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Books for marketers: Talk Like TED

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Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo. Recommended: for speakers who take the craft seriously and TED talk devotees.

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The foul-mouthed bear? Ted Turner? Big Ted?

There is something a little irksome about Carmine Gallo’s book Talk Like TED. Perhaps it’s the shamelessness of writing a book that is entirely dependent on the efforts of others, perhaps it’s the blind faith the author has in the TED talk formula or the repeated plugs for his own speaker coaching skills.

Still, if you want to improve your speaking or are fascinated by the globocult that is Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) this book is for you.

TED talks have redefined what Westerners expect of public speakers. We want work-perfect presenters who win our hearts with personal stories, wow us with slick visuals and walk the stage looking good every step of the way.

In many ways this has lifted the bar for non-TEDsters, though it has created a template that some of us might wish to ignore.

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When TED Talks, people listen.

Gallo knows the formula inside and out. This comes from watching every TED talk, timing it, transcribing it, breaking it down into its constituent parts and interviewing many of the (less famous) speakers. He has even plotted their hand movements.

Surely we didn’t really need to have Al Gore’s presentation presented in a two column chart with his words on one side and a description of his hand movements on the other. Surely he hired an intern for all this bollocks?

The result of this industriousness is a book that promises to “reveal the nine public speaking secrets of the world’s top minds”. Oh dear. Undoubtedly there is wisdom to be gained.

While Gallo may be a great speaking coach he is a writer in need of an editor. Talk Like TED has a convoluted format. Not only are there nine “secrets”, there are groups of secrets within each secrets, there are many quotes from the greats, TED notes, subheadings, and breakout boxes.

There is an absolute acceptance that the TED talk formula – and it is a formula – is the definitive way to present to groups of people. Nowhere does Gallo seriously suggest that you do things your way or acknowledge that those of us who are a little less famous, who speak in spotlights a little dimmer, may not have the same options available to us. To Gallo, the more YouTube hits you have, the better the speaker.

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Public speaking tip: launch new iPhone. Wish we’d thought of that.

Gallo Carmine has history – his previous work was: The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. Clearly he too has a formula, knows when he’s on a good thing and sticks to it.

Few of us are philanthropist rockstars, hero pilots, silicon valley CEOs or bloody Malcolm Gladwell but we can heed Gallo’s advice to tell a story, to be brief, to incorporate levity, to deliver one killer statistic, to ensure that we teach people something they did not know.

The book also provides plenty of insights into what goes into creating and delivering an 18-minute Ted talk. It’s a cult we tell you! Run!

Ironically, for a book that praises TED’s brevity Talk Like TED is repetitive and far too long. Like so many books it cherry picks neuroscience, talking about attention spans, recollections and visual processing. Whatever!Just be interesting and of value we say.

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A book your audiences will love.

Still, if you want to improve your public speaking Talk Like TED is a worthwhile read that will give you food for thought and some specific ways to lift your game. To Gallo’s credit there are dozens of pages of notes footnotes. Or maybe that was the intern.

Why not book our new Present Savvy workshop for the TEDwannabees in your life?

You can also do worse than download our free e-book speak savvy which is free, short, practical, and yours within minutes.


freakonomics books for marketers

Read it. Think it.

And read our rave review of Freakonomics – a must-read for marketers everywhere.

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Books for marketers: a quick review of Freakonomics

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Freakonomics by Stephen J. Dubner & Stephen D. Levitt

Recommended? Oh yes.

books for marketers

Read it. Think it.

Brett believes that Freakonomics should be mandatory reading for marketers. Sadly 98% of marketers, communicators, promoters and persuaders have failed to crack open a copy of Freakonomics, SuperFreakonomics or the latest in the series: Think Like A Freak.

Many haven’t even heard of the series which has sold in the millions, inspired a global community and placed authors New York Times journalist Stephen J. Dubner and University of Chicago professor of economics Steven D. Levitt as the popularisers of behavioural economics which studies why we really make the decisions we make. It deals with the meta factors behind the way we behave, spend, eat and use our time.

This isn’t a marketing book but there is much to be gained by marketers in learning how to see the world from an economic perspective. It’s rational and results-driven. The first two books in particular are full of case studies looking at social phenomenon with a data-driven economic lens:

  • can we improve under-performing students by paying them for good grades?
  • do politicians get more votes by spending more on campaigns?
  • how do we really turn around crime-ridden neighbourhoods?
  • do cops-on-the-beat reduce crime?
  • how can teen mums break the cycle of poverty?
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Steven and Stephen.

Levitt and Dubner crunch data in an allegedly value-free exploration of these and other challenging scenarios.  This is pop economics. Who else would analyse hundreds of sumo wrestling bouts to uncover endemic corruption? The writing is distinctly funny and free-flowing, without pretension or jargon. Bonus: this book will make you smarter.

Often the data crunched seems to be obscure or disconnected. Most controversial is the claim that the significant drop in inner-city crime in some American cities was not the result of more police on the beat or crime-tracking software but the impact of legal abortions decades earlier.

The books’ references are broad – everything from the Bible and David Lee Roth to stomach ulcers and Churchill. Competitive hot dog eating features prominently.

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Cashing in? Who cares? Great cover.

Gripe: the third book in the series: Think Like a Freak reads like a bit of a moneymaker but is still worth a look if you enjoy Freakonomics parts one and two. For the truly devoted there is also a podcast.

The authors are smart but happily not politically correct. In a society where so many social problems stubbornly persist despite the billions of dollars thrown at them we should cast aside political correctness and progressive orthodoxies to discover what really works. We need to “think like freaks”. After all, the bad guys already do.

Freakonomics website Freakonomics podcast


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The foul-mouthed bear? Ted Turner? Big Ted?

Check out our review of Talk Like TED.


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