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This post was written by
Scott Schwertly

Scott is the Founder and CEO of Ethos3.

We’ve always been huge fans of TED here at Ethos3, so we were super excited to learn that TED talks reached 1 billion views this week. That’s billion… with a B. The much-celebrated talks are moving mountains in the fight against Death by PowerPoint, and for that we applaud them. Here’s three of our favorite TED talks, each exemplifying one of the three cornerstones of presentation design: content, design and delivery.

Content – Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight 

Taylor’s talk is one of the most viewed on TED with nearly 10 million views. It’s truly an unforgettable 18 minutes, thanks to one thing in particular: storytelling. In December 1996, Taylor, a neuroanatomist who had spent her career studying the brain, realized she was having a stroke. As we reflected in a blog post this past summer, her harrowing account of the detachment of the right and left hemispheres of her brain is an emotional rollercoaster, something akin to a Hunter S. Thompson acid trip gone wonky. She toes the emotional fault line masterfully, delivering a heart wrenching yet hopeful presentation; One that is sure to stick with you long after you’ve watched.

Design– Al Gore: New Thinking on the climate crisis

Al Gore has always been excellent at using slides to accompany his talks, and this 2008 TED talk is no exception. He begins by simply talking to his audience, in a rather candid and passionate way; only around the 5-minute mark does he start using slides. His slideshow serves as an excellent model for how to use slides to disseminate data and statistics in an effective and compelling way. The slides are simple, and easy to understand from first glance (though at times there’s small text on the slide that could have been left out).

The real success of Gore’s slideshow is his use of comparison slides. He frequently employs before and after slides, as well as slides that compare one year to another, to show the stark effect of climate change. Gore also knows the power of his data, so he does well to let them speak for themselves. He keeps the data slides simple, so the impact can be felt organically upon viewing.

Delivery– Beeban Kidron: The shared wonder of film 

Kidron’s delivery is one of the most unique we’ve seen in all our years watching TED talks. As we mused last June, Kidron delivers her presentation with an ideal focus on content and design. Her words match seamlessly with a continuous reel of film and photography that plays silently behind her. It’s an amazing sight to behold, how accurately her words match up with the images on the screen. It feels kinda like watching an exquisite ballroom dance. Thanks to Kidron’s delivery, this is a highly captivating talk; one that should serve as inspiration for presenters who want to mix up delivery to make an impact.

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