Honor the TED Commandments

by Shelley Ryan on May 17, 2011 · 3 comments

I love that I can watch amazing presentations on TED.com.   The speakers always inspire me… and spark a bit of consternation, too.  Could someone deliver a webinar as compellingly as a TED talk?

Take a look at the “stone tablet” that you will receive if you’re ever invited to step onto a TED stage.  I’ll bet you can apply these commandments to an online presentation as well.

The TED Commandments

These work for webinars, too! But they would be easier to read on a Kindle.

Just in case you’ve misplaced your stone-tablet-non-glare reading glasses, here are those commandments again:

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.

Anyone got a chisel?

Hang on a minute. I believe you CAN break the ninth commandment in a webinar,
if  — and ONLY if — you do two things:

  • Write your script exactly the way you talk so that you sound natural.
  • Don’t dump the text of your script into slide bullets. Capiche?

I’d love to know if you’d change anything etched on this list!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom Mahoney June 2, 2011 at 7:53 am

I would submit that #7, Thou Shalt Not Sell from the Stage, is not only permitted but should be an integral part of most webinars, free or fee. HOWEVER – it should be done carefully, at the end of the presentation, and as resources to augment the topic. Sales in a webinar should be similar to back-of-the-room sales in a live presentation.


Shelley Ryan June 2, 2011 at 2:12 pm

You might be right, Tom, but even a “careful” sales pitch in a webinar can backfire. Here’s what I’ve seen happen over and over.

A speaker spends 59 minutes delivering solid gold procedures, ideas, secrets, tips, discoveries, algorithms… then in the final 60 seconds mentions his __________. (Fill in the blank with whatever you like: book, agency, website, shoeshine stand, law firm, studio.) In that moment, the perception of the audience shifts from “Wow, this is THE __________ I can trust when I need real gold,” to “Damn, this guy didn’t say ANYTHING useful ‘cuz the real gold is only available in his __________.”

Because of that crazy shift in perception, I always tell speakers to omit the pitch. And you know what? They win customers anyway. Probably more!


GiGi Lewis November 8, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Very interesting and provocative thoughts.


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