Carmine Gallo is an American author, columnist, keynote speaker, and former journalist and news anchor. Now currently based in Pleasanton, California, he is President of Gallo Communications Group and works as a communications coach and speaker
Carmine Gallo on Talking Like TED: A third interview by Bob Morris
by | Aug 25, 2014
Popular business blogger Robert Morris interviews Carmine and asks for “head snapping revelations.”
A global best-selling author, Carmine Gallo is also a former reporter and anchor for CNN and CBS. He has sat down with many of the most dynamic and respected business leaders of our time. In these interviews, Carmine gained insight into what makes a great leader. Great leaders are also great communicators. He formed Gallo Communications with the mission of helping business leaders discover and apply the untapped power of effective communications. Communications comprise a multi-faceted art form. From internal relationships to press conferences, from rallying investors to counseling employees, from inspiring greatness to managing crisis, managers need to educate, motivate, and persuade much more effectively than many (most?) of them do now. Gallo Communications prepares business leaders for these make it-or-break it challenges.
His published books include The Apple Experience: Secrets to building insanely great customer loyalty, The Power of foursquare: 7 Innovative Ways to Get Your Customers to Check In Wherever They Are, The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs: Insanely Different Principles for Breakthrough Success, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience, Fire Them Up! 7 Simple Secrets to Inspire Colleagues, Customers, and Clients, and 10 Simple Secrets of the World’s Greatest Business Communicators: How you too can learn the presentation secrets behind today’s greatest CEOs. His latest book is Talk Like TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds, published by St. Martin’s Press (March 2014).
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Morris: When and why did you decide to write Talk Like TED?
Gallo: After the success of The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, I was looking for another communicator to profile. It was very difficult to find one person—well known around the world—who had the complete package of presentation and business communication skills. I expanded my thinking and realized that TED, the famous conference that’s become a hit around the world, is popular because it showcases the world’s best speakers and communicators. I’ve also been asked to work with people who have given TED talks and so it wasn’t much of a stretch. The fun part was studying the neuroscience behind persuasion and discovering why 18-minute TED talks work so well.
Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it? Please explain.
Gallo: There are many revelations. For example, 18 minutes is quite possibly the ideal amount of time to deliver a presentation. Through trial and error the TED organizers discovered early on that 18 minutes is long enough to have a serious discussion and short enough to keep people’s attention. Now think about all of the great speeches that have moved us a nation — they’re all under 18 minutes: Steve Jobs commencement speech at Stanford, Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream,” and JFK’s inaugural. Also, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg launched a national movement to Lean In with a TED talk that lasted 15 minutes. A lot can happen in under 18 minutes!
Morris: To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?
Gallo: It’s more inspiring than I thought it would be. I set out to do a tactical book on how to deliver better presentations. The content of the presentations was so inspiring, however, the content also made me a better person and a better leader. The book took on a new life as I focused on inspiring my readers as well as giving them strategies and techniques they could use. Today most of the feedback I receive indicates that readers really are inspired by the book to lead better lives and to fulfill their potential. It’s very gratifying.
Morris: How do you explain TED‘s success since it was founded by Richard Saul Wurman in 1984?
Gallo: 18 minutes! Seriously, people want to be inspired and to learn something valuable in a short amount of time. That’s a big part of it. Of course, the year 2006 is also very important to TED‘s popularity. That’s when TED began to post its videos for free to share the insights. It became a global hit and today TED videos have been viewed 2 billion times. Humans are natural explorers. We’re curious. We crave learning new things — that’s why one of the book’s sections is called “novelty.” People cannot ignore something new and novel. Teach people something stunning in 18 minutes and put it online for free — that’s a winning formula.
Morris: The title of the book’s Introduction suggests that “Ideas Are the Currency of the Twenty-First Century.” What specifically does that mean?
Gallo: In the information age, the knowledge economy, we are only as successful as the ideas we have to share. If I can’t package my ideas in a way that grabs your attention and inspires you to take action on those ideas, then what does it matter? My ideas are my currency, a form of trade. I trade you my ideas for a salary, an investment, etc. I benefit monetarily from the exchange of my ideas.
Morris: What are some of the most common misconceptions about what great public speaking is…and isn’t.
Gallo: Public speaking is more than just grand oratory giving a speech in a front of a lot of people. Delivering an effective PowerPoint to a potential customer is “public speaking,” as is a job interview or a business pitch over coffee at Starbucks. We all need to improve at public speaking whether or not we ever give a formal ‘speech.’
Morris: In this book as well as in all of your previously published works, you make brilliant use of chapter titles to focus on key insights. For each of these, what is the most important take-away?
First, Unleash the Master Within
Gallo: Passion is everything. You cannot inspire unless you inspire yourself. Dig deep to identify your passionate commitment to the topic. That’s what you want to stress in your presentation — your passion.
