Monday, July 18, 2016

Review of "TED Talks" by Chris Anderson - Discussing Presentation Literacy

Author Chris Anderson is head of TED.  He serves as curator of the TED conferences and TED talks.  In this vitally important book, "TED Talks - The Official Guide To Public Speaking," he covers the broad topic of what he calls "presentation literacy." The book is organized to offer a series of tools that allow a presenter to draw from the best practices of TED speakers whose talks have been viewed millions of times on YouTube.

In each chapter, Anderson gives several examples of speakers who struggled to overcome obstacles of preparation and presentation, as well as examples of speakers who hit it out of the ballpark and really connected with their audiences.

One overarching principle that is frequently reinforced throughout the book is the importance of having a single important idea that runs as a consistent thread throughout the presentation.  Another important point is that the length of TED Talks has evolved over the years to the present standard of 18 minutes.  It is clear that a good communicator can say a lot in those 18 minutes.

In the final Reflection section of the book, Mr. Anderson reflects on his decision to purchase the TED enterprise.  He credits author David Deutsch and his book "The Fabric of Reality" with helping him to make the final decision to acquire TED:

"Deutsch argued convincingly that we must distinguish knowledge from understanding.  Yes, knowledge of specific facts inevitably became specialized. But understanding? No. Not at all.

To understand something, he said, we had to move in the opposite direction.  We had to pursue the unification of knowledge." (pp. 231-232)

As a Renaissance Man, I agree wholeheartedly with Anderson and Deutsch.  And the TED talks represent an excellent way of helping sentient individuals move toward a unification of knowledge.
With the tools offered in this book, each one of us can become a contributor to this ongoing process of turning specific knowledge into broader understanding.



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