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Creating A Presentation With An Idea Worth Spreading

Abbreviated excerpt from How to Deliver a TED Talk by Jeremey Donovan.

The first step to creating a presentation with an idea worth spreading is to choose your persona based on whether your primary objective is to educate, entertain, or inspire.

Before you say, “But, I’m not an activist,” remember that speeches have been given by people from nearly every walk of life. Though TED started in 1984 with a focus on bringing together people from the worlds of technology, entertainment, and design, the organiza-tion has intentionally broadened its scope. In my sampling of TED Talks, I have identified no less than 15 common personas, falling into three categories, that frequently grace the stage.

These 15 personas are neither mutually exclusive nor collectively exhaustive. You may recognize yourself in more than one of them, or you may find yourself in none. Day to day and moment to moment, each of us changes hats. The point is simply that projecting these personas onto yourself one at a time will help you narrow your focus. Since constraints unlock creativity, this technique will help you eas-ily identify which idea you want to spread. In addition, whether your dominant mission is education, entertainment, or inspiration, make sure to include a healthy dose of the other two components with information, humor, or emotion.

Category 1. The Educators

  • The inventor. Inventors are the purveyors of cool.
  • The life scientist. Life scientists open our eyes to the wonders of living organisms, biological processes, and interrelationships among living things.
  • The natural scientist. The laws of nature and the physical world—inclusive of astronomy, biology, chemistry, and phys-ics—are made accessible to the masses by natural scientists.
  • The social scientist. Social scientists provide insights on the individual and collective human experience.

Category 2. The Entertainers

  • The comedian.
  • The magician. TED audiences like to see performers decon-struct their craft.
  • The writer. The writer persona includes creators of fiction and poetry.
  • The performing artist. This group includes dancers, musicians, and singers, as well as actors and directors of stage and screen.
  • The visual artist. Visual artists using nearly every medium are well represented in popular TED Talks.

Category 3. Change Agents

  • The activist. Nearly every TED speaker is an activist in some way.
  • The authority. The authority persona is the most general.
  • The business guru. Business gurus are the successful nonfiction authors and business authorities who curate and popularize esoteric social science to help others become more successful at work.
  • The explorer. Where authorities reveal epiphanies experi-enced in their day jobs, explorers share insights from personal experience.
  • The personal guru. Personal gurus are to the self-help section of the bookstore what business gurus are to the professional motivation section.
  • The social entrepreneur. There is a rather thin line between social entrepreneurs and activists, although in truth many speakers straddle both categories.

To learn more about these personas and how to create memorable and inspiring presentations, read How to Deliver a TED Talk .

Jeremey Donovan is a TEDx organizer and speaker. He serves as group vice president of marketing at Gartner Inc. the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company with $1.6 billion in annual revenue.

Jeremey Donovan is a Distinguished Toastmaster and TEDx organizer. He is the bestselling author of How to Deliver a TED Talk.