Recently I was lucky enough to attend TedxBristol at Colston Hall. The speakers were generally brilliant, but a handful were extra special. It made me wonder – what made these five speakers stand out? And what can we learn from them about 'wowing' a crowd?
The talks were incredibly varied, everything from robotics to prison dinners. But presentation skills transcend topic – it's easy to recognise a powerful speaker when you see one.
Here are my five favourite talks from TedxBristol 2015 – and the presentation pointers I learned from them.
Lynne Elvins – 'My Two Mums'
Lynne Elvins tells us her story, eloquently expressing her frustration at the adoption system, and interjecting with flashes of dark humour. By tying her own experiences to the wider issues of gay adoption, she manages to be both informative and moving – a rare feat.
Wow moment – When Elvins lays down the ground rules for interpreting her talk – 'Just for the record, [...] I am not on some sort of mission to undermine family values. Stephen is my son, he is not some kind of lifestyle accessory'. Powerful stuff.
Patrick Aryee – 'How the Chicken Cured Cancer'
Patrick Aryee's confidence and infectious enthusiasm for nature made him an audience favourite. He weaves the story and factual elements of his presentation well, and the clip of him getting sprayed in the face by a skunk certainly helps break the ice.
Wow moment(s) – Aryee wakes us up and piques our interest from time to time with questions like 'Perhaps the key lies in not killing the bacteria at all?' or 'What if I told you we could conjure up water from thin air?' – before explaining how to do the seemingly impossible.
Al Crisci – 'Dinner in the Clink'
Watching Al Crisci talk is like having a chat with a mate down the pub. He's a natural orator, makes good eye contact and speaks openly – even his backtracking is endearing. His personal recollections make his motivations for doing the work he does clear but without hammering the point.
Wow moment – In a talk that's mostly anecdotal, Crisci's 12% reoffending rate (compared to a national average of 50%) packs a punch. Combine that with the prisoner stories the talk closes on and the audience is left moved and impressed.
Meabh Quoirin – 'Feeling Emojinal?'
Meabh Quoirin talks starts out quite formal – dry even. Her talk builds in emotional intensity, right up until the point where she shares her most embarrassing story. Quoirin manages to make a more open, honest internet seem not just achievable but desirable.
Wow moment(s) – Her dark sense of humour, highlights including 'I'm Irish [...] I'm genetically programmed to talk to strangers' and 'I really really didn't like this student – I can still see her sassy face today'. These insights into her life and sense of humour are disarming and endearing.
Tom Savage – 'Is Ambition Killing Us?'
A self-professed 'privileged guy having an existential crisis' might not be the most obvious choice for an inspirational talk, but Tom Savage pulls it off with plenty of charm. It's precisely this self-awareness and self-deprecating humour that opens the audience up to Savage's message.
Wow moment – The bucket is the perfect prop in this instance, eliciting both the 'eurgh!' factor which catches our attention and helping to tie the whole talk together at the end. Savage demonstrates that symbolism can be expressed through physical objects and not just analogies.
I found these talks really thought-provoking and I hope you do too. Have you been inspired by a speaker recently? Think I picked the wrong highlights from TedxBristol?
Let me know in the comments below.