Friday 11th October, 2013

The One Thing I Don’t Love About TED Talks

TED is a treasure trove of extremely high quality presentations for an extraordinarily wide range of international public speakers (more usually, experts who have been invited to speak in public on a subject within their personal expertise).

Because TED is all about the talks, the stage is set for the best presentation possible.

Some speakers use slides to great effect. Others don’t use slides at all.

I have a problem with the people who use slides.

It has nothing to do with the quality of the slides or the way the slides are used to enhance the presentation.

No, my problem is with the slide clicker.

As you can see in this talk by Gary Slutkin, the speaker can see his or her own slides projected at the back of the room.

This is great (highly unusual, most venues you speak at will not have this facility) as it means the speaker doesn’t have to look behind nor down to a monitor to see the slides.

What isn’t so great is what the slide clicker forces the speaker to do with their hands.

I encourage the clients that I coach to keep BOTH hands free for as much of the time as possible, with palms visible in the classic ‘I’m open, I have nothing to hide’ gesture.

When forced to clutch a slide clicker the hand naturally forms a fist and makes two-handed gestures virtually impossible.

This is where public speaking needs to innovate.

We are ‘whole body’ communicators.

You wouldn’t put duct tape over the mouth of a public speaker, so why restrict our hand movements?

Our hands often say things in a way that words cannot. They must be free!

If you have seen or have an idea for an innovative way to move slides on that doesn’t necessitate clutching a clicker or turning away from the audience, I’d love to hear about it.


Categories: Gesture, Innovation


  1. ffolliet says:

    Interesting thought. In terms of “breaking free” from behind the podium, if one does have slides, and they can be useful sometimes, how would one counter this problem? There would be a need to keep circling back to the podium/rostrum/desk OR how about these little guys suggested by The Sensei (Garr Reynolds)?

    I do agree though as I have had to make a presentation with a remote in one hand and a microphone in the other. Not good

  2. Julie Howell says:

    Thank you, both for your comment and for this interesting list of clickers.

    I guess I would like (keep in mind my background is in tech solutions for disabled people) a solution that doesn’t involve holding something in my hand at all.

    A foot pedal maybe (works for guitarists) or something controlled by a very specific gesture (obviously general movement would not be a good idea!).

    When I speak, I don’t like to hold a clicker. Inevitably, I put it down somewhere and have to ask the audience whether they saw where I put it. ;-)

    I don’t know what the ideal solution is, but if it doesn’t involve hands at all and doesn’t break the flow of my presentation in any way, that would be amazing.


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