1. Why your "why."
Each person who graces the TED stage shows an incredible amount of mastery of their field. They are best-in-class athletes or best-selling authors or award-winning scientists, or all three. And the key to achieving that level of success is a clarity of purpose and a focus on a singular mission.
Tony Robbins exemplified both of these in his 2006 TED Talk, "Why We Do What We Do." Robbins is clear on his own mission, which allows him to speak with passion and purpose. But Robbins is also a self-proclaimed "Why Guy," helping people find their own burning passion.
To convey your message powerfully and with clarity, you need to know your own "why." Whether you write a personal mission statement that drives all your presentations or hone in on a message for each one individually, knowing what you're aiming to achieve before your step out on the stage will help you focus your energy on that positive outcome.
2. Involve the audience.
So many speakers see their stage time as a chance to monologue, speaking at their audience rather than to them. But the best presentations allow the audience to participate.
Nobody shows this better than Tim Brown in his 2008 TED Talk, "Tales of Creativity And Play." In teaching his audience to embrace their inner creative child, Brown not only gives the audience a group exercise to participate in but later involves them with props, inviting them to become a part of the experience.
While you may not want to have your audience shoot foam darts toward the stage as Brown did, find ways to involve your audience. A show of hand is a simple way to do this but it's still fairly passive; the more active you can make your audience, the more invested they become in your presentation.
3. Pace yourself.
Many new speakers make the mistake of rushing through presentations, but the top TED Talks demonstrate an impressive mastery of pace and pause, making the most of each moment -- whether it's filled with words or silence.
Brene Brown shows a great mastery of pace in her 2010 talk, "The Power of Vulnerability." Whether she's delivering a joke, telling a poignant story, or making an important point for emphasis, Brown gives each statement a moment to breathe, letting the key points sink in with her audience before moving on.
Spend as much time preparing the pace and pauses of your speech as you do the content. Allow important statements to hang in the air for a moment before brushing them aside, and your audience will have time to process and internalize them as deeply as you have.
4. Use your story.
Many speakers --particularly new speakers -- may find it safer to rely on the facts of research, examples and case studies to make their points, and shy away from focusing on their own opinions. But your opinions and experiences may provide an important
In her 2009 talk, "Your Elusive Creative Genius," Elizabeth Gilbert embraces her own story and uses it as a central narrative arc for a broader conversation about muses, inspiration and what makes our creative spark ignite.
Don't be afraid to bring your own story into your presentations, and -- further still -- don't be afraid to let your story take the lead. Your experience is what differentiates you and gives you authority, and it can also create the clearest path to making a meaningful and emotional connection with your audience.
5. Keep visuals simple.
When you're an expert in your field, it's easy to get lost in the complex details of your research or feel compelled to offer explanations of each statement you make with complex charts and graphs. But the most compelling talks rarely include elaborate visuals.
Simon Sinek's 2009 talk, "How Great Leaders Inspire Action," showcases how a compelling point can stand on its own. Sinek takes this a level further, eschewing even a simplified PowerPoint presentation in favor of a simple notepad to illustrate his key idea.
Take a cue from Sinek and let your message determine your medium, not the other way around. Slide presentations are certainly the default in many situations, but if your message can be more clearly delivered through a drawing, video, song, dance or something else, then go for that.
Put It All Together
These are not a list of options but, rather, a recipe. You'll notice that many of the talks above could easily have served as examples for a different point or for several of them. The best speeches and presentations take all of these things into consideration. And the best speakers continuously learn from the compelling storytellers who grace the stage both before and after them.