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Ideas Worth Spreading

TED talks are there for Ideas Worth Spreading.

All TED and TEDMED talks are worth watching because they have passed the strict internal TED and TEDMED filtering process which ensures they will always fulfill this criteria. That is the guarantee and the quality of TED and TEDMED and it has a significant cost for these organisations.
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expert witness TED talks

An Expert Witness gives a TED talk for Africa

Expert witnesses give the best TED style talks

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day.

I was born in Africa and I am the son of a strong and proud Irish woman. I wrote about what she would think of International Women’s Day here (hint: Mum would be grumpy it was still necessary).

So it is appropriate that this week’s TED talk blog features not just a strong and articulate woman but also an African woman. My mother would applaud. This lady also talks for a better Africa. My mother loved Africa – she would applaud more.

From my experience African woman are very similar to Irish women. They are unfathomably tough, ridiculously upbeat, incredibly and bitingly funny and, without exception, highly opinionated…. Oh and their children are usually scared or healthily wary of them!

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was Nigeria’s Finance Minister and then briefly Foreign Affairs Minister from 2003 to 2006, the first woman to hold either position. In 2011, she was again named Nigerian Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy. Between those terms, from 2007 to 2011 she was a managing director of the World Bank.

According to

During her two stints as Finance Minister, she has worked to combat corruption, make Nigeria’s finances more transparent, and institute reforms to make the nation’s economy more hospitable to foreign investment. The government unlinked its budget from the price of oil, its main export, to lessen perennial cashflow crises, and got oil companies to publish how much they pay the government.

Since 2003 — when watchdog group Transparency International rated Nigeria “the most corrupt place on Earth” — the nation has made headway recovering stolen assets and jailing hundreds of people engaged in international Internet 419 scams.

What she says, despite her funny and cheeky plug of Nigeria, is relevant to all of that wonderful continent – a continent which has so much potential but which has been mismanaged so often!

Her talk is great for a number of reasons. She has several clear and important messages for citizens of Africa and for those who prefer giving aid to encouraging trade. She talks about women, the economy, job creation, the power of education, clever investing, wealth creation and public sector incompetency vs private sector efficiencies. She doesn’t use slides. She is self-deprecating and amusing – but confident at the same time: quite a trick to pull off.

She importantly also talks about how Africa is far more than the predictable AIDS/orphan/war torn cliches. She admits that things are not perfect and that Africa is a work in progress. I prefer a work in progress to nothing happening at all. And where is perfect anyway?

One of the things that you need to be when you give a TED-like talk is be some level of expert. You should be an expert witness – otherwise what gives you the right to say what you are saying? TED style talks are for experts – not copy and paste merchants.

This lady qualifies as an expert witness several times over. She is also from Africa and has “skin in the game”. Her provenance and her credibility and her right to speak on this topic are as good as anyone’s anywhere. Period.

Her talk is not just instructive – hopefully it will also change how people perceive and act towards Africa.

People like her should be heard far more widely and more loudly than celebrities relying on briefings prepared for them as they jump on their latest merchandise-boosting bandwagon.


[ted id=127]


I have worked with speakers on talks that have ended on TEDx, TEDMED and TED stages and am also a TEDMED SpeakerCoach. If you have an “idea worth spreading” give me a call and we can discuss how I can help you maximise the impact of your talk.


TEDMED Changing How Doctors Approach Curing Patients

Curing Patients can be improved by changing how Doctors think

Changing how doctors approach their job of curing patients is never going to be an easy job. That is part of why this talk at TEDMED 2014 in Washington D.C. by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz is brave, to say the least. She has something important to say and it potentially tweaks the nose of an entire – and very articulate – profession: Doctors. And she is giving the talk for the benefit of people like you and me.

Like Ramanan Laxminarayan (who wants Doctors to prescribe antibiotics less frequently and industry to stop using antibiotics for profit) Barbara wants to change how doctors approach the cure of patients. It is a big idea.

Learning from this TEDMED talk

Although she uses reasonably accessible language and has a few (!) brilliant slides that help make her point, Barbara uses both insider medical jargon and humour to disarm and help persuade her Doctor audience. This reinforces the fact that she is “one of them” and bolsters her credibility and authority to speak on this common sense approach – which might well be negatively perceived as “radical” amongst the profession.



She doesn’t move around much and her clothes are classy, understated and don’t distract. The focus of the audience should be on her message and the occasional slides that she uses to underpin and illustrate her message.

If you want to be radical and change things, you have to sound and act normal, conformist and disarming. If you sound radical, abnormal and aggressive you will usually alienate the very people you are trying to convince. Some people may agree with you. But they are the other nutters of your cause, so they would, wouldn’t they? Wars are started by radical language – genuine ongoing changing of minds, hearts and behaviour is done through persuasion. And to persuade you need to have ‘permission to speak’ before your audience will listen to you in the first place. This talk is a great example of this being done well.

One of the glorious things about working at TEDMED,  is that the TEDMED speakers are giving talks for a bigger purpose. A purpose that, by definition, helps our benefits people. They are “selling” ideas in the best principles of – “Ideas worth spreading.”

It is not surprising that this talk was rapidly promoted to and that it has had over 1.3 million views in less than a year. This reinforces the power and reach of being able to speak at a TEDMED conference and do well. I hope you enjoy it. You or your friends or family may well benefit from it in the future.


I have worked with speakers on talks that have ended on TEDx, TEDMED and TED stages and I am also a TEDMED SpeakerCoach. If you have an “idea worth spreading” give me a call and we can discuss how I can help you maximise the impact of your talk.

TEDMED Talks that try and change behaviour

Storytelling is useful when you want to change behaviour

Economist Ramanan Laxminarayan wants to change behaviour amongst GPs and industry. Oh as well as potentially change the price of a widely used drug. (Or does he? Watch and see for yourself!) That’s a pretty big ask when a profession is being asked to change years of accepted practice and when an industry profits from they way they do things.

You should watch this talk if you have ever benefited from antibiotics. Basically, because of industry practices and over prescription of antibiotics and the way our bodies work, we are becoming increasingly immune to them. And there is no alternative, no Plan B. What happens when your silver bullet no longer does the job? This is quite a scary talk.

Ramanan wants to improve understanding of drug resistance as a problem of managing a shared global resource. He teaches at Princeton and is a Director and Senior Fellow at the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP). He has advised the World Health Organization and World Bank on evaluating malaria treatment policy, vaccination strategies, the economic burden of tuberculosis, and control of non-communicable diseases. In 2012, he created the Immunization Technical Support Unit in India, which has been credited with improving the immunization program in the country. He knows what he is talking about and easily qualifies as an expert witness.

It’s no surprise that this talk went so quickly from TEDMED to and that over 850 000 people have seen this talk within the last year. Not many economists have a reach that far – but thanks to my content curating colleagues at TEDMED who crucially select the talks that make it onto the stage, this important subject has been given important visibility within the medical profession!

Things to learn from this TEDMED talk.

There are always a number of things that one can learn from a TEDMED or TED talk. The good but sparing use of graphics would one of many good characteristics of this talk.

But the thing I want to focus on here is the use of storytelling to make this potentially complicated issue relevant and immediate and urgent to anyone who has ever played or worked in garden. Which means everyone. That’s pretty cool coming from an economist!

I have worked with speakers on talks that have ended on TEDx, TEDMED and TED stages and I am also a TEDMED SpeakerCoach. If you have an “idea worth spreading” give me a call and we can discuss how I can help you maximise the impact of your talk.


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