Morris: Master the Art if Storytelling
Gallo: Stories are underutilized and under appreciated, especially in business conversations. In many of the best TED presentations that I studied, stories (personal studies, case studies, etc) made up about 65 to 72 percent of the total content. Tell more stories. They inform, educate, and inspire.
Morris: Have a Conversation
Gallo: Practice delivering a presentation as if you were having a conversation with a friend during dinner. You don’t want to sound like you’re “giving a speech.” People appreciate authenticity and informality, but it still means you need to understand the narrative. Just don’t make it sound like you’re reading. Have a conversation instead.
Morris: Teach Me Something New
Gallo: People cannot ignore novelty. Deliver information in a way that’s surprising, fresh, or unexpected.
Morris: Deliver Jaw-Dropping Moments
Gallo: All great presentations have that one moment that people will talk about the next day. The jaw-dropper. In a 2009 TED talk about the spread of malaria in third world countries, Bill Gates released a small jar of mosquitoes into the audience to demonstrate how malaria is spread. The talk has been viewed millions of times. The mosquitoes were a show-stopper, and it kept the audience’s attention!
Morris: Lighten Up
Gallo: Have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously. That doesn’t mean you have tell a joke, but smile and if something happened to you or you noticed something that made you laugh, there’s a good chance your audience will find it funny as well. The #1 TED talk of all time, Dr. Ken Robinson, is very funny simply because of the stories he tells.
Morris: Stick to the 18-Minute Rule
Gallo: There’s scientific evidence that suggests that 10 to 18 minutes is the right amount of time to deliver information. If you go longer, you’ll lose the audience’s attention unless you build in “soft breaks” which might include stories, another speaker, demonstrations, video, etc.
Morris: Paint a Mental Picture with Multisensory Experiences
Gallo: Nobody wants to watch 100 PowerPoint slides or even 10 badly designed ones! Get away from the slides from time to time by building in multi-sensory experiences. These might include video clips, physical demonstrations of a product, white boarding or flip charts, or even getting the audience involved with questions or exercises.
Morris: Stay in Your Lane
Gallo: Be authentic. Nobody likes a phony and audiences can see right through one. If you’re not Tony Robbins, don’t try to act like him on stage. I just spoke to an executive at one of the world’s largest companies. His company ranks all executives on their presentations and they’ve been doing so for 10 years. The #1 lesson they’ve learned? You guessed it! Be authentic.
Morris: TED‘s Ten Commandments are expressed with a Biblical flair (e.g. “Thou Shalt Not Simply Trot Out Thy Usual Shtick”) but seem very contemporary to me. Of the ten, is there one that seems to be the most difficult with which to comply? Please explain.
Gallo: The one you mentioned — Thou Shalt Not Simply Trot Out They Usual Shtick. Presentations get boring because most people deliver exactly the same presentation to different audiences, clients, etc. Customize it for Pete’s sake! I speak every week at conferences, companies, etc. And while some of the slides and concepts are the same, I customize the presentation for each audience. Don’t trot out the same material.
Morris: Of all the TED programs that you have observed, which — in your opinion — offers the best demonstration of these Commandments to the given material? Please explain.
Gallo: The best TED presentations in my opinion have been delivered by Bill Gates, Bryan Stevenson, Sheryl Sandberg, Jill Bolte-Taylor, Ken Robinson, Larry Smith, and Bono (Yes, that Bono). They are all different. Some have PowerPoint. Some don’t. Some are funny, others are less humorous. But they all have elements of the TED commandments and of the 9 public-speaking techniques that I cover in my book.
Morris: Let’s say that a CEO has read and then (hopefully) re-read Talk Like TED and is now determined to strengthen communication skills at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. Where to begin?
Gallo: I’ll turn that question around. Don’t start by opening PowerPoint! Start by crafting the narrative, the story. What is the story behind your product or idea? What problem does it solve? What visuals support the narrative? Only then do you open PowerPoint, Prezi, Apple Keynote, or whatever visual support you’ll have. The visuals support the story, but the story always comes first.
Morris: For more than 25 years, it has been my great pleasure as well as privilege to work closely with the owner/CEOs of hundreds of small companies, those with $20-million or less in annual sales. In your opinion, of all the material you provide in Talk Like TED, which do you think will be of greatest value to leaders in small companies? Please explain.
Gallo: You’re only as valuable as your ideas. The ability to deliver your ideas persuasively is the single greatest thing that will help you achieve your dreams.
Morris: Which question had you hoped to be asked during this interview – but weren’t – and what is your response to it?
Gallo: What a great question! I would ask, “Did writing the book make you a better public speaker?” The answer is — Yes! It most certainly did. Great speakers are humble and are always learning. I feel like I’m a better speaker for writing the book and I hope it inspires other to speak with power!
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