the digital media: speeches are being put online, video and image are easier to be transferable by the internet. But the counter-argument might be true as well: since talk and images are easy to be transferred online, the internet is full of it. When people leave their computer, to attain a cook's sharing, maybe they are looking for something different than another YouTube clip.

The best way to show a cook's work is to let the audience taste the food.

If you considering two possible ways to present your work, pick the one that is more direct. To test the most direct medium, ask yourself this: if you are going to succeed/screw up with your sharing, will people like/despise your work (direct), or your presentation skill (non-direct)?

Concept vs. Experience, what to share:

A more fundamental idea is the purpose of your talk. You can either choose the “brain” or the “heart”: to feed the audience with more information, philosophy and concept; or to let them feel excitement, sad and connected.

If you do plan to talk about abstract ideas and philosophy, a good test will be for you to ask yourself: will the audience learn something new from the talk?

Going back to the cook example, when the audience taste great flavor, they will want to trace back to the source. The other way seldom works.

So if you want to demo a bike, let the audience ride it. They will ask you about the bike.


When we started TEDx溫羅汀 last year, I thought that having a group of people from very different discipline might be fun: they have different perspectives to share. The biggest surprise I learned was that when people contributed, they tend to be open-minded as well. And I think that’s a recipe for a good audience: a group of people with diverse perspective, yet open minded to new idea.

Let me end by sharing this last question with you: If you are to use 6 min, to leave a gift to the world, what will that be?­­

I hope to see you soon,