Tag Archives: TED talk

Presenting … presentations

I was recently fortunate enough to present to a room full of fellow professionals at an event in Europe. I’d known for several months that I’d be doing so, and for me it was a big deal. It was the first time I’d had the opportunity, and there was the potential to be presenting to well over 100 people – but I wouldn’t know the real figure till I got started. 

The room I was due to present in…

I was determined that I wasn’t going to blow it.  

I’m guessing that most of you have, like me, sat through your fair share of presentations. I’m also guessing that many of those have been dire, where the presenter spent most of the time droning on in a monotone, reading verbatim from every slide, and every slide was covered in dense text with occasional bullet points.  

I’m guessing that the number of presentations which has given you a lightbulb moment, an “aha” moment, some kind of inspiration and which have left you feeling energised and enthusiastic is few and far between.  

For my talk, I was determined that I wasn’t going to produce a dire presentation, and that I would do my best to be inspirational and have the attendees enthused by my presentation.  I was also aware that the topic – retraining existing staff to work in cyber security – had the potential to be very dull indeed.  

Regular readers of my blog will know that I really like TED talks, that I watch or listen to a lot of them, so I thought I’d try to produce my own version.  I therefore did a lot of background reading, with emphasis on how to prepare and deliver TED-worthy presentations (yes, there are a lot of books out there which cover that topic). 

I learned that even before starting on my slides, I should work out what messages I wanted to convey, what the key points were. I should work on having a killer opening, one which engaged and intrigued the audience from the outset, one which grabbed their attention. 

I also learned that when it comes to slides, words = bad, pictures or images = good. After all, you want people to be focussed on what you’re saying, not on reading what’s on the slide. If you’re reading off the slide, why are you there? The attendees could simply be sent the slide deck and read that for themselves. Slides are an aide memoire, nothing more.

And I learned that your body gives a lot away when you’re talking. Moving around, shuffling from one foot to the next, fidgeting with your hands, jingling keys, says “so” or “um” a lot, all those sort of things detract from the message you’re hoping to convey, and reduce the perception that you’re an expert in the topic.    

I practiced what I was going to say – many times. I wrote out my introduction and honed that, many times.  I recorded clips of me presenting so I could see what bad habits I had – and tried not to do them. I ran through the slides over and over, reducing them to no more than 5 or 6 words on each.  All of this helped boost my confidence and reduce my nerves.  Unfortunately for Dee she also had to hear it several times, and her feedback was invaluable. 

Did it work?  Yes, I think it did.  Of the 60 or so people who came along, less than half left feedback, but on the whole the presentation was well received. For my first attempt at a big event like that, I was really pleased with the feedback.  

Will I take the same approach in future? Absolutely, if time permits.  I think the attendees benefited and I think I benefited from the process.  

The days of wordy slides and boring presenters should be at an end.  Make sure you’re not stuck in the past with them.


Lets end hate

Driving to work today, I was listening to a variety of podcasts, as is my habit. Regular readers of my blog will know that I enjoy TED Talks, as they are often very informative and thought provoking. Today’s selection was all of that, and more. Have a listen to Suzanne Barakat’s story, where her brother, sister-in-law and sister-in-law’s sister were executed in their own home:

Islamophobia Killed My Brother

Three lives senselessly wasted, for no reasons other than ignorance, religious intolerance and bigotry. One life only wasted because she happened to be visiting on that day. And very little published in the media about it.  Suzanne was right about a lot of things in her talk, and perhaps the most understated was that if it had been a three white people killed by a muslim, the press would have been screaming “terrorist attack” and I’m pretty sure we’d have heard about it here in the UK. As it was, I don’t think I heard anything about this.  Suzanne’s story only got told because a neighbour stepped forward to do The Right Thing, and helped publicise it, to get airtime: I’m pretty sure Suzanne wouldn’t have been giving a TED Talk at all without that neighbour’s help.
It wasn’t an isolated incident either.  Suzanne tells of how someone tried to run over their neighbour because they “looked funny”, this time in a white on Christian attack – though the victim and their family didn’t have white skin.

