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The Four Fish: Story and Visual

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An important step in improving your public speaking skills is to learn from the master. These days, there are a lot of very fascinating talks that can become the source of inspiration. One of them is the most recent TED talk titled, “The four fish we’re overeating”.


This talk from Paul Greenberg, as in the usual TED tradition, is not very long. However, in just about 15 minutes, the talk beautifully demonstrates several attributes of a well thought and carefully crafted presentation. If you haven’t watched it, you are welcomed to watch the talk first and then come back again later. Go on, I can wait.

Everytime you attend a presentation training, the importance of the main story is emphasized again and again. The story needs to be narrated in such a way that it can answer the most important thing that the audience care about: What’s in it for me?. Of course, not everybody in the audience needs to draw the same conclusion after Paul finished the talk. Some of them will adjust their seafood consumption, some others will do a follow-up research, and maybe a few won’t care much since they are not a big fan of seafood anyway. Yet, such a talk is considered a success if nobody forgets the story right away the minute they are leaving.

Related to the story, the opening and the closing of the talk need to be as attractive. A very common way to do this is by narrating a mesmerizing personal story and this is what Paul did in the talk. The closing part is usually more difficult to handle since it needs to address two things. First, it should be related to the opening story to symbolize the wrap up. Second, it must end the talk on a high note.

Last but not least, the slides used by Paul solely served the role of supporting materials. Hence, there is no need to fill the decks with bullet points and long-winded text. The slides can be purely visual, filled with maps, charts, and comparisons. A few analogies here and there help making the point, whether it’s the four fish vs chickens-geese-ducks-turkeys or 80 ton metrics vs human weight. Still, if you would have listened to him while chatting over coffee, the story will not be less profound even where there is no slide involved.

What do you like about Paul’s talk? Which techniques do you plan to adopt for your own talk?

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