Some presentations can, and should, have a consistent tone. You have one or two points to make and you hammer them home with a strong, simple message in a strong, clear voice. Yes, you need your strong opener. Yes, you should have some mini-climaxes in the body of your talk, building toward your big conclusion. Yes, you should have a really strong finish. But overall, the nature of the topic will inform your tonality and you should pretty much stick to that as you talk.

But sometimes, you are talking about the big stuff. Sometimes you need to illustrate a point – as Chris Abani does here by telling how his 14 year-old cellmate was executed by being left to bleed to death in excruciating agony – in such a way as to completely stun your audience. But you can’t do that for a whole talk; if everything in your talk is a jaw-dropper, then very quickly nothing is. What Chris does, in this truly extraordinary talk about the nature of humanity, is to tell you something jaw-dropping and then let you recover. Stun and recover, stun and recover.

He gets a standing ovation for this talk from the TED audience and deservedly so. Prepare to be amazed …


RSS Readers will need to click through to the post to see the video – it’s a TED thing, sorry.