Jamie Oliver’s TED Talk, Teach Every Child about Food, has absolutely nothing to do with college admissions. But for anyone who has to give presentations in front of audiences, there are several things Jamie does that any of us can learn from, whether or not we’re natural public speakers:
1. Get emotionally involved.
You can’t reasonably expect an audience to care if you don’t. And yet many speakers seem like they’re just going through the motions, giving a speech because they have to, not because they want to. It’s clear that Jamie is passionate about this topic. You can hear it in his voice. You can see it in his presentation. He’s personally invested.
Whenever you give a talk, remind yourself why you are giving it. What is your emotional connection to the material or the audience? Why do you care? Then let that care be evident in your talk. And if you can’t find the emotion, if you feel like you’re just there to share relevant information, then don’t give a talk to share it. Instead, just write it down and email it to your audience.
2. No long overview—jump right in.
Many speakers begin their talk with a long-winded overview—who they are, what they’re going to talk about, why it’s important, etc. Ten minutes later, they still haven’t begun the important part of the presentation, and they’ve already lost their audience. But Jamie jumps right in with his first sentence:
“In the next 18 minutes, four Americans that are alive will be dead from the foods that they eat.“
With just his opening sentence, he’s got everyone’s attention.
3. Drive your point home with stories, not data.
Have you ever heard an audience member say after a talk, “I was really moved by the chart on PowerPoint slide 13!”? Stories, not data, are what grab people's attention. And they’re what people remember. Jamie drives his point home by telling us about Brittany who is 16 years old and has six years to live because of the food that she eats. Katie is four years old and obese before she gets to primary school. Marissa’s dad was obese and died in her arms. The kids in classrooms Jamie visits can’t identify a single vegetable. Those stories aren’t just moving—they’re convincing, too.
Data might well have its place in some talks—but don’t lead with it. Instead, use data to support your stories.
4. No bullet points.
For too many speakers, a presentation is just a collection of bullet-pointed PowerPoint slides that they read to the audience (in which case, why not just email them the presentation and let the audience stay home?). But Jamie’s visual aids are visual. He’s got photos to give faces to his stories. He’s got video to bring us into the lives of the people he’s trying to help. And I defy any speaker to create a PowerPoint slide that effectively horrifies an audience like Jamie’s sugar demonstration at 13:20.
5. Give your audience marching orders.
Jamie does make what I think is a mistake—he convinces the audience that broad, sweeping changes need to be made, but he doesn’t tell them what they can start doing today to help make it happen. If you win your audience over and convince them, you also have to tell them what to do next. Give them their marching orders.
Imagine if he had told his audience, “If you want to help make this change, even for just yourself and your family, here are three simple things you can start doing today.” The crowd would have taken their marching orders and gotten to work.