Richard Turere, the young inventor from Kenya, schools us on some presentation skills training through his TED talk.
Ah, 13. An age that, for lots of people, they would sooner forget. 13 is filled with social anxiety, school pressures, and self doubt as you attempt to navigate the murky waterways that will somehow, eventually, dump you into the sea of adulthood.
Unless you're Richard Turere.
Hailing from Kenya, Richard developed a solar powered system of lights that keeps lions away from livestock by flashing during the night. Around the age of 9 or 10, when most kids are worrying about video games or clothes or TV, Richard was taking apart electronics (like his Mom's radio) to see how they worked. He was learning, and he devised a system to save not only his family's herds, but the lion population, as well.
That would be more than enough to be worthy of our praise and admiration. But what struck me as I watched his TED talk was what a great presentation he gave for a person of any age. Beyond all of his amazing accomplishments, and strictly from a presentation standpoint, here are some more reasons we love Richard Turere:
1. His brilliant use of an attention grabber: When we talk about crafting an introduction for a presentation, we encourage people to start by connecting with your audience through an attention grabber- something that immediately tells the audience "Here we go! It's time to start." Sometimes we're met with hesitation- isn't that too theatrical? Too showy? Too "out there"? Even when reminded that there is no need to try and make an attention grabber loud, or funny, or "out there", there is sometimes an innate reluctance to break away from the "Hello my name is_________, and I'm here to talk to you today about_________" format. If there ever was a perfect example of a well crafted attention grabber, it's Richard's (you can find it in the first 30 seconds of the video). It consists of two simple, descriptive sentences. The first one is incredibly brief, but it pulls us immediately into Richard's world:
"This is where I live."
Bam. No hemming and hawing about he he is, or that he is there to give a presentation- in 5 words, we are completely sucked in. The second sentence fleshes that statement out and paints a bit of a picture:
"I live in Kenya, at the south parts of the Nairobi National Park."
Paired with his lovely slides (which we'll talk about in a bit), it's like the opening of a really wonderful movie. And we're hooked.
2. He takes his time: And, as a result, there is nary an "umm" or "uhh" to be found. Richard is not a native English speaker, which makes his vocal presentation even more impressive. He speaks slowly,taking time with words, pausing at the ends of sentences or when he needs to find the word he is looking for. He also understands the impact that a pause can have on his delivery- check out the way he sets up a very gruesome slide showing some of the devastation the lions caused. He sets up the slide with the phrase "this is what they do". The slide changes, HE TAKES A NICE PAUSE, and then hits the message home with the simple sentence "They kill our livestock." Powerful. Find it around 0:38 in the video. Outstanding use of pace and pause to ensure that his message is received in the most impactful way.
3. Smile and humor: Nothing puts your audience more at ease, and can connect us in an instant, like a smile and a laugh. Even in his slides, Richard uses that nice, bright smile. He cracks the audience up twice- again without trying to be showy or funny- with his stories and his phrasing. Starting around 2:14, listen to him tell the stories about using a scarecrow and "working with" his Mother's radio- and try not to smile.
4. Standing Strong: Many seasoned speakers have talked about the anxiety they feel leading up to giving a TED talk- it's a huge deal! Yet, physically, Richard shows very little nervous energy. At 4:39, he's giving a fantastic example of what we call the Neutral Position- legs shoulder width apart, head level, arms relaxed and free to gesture. When we decrease the extra "physical messages" our body sends through anxious (or subconscious!) movement, we ensure that our body is supporting, not detracting from, our message. He uses his strong physicality to support his story.
5. Visual support, not visual crutches: Richard's slides (with not a word of text on them) beautifully illustrate his experience- yet, because Richard does such a great job presenting and connecting with the audience, they don't overwhelm his presentation. They support the story, but don't come close to being the main event. Also, it's worth noting that Richard references them, but never gets lost in them- he doesn't need to be buoyed by them in any way.
6. Personal Story: The entire talk is infused with passion and purpose because Richard feels that way himself in regards to his invention and his future. He shares very personal stories, not just about the lion lights, but about his culture, his time in school, his dreams for the rest of his life. He's not trying to sell us on a product, and as a result he succeeds in exciting and inspiring us by connecting on the human level of story.
Many times, people are afraid to use stories- they're fear that, somehow, a story will undermine their credibility, or cause their audience to disregard them as not being serious. At the end of this talk, the very personal story of a 13 year old young man in Kenya who's determination and intelligence is changing the face of his country, infused with humor and smiles, with simple pictures for slides, and an attention grabber consisting of five impactful words, the audience not only took him seriously and found him credible, they leapt to their feet. They enjoined and were inspired.
Richard talks about his dream of working as an aircraft engineer and pilot as an adult. I don't doubt that he'll do that and more. And I hope he continues to tell us about it in such an impactful, enjoyable, and impressive way. Go, Richard, go!