TEDx Huntsville: Presentation Critique

TEDx Huntsville‘s 2011 November 6th event inspired and challenged attendees to take action (with purpose)! Don’t know Huntsville? Have you heard of Space Camp? That’s Huntsville – also known affectionately as Rocket City USA!

TEDx is a TED inspired event organized, and executed by individuals in the local community who are driven to share ideas that inspire and shape our future. People who attend a TED or TEDx event are usually interested in all types of ideas and would rather sit in an auditorium on a sunny fall Sunday afternoon than watch football or other TV. They are looking for intellectual stimulation.

Ruthless Presentation Critique?

As a presentation coach, I attend events such as these with a certain expectation and critical eye. I was especially interested to see how these thought leaders (note: TEDx 2011 page no longer available) would present their ideas. For each segment I was looking to see if I would be engaged, inspired, challenged, entertained, and if at the end there was one clear message.

What I learned was that even rocket scientists can use the help of a presentation coach. Out of all the presentations, only 2 met my expectations of a TEDx level of presentation. Others were good talks, but needed to practice. Finally, some just should not have presented at a TEDx event.

What Made The Good Ones Great?

The main focus of the great presentations was on the presenter and their message. The message was presented clearly, briefly, and simply. The presentation itself was only used to support the speaker.

The top presenters also allowed themselves to connect with the audience on a personal level by using both humility and humor – they were real and made themselves vulnerable to the audience so that we could connect to them like no other presenter.

These two presenters that I would rank as great were Dr. Neil Lamb and Dr. Daniel Crosby. Bravo to the two of you for putting yourself into the presentation! Keep an eye on them – they are destined for even greater things!

What Can Make the Good Ones Great?

Each individual brought a strength to their presentation. To take it to the next level – from good to great – there are a number of things to consider strengthening:

  • Do not look at your slides, read your slides, stand with your back to the audience;
  • Do not show a slide with lots of text that your audience has to read – or will read – and stop listening to you;
  • Do review your slides before the presentation enough to know what’s next;
  • Do practice your timing so that your talk fits the time allotted;
  • Do have one clear message for your presentation;
  • Do not share your life story – we’re just not that into you;
  • Do select a topic that fits the event – inspiring, thought provoking, relevant!

We all can improve our presentation skills. Even those who are great have off days. What is the one thing YOU want to improve in your skills so that you can get your message across clearly, briefly, simply?

Special Thanks

The producers of the TEDx Huntsville event did a good job at bringing together a community with ideas to share. Each year gets bigger and better. Thanks to you all for your hard work!