Professional Presentation: Jeff Speck at TED

Posted by Bridget Beirne
October 23, 2013

 A look at Jeff Speck's professional presentation skills at TED!


Right on, Jeff Speck! In his recent TED Talk, Jeff discussed how we could improve our health, finances, and the environment at large by fighting city sprawl. Not only is the topic really interesting, Jeff did a great job making this an incredibly persuasive speech through his presentation skills. What was it about his presentation that helped him convey his content so effectively that we were lacing up our gym shoes and swearing off our car keys? Watch the video, and join us for some analysis afterward:



1. Points for his Introduction: Jeff takes the time to tell us who he is and what he's done, building credibility in the process. He outlines what he is going to tell us, and what his main message is overall- that suburban sprawl is the root of many problems in the US. And interestingly enough, he uses his bio as a bit of an attention grabber- he's having a laugh listing all of the varied things he has done. Speaking of having a laugh-


2. He has a secret!: Having a secret on stage is an incredibly difficult, yet awesomely powerful, thing to do. It draws your audience in because they can tell, thanks to your physicality or vocal choices, that you know something they don't- and they want to know, as well! Jeff takes the tack of releasing a bit of the joy and passion he has for his topic at the top with a large smile (that appears to be close to breaking into a laugh) while he's laying the foundation for his content. It is intriguingly to us because we can tell he knows something we don't, and he can't WAIT to share it with us.


3. Strong Neutral Position in the feet: Jeff does a nice job maintaining his strong neutralprofessional presentation throughout, for the most part. He stays in one place, but keeps command of the stage with those firmly planted feet. Now, we love movement, and we'll talk about that in a bit. However, Jeff's stance in his feet is a great example of standing strong.


4. Extraordinarily few Verbal Viruses: Those sneaky credibility killers are not a huge issue for Jeff. In fact, his steady pace, ability to pause, and ease with the content are a clear sign that he has practiced them away- well done.


5. Expansive gestures! Part 1: Check out the strong man arms when he says "healthy", the ticking off of items on a list with his fingers, the way he illustrates how the housing bubble burst and gas prices went up. Awesome! His gestures not only create interest but support his message.


6. He cracks himself up!: We love when Jeff laughs with his audience at the witty content he's sharing. Check out the delivery of the Jeffersonian quote at 10:59 (his pitch variation and overly-emphasized diction on certain words knock it out of the park), or our personal favorite, the Ed Glaeser quote at 12:19. He KNOWS that stuff is gold, and he enjoys it, too! When he smiles, we smile (thanks to those little mirror neurons) and can connect more fully with his content.


Our 2 Cents:

1. Move it!: When Jeff starts talking about the impact of less suburban sprawl on Portland, Oregon, you can see that he takes a tiny step in place. A theatrical director would call that the "impulse to move", and it's a good thing! Clearly, his body wants to continue to express his excitement about his topic. He can channel that impetus into a nice bit of blocking to keep things flowing. He could have crossed to the right side of the stage and told his entire story about Portland in a new locale. You can see that "impulse to move" arise a few times- following that instinct and translating it into some pre-planned movement is a great way to add variety!


2. Expansive gestures! Part 2: Jeff definitely has some awesome gestures, but some times he settles into prayer position with his hands. This often happens when he's delivering some statistics. Sure, stats can sometimes induce a "what do I do with my hands?!" feeling, but they don't have to. Remember, if you're not gesturing, your strongest option is just to let your hands rest gently at your sides. They'll be there when you need them.


3. Keep the smile alive: That smile at the top is so engaging, but we lose it a bit over the course of the presentation. Keep smilin', Jeff! Remember, your audience can't smile without you. 


Many thanks to TED Talks for sharing this video, and thanks to Jeff for a job well done!



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