Do Schools Kill Creativity ?

August 7, 2015.  Improve Your Presentations. Study the Best TED Speakers.

Ken Robinson:  Do Schools Kill Creativity?
Most Viewed TED Talk of All Time.

Sir Ken Robinson—Creativity Expert, Author and Educator.

We continue our series of featuring selected TED speakers—who you may want to study for tips on improving your own speaking and presentation skills.

This time we feature Ken Robinson’s famous TED talk on how he believes our school systems kill creativity—the most viewed TED talk of all time with more than 34 million views on alone.

TED@Monterey, California, 2006. 34 million views on

As with other great speakers, it is easy to be taken in by the talk itself—not paying attention to how he delivers his talk. If you take note of his delivery, however, you will see that he uses a number of highly effective techniques to engage his audience and get his message across.

As you will see when you watch his talk above, using humour and telling stories are key elements of his speaking style—making what could be a dry topic (education) anything but dry!

And note how a number of his stories are not directly related to the topic as such, but used very effectively and naturally to tie different parts of his talk together—partly for comic relief in between his serious points.

The speaking delivery techniques he is using are too numerous for all of them to be commented on, but here are some worthy of special note:

Opening.  A rather surprising, and funny, opening—using a question and unexpected statement to catch attention and laughter.  “In fact, I am leaving”, he suddenly says—just 35 seconds into the talk.

Voice. To me, one of his greatest speaking skills is how he varies his voice and pitch throughout the talk—speaking in a very natural, conversational style—making you feel he is talking directly talking to you, as if in a one-to-one conversation.

Pause. Excellent and effective use of pauses—before and after important statements—for emphasis, to get attention, and to avoid interrupting people’s thoughts and laughter.

Posture.  Very centered and solid. His position remains unchanged for most of his talk—instead he uses voice, hand gestures and continuous ‘scan and stop’ eye contact; creating a very dynamic delivery and close engagement with the audience.

A true presentation classic.

Trond Varlid

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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

Body Language Shapes Who You Are

July 31, 2015.  Improve Your Presentations. Study the Best TED Speakers.

Amy Cuddy: Body Language Shapes Who You Are.
Harvard Business School Professor & Social Psychologist.

Would you agree that your body language affects how others perceive you?

Research by Harvard Business School Professor and social psychologist Amy Cuddy, and colleagues at Harvard and Columbia University—showed that this is indeed the case. Which in turn emphasizes the importance of body language when you speak and present.

TED 2012.  27 million views on

Open, expansive postures are used by people and animals alike to show power and confidence—referred to as ‘power posing’—and closed postures the opposite. However, could using such body language in and of itself make you feel more confident—and give you more psychological power?

Perhaps surprisingly—the mentioned research also showed that your body language can change who you are. The research results demonstrated that ‘power poses’—practiced and sustained for even quite short periods of time, cause physiological, psychological and behavioral changes—making you feel more confident and powerful.

The research partly originated from Amy Cuddy’s own personal experience, having suffered significant brain damage in a serious accident as a teenager—which among other effects—made her lose her confidence almost entirely. She did not even think she would be able to go to university, let alone one day become a professor.

Watch her captivating talk—and find out how she regained not only her confidence, but became one of the pioneers and leaders in her field.

A wonderful story, and a great speaker.

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Trond Varlid

This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

Want to Innovate ?

July 24, 2015.  Improve Your Presentations. Study the Best TED Speakers.

Joi Ito, Head of MIT Media Lab: Want to innovate? Become a “now-ist”.

Joi Ito is one of Japan’s early and leading Internet entrepreneurs, having founded several companies—including PSINet, Digital Garage and Infoseek Japan.  He was also an early investor in companies such as Twitter, Flickr,, Wikia, and Kickstarter.

He is currently Head of the legendary MIT Media Lab and serves on the board of Sony Corporation, as well as many other companies and advisory committees.

TED March 21, 2014.  1.7 million views on

In this highly engaging talk he presents the latest trends and thinking on innovation. A central theme is how the amount of money and permission that you need to create and realize an idea has decreased dramatically.  “Aim for resilience, not strength—seek risk, not safety”, he says.

His talk is also an exemplary presentation where he uses many effective presentation concepts and techniques, including storytelling—to captivate his audience and put his core message across.

For example, note his powerful opening, using a personal story which immediately grabs the attention of his audience—and which also provides an excellent lead-in to his main topic.

It is well worth investing some time in studying his presentation to understand what Ito actually does as a presenter—and make sure to take notes while you watch!

Trond Varlid

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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

The Best Stats You Have Ever Seen

July 17, 2015.  Improve Your Presentations. Study the Best TED Speakers.

Hans Rosling: The best stats you’ve ever seen. Professor, Global Health Expert & Data Visionary.

If you ever had to give a presentation containing large amounts of data, were you able to do so in a way that your audience found enjoyable and easy to understand?

Maybe you are an exception.  More likely, though, you struggled to present all your data in a clear and understandable way—never mind entertaining your audience!

In this featured TED talk, Hans Rosling—Swedish professor, statistics guru and data visionary extraordinaire—shows complex and extensive health and economics data in a way that you may never have seen such data presented.

TED2006 – 8.3 million views on

Not only is he a fascinating speaker to watch—he also brings out the big picture of his data in a way unsurpassed by speakers before him.

Rosling’s TED talk took place at the TED conference in Monterey, California, in 2006—and was one of the first 6 TED talks ever posted online on Within a year these had attracted more than a million views—and as such, became a key part of TED history.

