How to Pitch Your Idea: Secrets from TED

 By Shlomo Maital


     My Entrepreneurship courses, taught in Israel and in China, always end with each student team giving a ‘pitch’ – presenting their ideas to potential investors.   Even seasoned educators are often poor communicators, let alone very young students. What advice can I give, to help make ‘pitches’ highly interesting and effective – especially when you are pitching to a jaded audience, one that has heard it all before?   I’ve been reading a book by Carmine Gallo, Talk Like TED, about the most popular TED talks and what makes them so popular. The book is very useful, because it is based on a democratic ‘election’ – number of views. Here are the top TED talks of all time: (See List below).

   What makes for a TED talk that millions watch? I can boil down Gallo’s fine book into one recommendation, in two words: Tell stories!   Tell your own personal story. Get your message across with N=1, not boring N=5,000.   People relate to stories, learn from stories, their own and others.   Take for instance the TED talk by Jill Taylor. She is a neuroscientist, who had a serious stroke. She welcomed the stroke, because, as she explains, she could analyze the post-stroke brain “from the inside”, inside her own brain. And in 18 minutes, she tells the story. Watch it – it’s gripping.

   So – you have an idea for a product or service? Tell it as a story.   Who uses it? Name a real person. Why do they love it? How does it change their lives? Be authentic. Be real. Skip the Power Point. Slip in 2-3 key facts, but only as part of the story.   Try to add some ‘surprises’ – those who have heard it all need something to jolt them… wow, that’s interesting, haven’t heard that before.   Start with a punchy short key sentence… like Sergio Brin’s and Larry Page’s pitch to Sequoia, that got them a big check…and the rest is Google history. [“our search engine brings you all the world’s information in one click”].  


                                                            Top TED talks of all time


Ken Robinson. Do schools kill creativity?   Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.

Amy Cuddy. Your body language shapes who you are. Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.

Simon Sinek. How great leaders inspire action   Simon Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership — starting with a golden circle and the question “Why?” His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright brothers …

Brené Brown. The power of vulnerability. Brené Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. A talk to share.

Jill Bolte Taylor. My stroke of insight   Jill Bolte Taylor got a research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: She had a massive stroke, and watched as her brain functions — motion, speech, self-awareness — shut down one by one. An astonishing story.