10 Rules for Better Presentations

The TED Conference is one of the most prestigious in the world. In case you haven’t heard of it, TED stands for “Technology, Entertainment, Design.” It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds.

a public speaker making a presentation

Since then its scope has become ever broader. The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged by TED to give “the talk of their lives.” Each speaker is given just 18 minutes to do so. Talk about pressure!

Fortunately, the TED conference organizers provide their speakers with ten guidelines. They refer to these as “The TED Commandments.” I had never seen these before but ran across them on Garr Reynolds’ PresentationZen blog. (And by the way, Garr’s blog is a must-read if you do any public speaking.)

These are helpful to any presenter in any situation. I commend them to thee for thine edification:

  1. Thou shalt not simply trot out thy usual shtick.
  2. Thou shalt dream a great dream, or show forth a wondrous new thing, or share something thou hast never shared before.
  3. Thou shalt reveal thy curiosity and thy passion.
  4. Thou shalt tell a story.
  5. Thou shalt freely comment on the utterances of other speakers for the sake of blessed connection and exquisite controversy.
  6. Thou shalt not flaunt thine ego. Be thou vulnerable. Speak of thy failure as well as thy success.
  7. Thou shalt not sell from the stage: neither thy company, thy goods, thy writings, nor thy desperate need for funding; lest thou be cast aside into outer darkness.
  8. Thou shalt remember all the while: laughter is good.
  9. Thou shalt not read thy speech.
  10. Thou shalt not steal the time of them that follow thee.
Question: Which of these could help you the most as a speaker? Number 4 is the one I have to keep remembering.
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  • http://www.33charts.com/ Bryan

    Nice post. I'd say that number 10 is one of the most important on the list. Disrespect for the audience and meeting planners through lengthy presentations is bad form. No on ever complained about a presentation that was too short. And I agree that #4 is key – one that I always have to remind myself.

  • http://www.33charts.com/ Bryan

    Nice post. I'd say that number 10 is one of the most important on the list. Disrespect for the audience and meeting planners through lengthy presentations is bad form. No on ever complained about a presentation that was too short. And I agree that #4 is key – one that I always have to remind myself.

  • http://fireandhammer.blogspot.com/ Dennis

    Overall I agree that #10 is the most important. Personally I need to work on #2-having the courage to dream big and to share those big dreams.

  • http://fireandhammer.blogspot.com/ Dennis

    Overall I agree that #10 is the most important. Personally I need to work on #2-having the courage to dream big and to share those big dreams.

  • http://lisanotes.blogspot.com/ Lisa notes…

    As the audience, I most value # 3 (be passionionate) and # 10 (value my time). They go hand in hand. When a speaker is overflowing with his own enthusiasm for his topic, his message is more likely to be at least entertaining, if not valuable, to me as well.

    If you don't care, sit down. We won't want to hear it either.

  • http://lisanotes.blogspot.com Lisa notes…

    As the audience, I most value # 3 (be passionionate) and # 10 (value my time). They go hand in hand. When a speaker is overflowing with his own enthusiasm for his topic, his message is more likely to be at least entertaining, if not valuable, to me as well.

    If you don't care, sit down. We won't want to hear it either.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/MonikaM MonikaM

    This is great! I am learning the art of telling vulnerable stories (#4,6). It takes wisdom as far as how much of one's inner soul-content to display, to whom and when, especially when the story involves other people. I'm also braving up to trust some others to tell my stories when they speak. I just read John Maxwell's "Put Your Dream to the Test" and that's where I first heard about you, Mike, which totally motivated me, once again, to allow access to my stories. Between John's book and your blogs/tweets my rear end is getting a serious kick right now! In a good way:)

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/MonikaM MonikaM

    This is great! I am learning the art of telling vulnerable stories (#4,6). It takes wisdom as far as how much of one's inner soul-content to display, to whom and when, especially when the story involves other people. I'm also braving up to trust some others to tell my stories when they speak. I just read John Maxwell's "Put Your Dream to the Test" and that's where I first heard about you, Mike, which totally motivated me, once again, to allow access to my stories. Between John's book and your blogs/tweets my rear end is getting a serious kick right now! In a good way:)

  • http://BuildingHisBody.com/ Anne Lang Bundy

    These are fantastic! I just subscribed to Garr's blog. Thanks for more great info, Mike.

    Numbers 2,3 & 6 come easily to me. Keeping things fresh is paramount, and keeps me dependent on prayer preparation.

