Posts Tagged ‘talks’

TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016 | Books

TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking is a book by Chris Anderson, curator of TED, on how to deliver a great talk. It is aimed to give advice to everyone, not just people speaking at TED, and while all the examples are from TED, there is much to be learned from anyone looking to give a speech.

As with a great TED talk, Anderson starts the book by creating a vision. An idea is a thought pattern in your head, and your challenge is to replicate that thought pattern inside the mind of each of your audience members. He then goes on to explain how to do this, step by step.

Most of the book concentrates on the idea of getting your message correct. This makes sense because it is more important than delivery and you can do in written form. If your body language or voice is not perfect, this matters less than having a great message. Nor can you teach these skills effectively in a book.

There are also discussions of the fine lines you run into when speaking. Sharing personal stories for example. Generally speakers don’t do enough of this. Showing an audience your vulnerabilities and being open about some of the challenges you have faced really helps you connect with an audience. But you can overshare and even make them feel uncomfortable if you go too far.

Similarly, how much should you rehearse. Should you do it word-for-word or just rehearse ideas? Word-for-words means you will know it better and get it right: but it can also sound forced and unnatural. Both approaches can work. However, in general word-for-word is better. Many speakers, usually with high opinions of themselves, will talk about how they just blag it and it comes out brilliantly. For a tiny proportion of speakers this may be true. However, for most they simply do not sound as good as they think they do. In comparison, I am often complement for how natural and unrehearsed I sound. The speeches that people usually make those comments are the ones I have rehearsed to death: my guess is that that style only comes from the confidence of knowing your speech inside out.

I was quite pleased when the book suggested you should use blank slides to bring the audience back to you. I use this in my speeches, but I have never seen or heard anyone else suggest it before, so it was nice to see TED recommends it too.

One interesting point of contention was the pace you should speak at. At Toastmasters, we always tell people to slow down. TED says the opposite. People can digest faster than you can physically say things, so why would you slow down for anything other than the complicated bits that cause a high cognitive load on your audience? I see their point. If your audience can comprehend you speaking at normal conversation speed, why not pack in more information?

I think both these points of view can be reconciled. A Toastmasters, we’re typically teaching nervous speakers to get over their fears. When people are anxious they speak faster. Slowing down is a skill you need to learn and practice because otherwise you will go a million miles per hour. However, once you have learned to go at your own paces, to add pauses in the right places and to speed up and slow down as required, then you can use that skill to speed up as appropriate.


Worfolk Lectures update

Friday, May 22nd, 2015 | Foundation, News

We’ve just relaunched Worfolk Lectures with a new responsive design. It looks great on desktop:


It looks great on tablets:


And it looks great on phones:



Monday, January 14th, 2013 | Events

Last week, we attended BettaKultcha for the first time.

It’s an idea that seems to have sprung up across the UK – the idea is that you have lots of speakers, usually at least a dozen, and they each get to speak for five minutes. They have twenty sides, and these automatically transition every 15 seconds – so you have to fit your talk around that!

This event was the first one they had held at Leeds Town Hall, and an audience of 100-150 people were probably there. Talks included competitive dominos, fashion blogging, things you can do your body in the name of art, pet psychics (mocking of) and many others. All in all, a really good night of entertainment.

Panic on a Plate

Saturday, August 25th, 2012 | Public Speaking

Having really enjoyed Rob Lyon’s Skeptics talk on his book Panic on a Plate, I decided it would be a great topic to give a talk on at Toastmasters. Turns out it worked quite well, and I was lucky enough to pick up my second Best Speaker ribbon.


West Yorkshire Humanists AGM

Friday, June 29th, 2012 | Humanism

This month saw the AGM of the Humanist Society of West Yorkshire. It was a rather well attended affair, at least for an AGM, which normally sees people stay away. This year, I had volunteered to give a short talk as well, so hopefully that proved to be a bit more of a draw.

