Book Summary – TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking

Great talks can spread powerful ideas, allowing you to inspire people, share knowledge/insights and spread your vision. When you combine public speaking skills with the power of the internet, you can multiply your reach and impact large numbers of people. In TED Talks, the head of TED presents various insights and tips that anyone can use to improve your public speaking skills. In this TED Talks summary, we’ll outline some of the key ideas in 4 parts: building the right foundations, developing your ideas, preparation and delivery.

For the full details, examples and tips, do get a copy of the book, or get a detailed overview with our complete book summary bundle.

TED Talks summary_book summary bundle

Public speaking makes everyone nervous to some extent. The good news is, presentation literacy can be learned. Many famous personalities like Eleanor Roosevelt, Warren Buffett and Princess Diana all started out being terrified of public speaking, but managed to overcome their fears or even harness it to improve themselves.

Anderson recommends that you treat the tips in this book as tools (not rules) to develop your own unique style of public speaking.

Part 1: Start with the Right Foundations

The most crucial thing in a great talk is to have an idea you care about that’s worth sharing. It can be anything that changes how someone sees the world, from a how-to tip to a reminder of what truly matters. When you share an idea that changes others’ mental models, you’re giving them a lasting gift. And the truth is, every one of us has worthy insights based on our unique experiences. Anderson urges each of us to take the time to reflect on our personal journey, our unique insights and what we truly care about.

Build your Throughline

A key idea is to build a throughline, i.e. a core theme that connects all the components of your talk into a coherent overall picture. All great movies, plays or novels have a throughline. It’s like having a rope where you can hang each new element that you present, or having a path upon which the audience can follow you to a specific destination. It gives people something to think about and should be captured in no more than 15 words, e.g. “More choice actually makes us less happy”. Find your throughline, then build your talk around it

At the end, a great talk is about sharing with authenticity. Don’t try to be someone you’re not or to impress the audience with a fake show. In the TED Talks book and our full 16-page summary , we go into more details on (a) how to build a throughline, (b) adopt the right approach and (c) 4 common mistakes to avoid at all cost.


Part 2: Build your Idea

Once you have a throughline, you can start to build the elements to hang on it. Here’s an overview of the 5 core tools you can use to develop your idea.

TED Talks Summary_develop idea 5 tools


Before you can build an idea in someone’s mind, you need their trust and permission. Seek to build a bond asap with the audience so they’d be open to what you have to say.  In the book / full summary we zoom in on how exactly to do that (including tips on how to make eye contact, show vulnerability, inject laughter etc.)


Since the days of our cavemen ancestors, stories have been used to bring people together, help people to dream, imagine, connect and understand one another. In the book / complete summary we touch on the 4 components to build into your story to make it compelling.


If you need to explain something complex or technical, always start with what people already know and build from there. In the book / full summary we elaborate on what it means to build understanding like a hierarchy, with each layer constructed on a previous one.


Sometimes, before you can explain a new idea, you need to first demolish existing concepts that are wrong. Persuasion is about getting the audience to realize that their current view of the world isn’t quite right, so they’re open to an alternative viewpoint. In the book / full summary we look at some tools (e.g. priming and reasoning) that you can use.


The most direct way to convey an idea is to simply show it. In the book / complete summary we explain 3 approaches (a wonder walk, demo or dreamscape) that you can mix and match to lead up to a sensational revelation.

Part 3: Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

Great talks don’t just happen. They come with loads of prior preparation. We’ll take a detailed look at one of these areas (how to use visuals effectively).  Do check out the book / complete 16-page summary for the other tips.

TED Talks Summary_prepare for talk


• Visuals (photos, illustrations, graphs etc.) are not always essential. In fact, bad slides can actually hurt your talk. Use visuals only if they’re truly necessary and will make your talk more effective.
• Generally, there are 3 ways to add value with visuals: (a) Reveal something that’s hard to describe in words, (b) explain or enhance your show-and-tell (limit each slide to 1 core idea with only a short phrase, question or an image + switch to a blank screen when you’re not referring to your slides) and (c) delight your audience by adding aesthetic appeal.
• The book includes many presentation tips on software, fonts, legibility, to-dos and not-to-dos, such as:
(i) Be original. Avoid standard presentation templates.
(ii) Use high-res images on black background for the best effect.
(iii) Use 1 simple, easy-to-read typeface per presentation, with ≤3 font sizes and at least 24pt-size for all fonts. Avoid using italics or underline as they’re hard to read (bold fonts are ok).
(iv) Build up the content on each slide by adding words and images progressively.
(v) Use videos only if essential and keep them to <30s each.
(vi) Don’t use flashy transitions or animations that draw attention away from the talk/content.
(vii) Send your presentation in advance and save a backup copy of the presentation, fonts, videos etc. in a zipped folder in a USB drive.


In the book / full summary we also elaborate on other important areas of preparation including:

Scripting. One of the key decisions you must make is whether to use a script (here, we’ll look at the pros and cons of scripted vs unscripted talks and tips/strategies on how to make the most of either approach).

Rehearsing. Regardless of whether you choose a scripted or unscripted approach, you must rehearse repeatedly. Your goal is to know your talk so well that you can focus fully on the meaning you wish to convey.

Opening and Closing.Even if you’re not using a script, it’s a good practice to memorize the opening and closing lines for your talk to create the most impact. [Here, we’ll look at 4 ways to start strong and 7 ways to end powerfully]

Part 4: Delivering your  Talk

Now that you have a great idea (with a concise throughline and coherent parts) which you have prepared in detail, you’re now ready to deliver an amazing talk. The book / full summary includes numerous tips on what to wear, how to prepare your setup and your physical/mental space, how to use your voice/presence to deliver your message most effectively and creative formats you can consider to make your talk stand out even more.TED Talks Summary_deliver talk

Other Details in “TED Talks

Anderson believes that public-speaking skills will become even more important in the future as people and knowledge become increasingly interconnected. And, as you pursue greater purpose and meaning in your life, you’ll inevitably discover something worth saying. When you share such ideas with passion, conviction and authenticity in a connected world, there’s no limit to the amount of impact you can make.

Anderson also shares how TED is nurturing the talk renaissance, and urges every one of us to find and share our unique ideas to positively shape our world.

Besides the key ideas and tips outlined in our TED Talks summary, the book also includes other tips and details, such as:
• Quotes, examples and snippets from various talks and speakers; and
• Anderson’s personal observations, beliefs and hopes for the future.

Do get a copy of the book for the full details, get our TED Talks Summary Bundle for an overview of the various ideas and tips, or check out more details at

Banner_Free readingraphics

Master Presentation Literacy and Create an Impact through Great Talks!

Click here to download the “TED Talks” book summary and infographic.

Click here to order the book online.

Click here for more resources and free tips!

Leave a Reply