    I need work on #9. I've always spoken from an outline. I'm now doing presentations which require a speech. I like having my content nailed down more securely, but I feel myself doing too much reading. I'll work harder on it—and I'll be sure to not neglect the other nine.

  • http://BuildingHisBody.com Anne Lang Bundy

    These are fantastic! I just subscribed to Garr's blog. Thanks for more great info, Mike.

    Numbers 2,3 & 6 come easily to me. Keeping things fresh is paramount, and keeps me dependent on prayer preparation.

    I need work on #9. I've always spoken from an outline. I'm now doing presentations which require a speech. I like having my content nailed down more securely, but I feel myself doing too much reading. I'll work harder on it—and I'll be sure to not neglect the other nine.

  • http://helpanentrepreneur.com/ Jared O'Toole

    Be passionate, be exciting. Dont read a speech or use powerpoint. Get up there and talk. Just like you would to a friend about your ideas. People grab what is real.

  • http://helpanentrepreneur.com/ Jared O'Toole

    Be passionate, be exciting. Dont read a speech or use powerpoint. Get up there and talk. Just like you would to a friend about your ideas. People grab what is real.

  • Baljinder

    Michael,
    Thanks for including the title of the post in subject line of the email. This makes it easier to determine if the post is relevant for me or not. The earlier subject line was pretty generic and didn't entice reader.
    Thanks!
    Balji

  • Baljinder

    Michael,
    Thanks for including the title of the post in subject line of the email. This makes it easier to determine if the post is relevant for me or not. The earlier subject line was pretty generic and didn't entice reader.
    Thanks!
    Balji

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/soulsupply soulsupply

    No 7 captures me … the polluting poison of self financial promotion is well postioned to deliver double mesages for the listeners – keep the mesage simple not mixed – K.I.S.S.

    I believe it was Hudon Taylor who championed faith missions .."it seemed to me that if there were a lack of funds to carry on the work … it could not be the work of God."

    Keep the wallet out, and keep the watchers in.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/soulsupply soulsupply

    No 7 captures me … the polluting poison of self financial promotion is well postioned to deliver double mesages for the listeners – keep the mesage simple not mixed – K.I.S.S.

    I believe it was Hudon Taylor who championed faith missions .."it seemed to me that if there were a lack of funds to carry on the work … it could not be the work of God."

    Keep the wallet out, and keep the watchers in.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/colleencoble colleencoble

    These are great, Mike! Number 6 is a great one. I love to learn from mistakes as well as successes.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/colleencoble colleencoble

    These are great, Mike! Number 6 is a great one. I love to learn from mistakes as well as successes.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Peter_P Peter_P

    #10. Every time!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Peter_P Peter_P

    #10. Every time!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/patriciazell patriciazell

    I passionately choose #2–every day brings new understandings of God's absolute love. So many times, when we see evil things happening for no apparent reasons or even for apparent reasons, we tend to look at God as the responsible party rather than as the One who has the answers we need. I believe when we begin to fully understand what Jesus Christ accomplished through his death and resurrection, we will experience a revolution of life in our world.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/patriciazell patriciazell

    I passionately choose #2–every day brings new understandings of God's absolute love. So many times, when we see evil things happening for no apparent reasons or even for apparent reasons, we tend to look at God as the responsible party rather than as the One who has the answers we need. I believe when we begin to fully understand what Jesus Christ accomplished through his death and resurrection, we will experience a revolution of life in our world.

  • http://www.godmessedmeup.blogspot.com/ pam hogeweide

    thanks for this. and i have to say i loved getting your blog update in my email box today with a TITLE in the subject line. Now I can navigate your updates much easier and decide which ones to read and which ones to let go. Thanks for improving your blog posts for your subscribers. I'm a fan!

  • http://www.godmessedmeup.blogspot.com/ pam hogeweide

    thanks for this. and i have to say i loved getting your blog update in my email box today with a TITLE in the subject line. Now I can navigate your updates much easier and decide which ones to read and which ones to let go. Thanks for improving your blog posts for your subscribers. I'm a fan!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/JimMartin JimMartin

    Number five (making connections with other speakers) and number four (the importance of story are two of these that I have to be very conscious of. Thanks for this helpful list.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/JimMartin JimMartin

    Number five (making connections with other speakers) and number four (the importance of story are two of these that I have to be very conscious of. Thanks for this helpful list.

