Author of Eat, Pray, Love
- Watch the video;
- Read the analysis in this speech; and
- Share your thoughts on this presentation in the comments.
Positives: Nailed it!
Storytelling:Gilbert’s speech is one good example of using stories to make her message resonate with her audience. She uses her personal stories, 5 to precise, and another 5 stories about others. These stories help reinforce her points in a powerful way. So be sure to incorporate stories in your presentations. You have stories too, and telling them will bring your presentation to life in a way that bullet points never can.
Stories help us connect with our audiences in a way that no charts, statistics, bullet points and facts do. For ages books have been written on the power of storytelling. Psychologists who have studied the power of storytelling have concluded that people are hardwired for stories. It is perhaps the oldest method of communication.
As the speech progresses Gilbert makes her speech sound less like a speech and more like a conversation. As if she was sharing her personal story and advice to her close friend over a cup of coffee. This gives a very comfortable vibe to the audience. Her natural smile and simple use of language make it easy for everyone to understand.
From time to time Gilbert asks questions that challenge our thinking. This makes her talk sound more like a two way interaction rather than a ‘speech that doesn’t hook’ the audience. Her constant attempt and focus on engagement is a key highlight that helps cover many of her drawbacks as the audience are kept at the edge of their seats, immersed in awe.
Want to learn the one easy way you can engage your audience? Have a read at this article.
“You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.” – John Ford
Those wise words of John Ford are very so applicable in Gilbert’s speech. She is truly passionate about her message. Her passion for the subject overrides her technical shortcomings.
She speaks from a place of sincerity, authenticity and vulnerability. She truly cares about her message and wants us to understand what she is saying and why. Her passion builds as her talk progresses for example, her vivid description of the moonlight dances in North Africa (15:53) and her encouragement to the audience to “do your job” (18:27).
“When you show your emotions like Gilbert did, it’s true that you are taking a risk. You are going out on a limb. But that’s where the best fruit is.” – John Zimmer
Humor has time and again been used as a social lubricant. As an easy way to get your audience on your side. Humor puts people in an agreement framework where they laugh and feel at ease while unconsciously agreeing with the speaker.
Gilbert has 9 instances where the audience burst into laughter. The humor comes off quite naturally in this talk for Gilbert. While quite often we see speakers forcing humor as if humor was the ‘Do or Die’ element of their speech. They are well timed and all in all they make Gilbert likable. And its quite evident as one can clearly see her confidence rise everytime her audience burst into laughter.
What could Elizabeth have done better?
One area where we feel Gilbert is a bit nervous and uncomfortable is right at the start. Her slow start do not give us the takeoff we usually get to see from the best presenters. However, she builds her energy as she gets more and more comfortable and confident on the stage.
A more well rehearsed and commanding start would have grabbed our attention right away. A strong opening would have made a huge impact. Probably a quote or a phrase that grabbed our attention along with a pause(her next shortcoming) would have been ideal?
Throughout her speech Elizabeth moves from one point to the other without pausing and giving us the time to digest her information. Pauses are powerful.
They add intrigue, suspense and mystery to your speech. A pause at the right time gets people hung in anticipation to hear the next word.Gilbert could have made her delivery so much more effective by giving a few pauses. Use of pauses would have made her sound much more in control, especially at the start. If you want to learn more about how you can use pauses read our article on 5 mistakes you must avoid to be memorable.
Gilbert though speaks in a very friendly and conversational manner, its quite clear, if you pay attention that the fills up the pause opportunity with filler words like ‘you know’ and ‘right?’. These filler words make a speech weaker. A pause instead would have had a profound effect on the audience. So always remember to pause.
- Hand Movements:
As already discussed, Gilbert’s hand movements were quite distracting at the start (from 0:30 to 1:30). She seemed nervous (Well afterall it was a TED Talk. It’s understandable. Isn’t it?) and all her nervousness was released with her wringing and grinding of her hands.
In this very speech you can see the difference as she starts making effective gestures as she gets comfortable (from 15:50 to 16:45) This is a good example of how we make distracting gestures unconsciously.
Effective gestures enhance the impact of your speech, when used properly. As the John Zimmer rightly said:
“Think of adding gestures to your presentation the way in which a world class chef would add spices to a fine meal: judiciously, to enhance the flavor of the food, but not to overpower it.” – John Zimmer
Inspite of the few technical shortcomings this speech is driven by Gilbert’s passion. She nails it with her sincerity, authenticity and vulnerability. She challenges our thinking and leaves us uplifted, encourages and inspired.