Since then Rosling has become one of the most popular TED speakers—and his presentations legendary.

Enjoy and learn!

Trond Varlid
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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

The Happy Secret to Better Work

July 10, 2015.  Improve Your Presentations. Study the Best TED Speakers.

Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work. CEO of Good Think Inc.
Harvard University Award Winning Lecturer.

Shawn Achor is the winner of multiple distinguished teaching awards at Harvard University where he delivered lectures on positive psychology, in the most popular class at Harvard.

In this thought-provoking and entertaining TED talk he argues that happiness inspires productivity.

TEDxBloomington 2012
7.8 million views on

Trond Varlid

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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.


How to Speak so People Want to Listen

July 3, 2015.  Improve Your Presentations. Study the Best TED Speakers. Ever experienced that you’re talking—but nobody seems to be listening?
Julian Treasure: How to speak so people want to listen.
Sound & Communication Expert, Business Entrepreneur & Author

Julian Treasure is a frequent TED speaker—and one of the most popular.  His 5 recorded TED talks on sound and communication have attracted millions of views on

A sound and communication expert, he is also a successful entrepreneur—having founded and developed one of the UK’s leading magazine publishers, TPD Group, sold in 2003. In addition, he is a life-long musician, author—and Founder and Chairman of The Sound Agency, advising businesses on how to use sound.

TED Global Conference 2013. 7.9 million views on

His book Sound Business is now in its second edition and also translated to Japanese (2011). He has been widely featured in world media on topics about sound and communication, including TIME Magazine, The Economist, The Times, among others—and appeared on radio and TV in the U.S., UK, Australia and elsewhere.

Subjects he feels particularly passionate about include How to master powerful speaking, How to improve your conscious listening, and How to design environments for health, productivity and better relationships—topics also covered in his TED talks.

As you would expect, his talks often feature innovative uses of sound—and in this talk you get useful advice on techniques for powerful speaking, including specific vocal exercises and how to speak with empathy.

To access more TED videos:

Trond Varlid

This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

When Emotions Make Better Decisions

June 26, 2015.  New York Times interview: Antonio Damasio,  Professor of Neuroscience,   University of Southern California.

In our coaching and training seminars we stress the importance of making an emotional connection with your audience and appeal to all their senses—not only provide hard facts and logic in your presentation.

Why? The reason is that even when logic and facts are important—emotions are often essential to a person’s decision making.  For example, when you try to sell your product or your idea—or want to persuade your audience to take certain actions. You therefore need to build one or more emotional connections into your presentation content and delivery in order to have the most impact.

Antonio Damasio, award-winning Professor of Neuroscience at University of Southern California—has conducted extensive research demonstrating the role and importance of emotions in decision making.

Prof. Antonio Damasio

Prof. Antonio Damasio. Click on image to view video.

Here is a YouTube video with a short excerpt on the above topic—from an interview with New York Times  columnist David Brooks at a 2009 conference by The Aspen Institute. Click on the image on the right to view.

Antonio Damasio is the author of several books, including Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain.

For the full interview, click here.

Trond Varlid

This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

What Princeton Researchers Discovered About Successful Communication

June 19, 2015. Have you ever experienced the frustration of trying to connect with your audience when giving a presentation or speaking to a group of people—but somehow failed to engage them?

If you have, you may find that discoveries by Princeton researchers about how we communicate and connect with our listeners will provide some useful hints.

Prof. Uri Hasson, Princeton Research Leader

Verbal communication is a joint activity between speakers and listeners—but despite much research over the years, studies of human communication were primarily done by analyzing individual brains.

However, in a pioneering study at Princeton University, researchers for the first time used MRI brain scans to analyze communication between a speaker telling a story and a group of listeners.

They found that not only were parts of the listeners’ brains activated by listening to the story— the same parts of the brain of  listeners and storyteller lit up! In other words: stories literally synchronize our brains.

Another interesting finding was that with a high level of understanding and engagement, some regions of listeners’ brains lit up before the corresponding activity in the speaker’s brain—as if they were anticipating the next part of the story.

With a low level of understanding and little active engagement, there was no such brain activity.

Mark Lanier, U.S. Trial Lawyer – Won $253 million Merck Vioxx Judgement

A powerful example of the potential impact of stories in business is Mark Lanier—a leading U.S. trial lawyer known for using stories when presenting his cases.  Helped by his highly effective storytelling approach, he won a landmark $253 million judgement against one of the top firms in the pharmaceutical industry.

So in order to truly connect with your audience, tell a story that will present your message in a compelling way—and which your audience will not forget.

The conclusion and practical take-away of the Princeton research:  without actively engaging your listeners, you have no successful communication.

The Princeton research results were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S. (2010):

Trond Varlid

This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

TED Talks: Information is Beautiful

June 12, 2015.  Great TED Talks: David McCandless, Award-winning Data Journalist.

Would you like your audience to better understand and remember your presentations?—Then use more visuals to display your data and other information.

If you struggle, however, to create good visuals—this TED talk by David McCandless will give you more than a few innovative ideas. One of his creations is the Billion Dollar-O’Gram—an information map to help your audience make better sense of big numbers.

In his TED talk he showcases a number of creative and eye-catching graphs, charts and illustrations—revealing surprising and compelling patterns and connections between data.

McCandless is an award-winning writer and journalist whose work has been published in over 30 publications in the UK and the US. He is currently a creative consultant for the BBC, among other organisations—and has written several books.

His most recent book is Knowledge is Beautiful (2014).

To access more TED videos:

Trond Varlid

This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.