While it’s pretty much business as usual, I will be changing my role from a general committee member to treasurer of the society. We’re also going to gauge interest in bringing over bigger speakers over the next year, so we will see how that goes.

The Quest for the Historical Jesus

Monday, May 14th, 2012 | Humanism

At a recent Atheist Society meeting, Karel du Pauw provided a brick by brick deconstruction fo any claim that Jesus could have been a historial figure.

A similarly great deconstruction, though not as comprehensive as Karel’s, is provided by the film The God Who Wasn’t There and it is a subject I have previously touched on even though I don’t believe the question makes any sense.

Such talks really bring things into focus – not just for the fact that the Bible isn’t true, but also open up interesting questions about why people believe in it. Clearly, it isn’t because it makes sense from a historical perspective. There is simply no evidence that King Herrod had all the babies killed, there has never been anything like people having to return to their hometown for some kind of Roman census and there are someone simply forgot to tell the earlier writers of the books of the Bible that Jesus was an actual historical figure that actually lived on Earth.

Yet, lots of people, sometimes even smart people (though statically far less often than less smart people) believe it.

To me, it is a stark reminder of why it is so vital that we have groups like the Atheist Society. Clearly, rational thinking and evidence are not the only forces at work when people make a decision as to whether follow a religion or not. There are emotional factors to be considered too, and if we can’t provide for those in the same way that religious institutions do, critical thinking won’t win hearts and minds.

The Ice Breaker

Saturday, May 5th, 2012 | Public Speaking

As many of you know, I recently joined a public speaking club and having recently taken on my first role, it came time for me to give my first formal speech – The Ice Breaker.

When you first join Toastmasters you have two programmes to work through – the Component Communicator and the Competent Leader. In the “CC” manual, there are ten speeches you have to give, each improving your speaking in one particular aspect. The first one, The Ice Breaker, is a 4-6 minute speech about yourself.

Despite having done quite a bit of public speaking at A-Soc, I was somewhat nervous before giving the talk. After all, I was speaking to a room of expert public speakers who would be picking up on every “erm” I let out (though the Ah Counter tells me I didn’t let out any, which is great) and every subconscious gesture.

I tend to do a bit too much hand clasping when nervous, so I intentionally decided to keep my hands down by my side. Unfortunately, this didn’t really get me anywhere as it just meant that my hands were hocked into my pockets instead. The ending clearly needed work as well, but as a first speech, I think I did OK and look forward to moving onto my next one.

More neuroscience for the soul

Sunday, December 18th, 2011 | Humanism

For the last talk of 2011, the Atheist Society had shameless plundered my Leeds Skeptics speaker (who I had plundered from Bradford Atheists) to present his talk “Neuroscience for the Soul” which he presented at Skeptics last month.

Why I’m Not a Christian

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011 | Humanism

Last Tuesday, Simon Wellings spoke to the Atheist Society on why he isn’t a Christian. He had given a debate speech for the society a number of years ago, facing off against the always delightful Anna Brown and the talk was essentially a re-work of that, with plenty of new material.

Simon had also given a talk on money reform to Leeds Skeptics recently, which was also entertaining.

As I seem to get shouted at every time I take photos now, the photos were taken by Elettra.

Worfolk Lecture 2011 announced

Monday, October 3rd, 2011 | Foundation, News

We’re pleased to announce the 2011 Worfolk Lecture.

Last year we announced the creation of a fund to support an annual public understanding of science lecture. The first of which took place in November with Dr Terrence Kee presenting a talk on “did life on Earth originate on Earth?” If you missed it, you can watch again in high definition on the Worfolk Lectures website.

This year’s talk will be presented by Professor David Jenkins on “From Rutherford to the Large Hadron Collider.” the event takes place on Tuesday 18 October, starting at 7pm. There will be a £2 on the door charge and all revenue will go to the host society – this year’s event will be hosted by Leeds Atheist Society and more information can be found on their website.

You can register online for the event here.