My question to you is this: are you going to passively sit and watch while Suzanne’s story, and all others like it, are repeated over and over? Or are you going to be like her neighbour and stand up to be counted, stand against hate crime: are you going to do The Right Thing?
World, it is nearly the end of 2016. We’ve had countries divided across the globe, some violently so (I’m thinking Brexit and the US Election in particular); we’ve had ongoing refugee crises and the clearance of the Calais “jungle”; we’ve had ongoing hostility in the middle east and Ukraine, an unravelling peace deal in Colombia, nuclear testing in North Korea. The list goes on and on. Yet we’re supposed to be civilised, tolerant, diverse. It seems to me that quite the opposite is true: we’re disintegrating, fragmenting, hating others because they’re not like us. We seem to be heading back into a feudal, almost tribal, time.  Please tell me I’m wrong. 

I heard the following earlier today.  It’s a code which a group of people live by, and have done for centuries.

Me against my brother

Me and my brother against my cousin

Me, my brother and cousin against all others

There seems to be more than a little truth in that mantra these days, but surely it’s time to do something different? Let’s unite, let’s put the haters out of business, let’s all be brothers (and sisters) equally.  Let’s [collectively] do The Right Thing.  Who’s with me?

Be like TED


In one of my posts last week, I talked about how we should be encouraging our children to be happy and content, rather than fretting too much about high grades and getting into the best universities.

Julie Lythcott-Haims said much the same, but with more eloquence and passion in this TED talk, which I heard this week.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Now we’re talking! – Image #62

I’ve probably mentioned it on here before, but I’m listening to / watching a lot of TED talks these days.  One of today’s offerings was really interesting, in that it gave 10 hints on how to have a better conversation, and was presented by Celeste Headlee.  This image gives away number 10, though it was not the top or best tip of the lot.


I thought (cynically) that I’d just use it to grab your attention!

Personally, I liked numbers 6 and 9.  9 was about how important listening is, and listening with a view to understanding rather than replying at that.  6 was, well, see for yourself…

It’s unfair to choose one or two, as they were all really good points.  The whole thing is about 12 minutes, so don’t be shy, give it a watch!

Inspiration starts here – Image #47

On the way to work today I was watching this TED talk.  I’ve been watching a few recently, and this one had me sitting on a packed commuter train, with tears literally rolling down my cheeks.   Matthew Williams (pictured below) competed for Canada at the Special Olympics last year.


He has an intellectual disability which marked him out as “special” from an early age and he explains what that felt like.  He explains how getting into sport has helped him find friends, find a place in this world, get a job and improve his chances of a longer life.  He also explains why the “r” word is so hateful and hurtful.

There are many things that moved me about this guy.  Not least was the fact that he stood there for 15 minutes in a packed conference hall, without notes, and spoke eloquently and articulately about his experiences.  If he was nervous, it didn’t show, and the standing ovation he received before the end was well deserved.

His description of a number of his opponents in the basketball final receiving hearing aids for the first time ever the day before the game was so moving, that’s what set my tears going.

44% of Americans claim they don’t know a single person with an intellectual disability (and I’ve not idea what the figures are for the UK): Matthew Williams showed how much they are missing out.

How do you deal with spam? – Image #26

One of the books I’m currently reading is Dot.Con by James Veitch. It’s basically a collection of email conversations where the author – a comedian by trade – responds to some of the spam email which made its way into his inbox.


He’s obviously not alone in receiving spam messages: we all do.  It’s only the quality of our service providers, their anti-spam measures and also any tools that you may be running as part of your anti-malware packages that prevents your mailbox being flooded with unwanted messages.

If you’ve ever been tempted to reply yourself, then I guess there’s no need to waste time on it – just buy the book and see what transpires when you combine spammers and a vivid imagination.

I’ve not yet finished it, but two personal favourites include efforts to raise money for a snail farm (just how do you milk a snail?) and shipping gold with Solomon Oddonkoh – more on that in a moment.

I’ve recently started watching podcasts of TED talks on my to and from the office.  Solomon was the subject of a recent TED talk which I’d shared on Facebook, but I liked it so much I thought I’d share it here too!

While we’re on the subject of spam, have any of you had one of those calls purporting to be from Microsoft, telling you that they’ve detected a virus on your computer and for just a small fee they’ll help you to fix it?  Here’s Rory Cellan-Jones from the BBC, who not only received a call, but recorded it.  Enjoy!