  • http://www.leadershiptype.com/ Captain Benjamin

    I agree Michael,

    I have trouble incorporating stories into my presentations as well.

    Probably my biggest challenging is conveying my "vision" and "passion" for a particular subject I am speaking about.

    SOmetimes I am tasked with speaking about issues that I am not neccessarily "passionate" about, thus creating a conflict…

    Those are some great commandments though, I'll be waiting for my invitiation to TED next year, ha!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I'm waiting for my invitation, too!

  • http://www.leadershiptype.com Captain Benjamin

    I agree Michael,

    I have trouble incorporating stories into my presentations as well.

    Probably my biggest challenging is conveying my "vision" and "passion" for a particular subject I am speaking about.

    SOmetimes I am tasked with speaking about issues that I am not neccessarily "passionate" about, thus creating a conflict…

    Those are some great commandments though, I'll be waiting for my invitiation to TED next year, ha!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I'm waiting for my invitation, too!

  • Pingback: The Ten Commandments of Presentations | AaronKlein.com()

  • http://SydrycalWorks.com/ Sidney

    #11. Thou shalt hand out M&M's

  • http://SydrycalWorks.com/ Sidney

    #11. Thou shalt hand out M&M's

  • Joel

    Numero Tres – Its so important to not only be relevant but relatable…

  • Joel

    Numero Tres – Its so important to not only be relevant but relatable…

  • http://www.marlataviano.com/ Marla Taviano

    Whoa, those are great. I spoke at three Mother/Daughter banquets in 10 days this month. For the first two, I pulled out old stuff, and the response was good, but I wasn't feeling it. The third one–no usual shtick, followed a lot of those commandments–MUCH better.

  • http://www.marlataviano.com/ Marla Taviano

    Whoa, those are great. I spoke at three Mother/Daughter banquets in 10 days this month. For the first two, I pulled out old stuff, and the response was good, but I wasn't feeling it. The third one–no usual shtick, followed a lot of those commandments–MUCH better.

  • http://www.queenofthecastlerecipes.com/ lynn

    Great post, Mike. I would argue that all but maybe the last two apply to a good blog, too.

  • http://www.queenofthecastlerecipes.com/ lynn

    Great post, Mike. I would argue that all but maybe the last two apply to a good blog, too.

  • http://www.speaker.judithrobl.com/ Judith

    Great Post! — So how does one wangle an invitation to TED? Sounds like a place I'd like to go.

    Speaking is hard work – and it's so easy to rely on a shtick. I'll work on that one more. And the reading is hard not to do when you've made and outline and are so easily sidetracked as I am.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      If you figure out how to wrangle an invitation, let me know.

  • http://www.speaker.judithrobl.com Judith

    Great Post! — So how does one wangle an invitation to TED? Sounds like a place I'd like to go.

    Speaking is hard work – and it's so easy to rely on a shtick. I'll work on that one more. And the reading is hard not to do when you've made and outline and are so easily sidetracked as I am.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      If you figure out how to wrangle an invitation, let me know.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/johnmason johnmason

    Love nine of them. Not sure about number seven. It's hard on us author-types.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/johnmason johnmason

    Love nine of them. Not sure about number seven. It's hard on us author-types.

  • http://www.peachpit.com/ Kara

    Hi Michael,

    Thank you for mentioning Garr in your post. I work for Peachpit Press and thought you and your readers might be interested in knowing that he just released his first online streaming video, Presentation Zen: The Video, where he expands on the ideas presented in his book and blog. More info can be found here:

    http://tr.im/lFvO

  • http://www.peachpit.com Kara

    Hi Michael,

    Thank you for mentioning Garr in your post. I work for Peachpit Press and thought you and your readers might be interested in knowing that he just released his first online streaming video, Presentation Zen: The Video, where he expands on the ideas presented in his book and blog. More info can be found here:

    http://tr.im/lFvO

  • Mark W Gaither

    These are excellent. I will print these out and keep a copy tucked in the little pouch I use to store my clicker and dry-erase pens.

    #1 tweaked my nose. It's so easy to play the if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it game.

  • Mark W Gaither

    These are excellent. I will print these out and keep a copy tucked in the little pouch I use to store my clicker and dry-erase pens.

    #1 tweaked my nose. It's so easy to play the if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it game.

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  • http://bentheredothat.com Ben Patterson

    Thou shalt know the audience and speak accordingly.