What can you do to combat fear? That’s the question Damon Davis raises in his TED Talk, “Courage is Contagious.” Following the police shooting death of Michael Brown, Jr. in 2014, Davis ventured to Ferguson, Missouri to join the protests. He expected to find negative emotions like anger and fear, but he also found another emotion that surprised him.

Impactful Speaking Skills: A TED Talk Review of “Courage is Contagious”

In just 6 minutes, Davis delivers a TED Talk that is emotional, inspiring and motivating. Here’s a deeper look at the impactful speaking skills Davis uses to deliver his message.


Right from the start, Davis shares his fear with the audience. He’s afraid, and he understands that many other people like him are also afraid: “Fear is like a disease. When it moves, it moves like wildfire. But what happens when, even in the face of that fear, you do what you’ve got to do? That’s called courage. And just like fear, courage is contagious.”

This revelation sets the entire tone and structure for his speech. He circles back to the concept of fear and courage in his speech, calling on the audience to do something positive with these emotions. Davis exhibits two impactful speaking skills here: showing emotion and using repetition. Humans are emotional, so we can relate to feelings like fear and courage. Repeating this message builds a better connection with the audience and reinforces the message.

Related Post: The Importance of Emotions in Presentations

TED talk


Davis says he’s an artist. His experience in Ferguson inspired him to paint the images he saw over and over again: raised hands. The series of paintings lead to the development of a documentary called, “Whose Streets?” This allowed Davis to provide more detail about the people he saw protesting. One vision led to a much bigger project that helped expose audiences to the fear and courage of the Ferguson protesters.

The display of Davis’s artwork is part of these impactful speaking skills that make this TED Talk effective. The images match the tone he created at the beginning when he spoke about fear. Now, he shows us what that fear, and courage, looks like through his photos. Using visuals to support your message is a great way to make your message unforgettable. Visuals increase retention by 42% so including them in your presentation is no-brainer to increase your impact.


Combine relatable emotions with impactful visuals, and you get a motivated audience. The build up of Davis’s story, his emotional response and his reaction through art make his call to action effective. Davis rallies his audience: “Y’all the movers and the shakers, you know, the thought leaders: What are you gonna do with the gifts that you’ve been given to break us from the fear the binds us every day?”

For any presenter looking to build impactful speaking skills, a strong call to action is the best way to conclude every speech. Calls to action are the most important part of a speech. Why are you speaking in front of your audience if you don’t want them to do anything? Follow Davis’s footsteps, and craft a call to action that relates directly to your message.

Impactful speaking skills can lead to inspired, informed and motivated audiences. TED Talk speakers like Damon Davis deliver these results with heartfelt speeches about real experiences. What will you do to drive your audience to action?

More posts from the Ethos3 Blog:

Why Visuals Matter For Engaging Millennial Audiences

How To Make A Call To Action Like John Oliver

How Emotional Intelligence Impacts A Presentation


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