Browse Tag: TED talks

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 stage Palm Springs

Emotion and relationships in TED Talks

Emotion and Relationships Move People.

This is one of my favourite TED style talks. For a few reasons. Firstly, how I first saw it. A guy who had worked on and off for me for a few years sent the clip to me via Facebook with the message “This woman reminds me of you.” I watched it and had to dry my eyes. Who would not want to be compared to this woman?

There are many reasons why this video has been viewed over 5 million times. Rita Pierson is very funny. She has something to say. She is real and she is authentic. She is not selling anything.

But I don’t want to talk about her delivery – although it is really great and the talk is worth watching for that alone. I want to talk about her content. Because she is a coach and so am I.

She talks a whole lots of sense – but the bit I find really excellent is where she says:

“…We know why kids don’t learn. It’s either poverty, low attendance, negative peer influences… We know why. But one of the things that we never discuss or we rarely discuss is the value and importance of human connection. Relationships.
James Comer says that no significant learning can occur without a significant relationship. George Washington Carver says all learning is understanding relationships. Everyone in this room has been affected by a teacher or an adult. For years, I have watched people teach. I have looked at the best and I’ve looked at some of the worst.
A colleague said to me one time, “They don’t pay me to like the kids. They pay me to teach a lesson. The kids should learn it. I should teach it, they should learn it, Case closed.”
Well, I said to her, “You know, kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.”

Becoming a SpeakerCoach

I didn’t set out to be a teacher, let alone a SpeakerCoach. It was supposed to be a temporary thing – so much so that I only reluctantly agreed to be trained as a SuperLearning/Suggestopedia(NLP) Coach in Germany by the Institute where I worked. It certainly helped my coaching and made my coaching “stickier” – but pieces of paper don’t make you a good coach – they just stop you being a crap coach.

Over the last 24 years I have been coaching individuals and groups. A lot of that has been in the corporate world in a corporate setting and much of the challenge of coaching and teaching people has been

  1. getting them to relax and
  2. getting them to like me.

This dual task is tough in a corporate training room and even tougher in a group where there are 12 – 15 egos and agendas bouncing around the place. I did this in the German corporate world for over 15 years, so in a different culture as well. It was often intense and always very demanding but it was a brilliant bootcamp/ training ground. It honed my radar, extended my ears and sharpened my eyes to spot early signs of when people were not receiving, understanding, absorbing or agreeing.

On the plus side, at least my clients want to be taught – teaching a class of kids who have to be there, like Rita does, fills me with dread. I have spoken to classes of 15 and 16 year olds at Pimlico Academy in London and, believe me, I would rather be interrogated by a Select Committee or a PLC Board than spend any more time in front of those scary kids!

Building a Coach/Student relationship

So back to Rita’s point. Building a teacher/student relationship. It’s tough in limited time in a corporate setting and tougher in groups. I now work slightly differently as much as I can. Firstly, I prefer to work one on one with clients which enables much more open and frank discussion, coaching and feedback. Secondly, I prefer to work at my home on the coast in Sussex or in London. This is very informal and helps the client to relax and be themselves. Often clients will come to Sussex the night before and stay in my guest room and we chat over a drink and a meal the night before. This really helps us to understand each other and definitely contributes to the success of the coaching.

With some clients it is easiest to work via Skype. This is usually done with them in their homes and me in mine. It’s not perfect – but it is 1-2-1 and informal so it is pretty good. And it avoids plane fairs and travel time.

But in all my coaching, I don’t just talk or broadcast. Nothing is “off the shelf”. Everything is customised. I have some standard courses – but the coaching moulds itself around the client, our pace, the mood of the day and their requirements. I am often provocative and I push, cajole, tease and demand. Because I like my clients and I really want them to succeed and I hope that they can feel this. But I still want to be more like Rita!!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the video. Feel free to comment or share.

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 Speaker Coach

Why give a TED talk or a TEDMED talk

Why give a TED talk.

Sometimes people come to me and say that they want to give a TED, TEDMED or TEDx talk. They want help. My first question is to ask them what they want to talk about and what is the essence of their message.

Some look and sound surprised and admit that they honestly don’t know – they think simply that giving a TED talk would be good for their career, help to sell a book and boost their profile and earnings. These are all the wrong reasons or motivations for giving a TED, TEDMED or TEDx talk – but it is certainly true that these are all frequent side effects or results of having given such a talk.

Why should you give a TED, TEDMED or TEDx talk? is the daddy of the TED brand. TED uses the phrase “ideas worth spreading”. This is a great basic template. Giving a TED, TEDMED or TEDx talk is NOT about selling or promoting yourself – it is all about sharing an idea that is worth spreading in such a way that it is globally accessible and relevant over time.

“Ideas worth spreading”

Most speakers dream of standing ovations and of getting their talk escalated to the TED platform. This week’s featured TED talk is given by a man who sincerely, seriously and urgently asks the crowd to STOP applauding. He cuts them off! Seriously! Who does that? I have worked with politicians, business people and speakers at the TED family of conferences and I have never seen that before. Of all the talks that I have seen and worked on this man is the most driven and focused and anxious to get his message across and to say it all within the limited time he was given. There is also no doubt that this talk would have been escalated and promoted to wherever it was actually originally given.

There are other lessons to be learnt from this talk including the use of humour, personal storytelling, the lack of any sales pitch or personal promotion, TRULY amazing images and self deprecating humour. But the biggest lesson is that the speaker has something massively important to share and he is so keen to share this that he asks the audience to stop applauding and listen. You don’t see that very often!

The photography is stunning and courtesy of National Geographic. The talk is fascinating. But the focus of the man to share his message is palpable and urgent. The standing ovation is inevitable and well deserved.

You can hire him to speak too. More great photos and his contact details are on his website –

“Diving under the Antarctic ice to get close to the much-feared leopard seal, polar photographer Paul Nicklen found an extraordinary new friend.”

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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