There is no contention that many people fear speaking in public. There is a popular joke that, for many people, they would rather be in the casket than speaking at a funeral. In other words, they would rather be dead than find themselves speaking at a crowd of mourners.
To overcome this fear and spread ideas, an organisation known as TED screens and trains common people on public speaking, raising them to stardom.
The organisation holds this event in over 130 countries, some of them major, high-profile conferences while others are tiny and little-known.
For a few years now, Kenya has hosted annual TED talks. During this year’s meeting that took place last week at the Catholic University of East Africa, about two dozen finalists shared what TED organisers call “risky, quirky, fascinating” ideas in under six minutes. Finalists from this event will speak at the TED global conference in Tanzania later in the year.
TED stands for technology, entertainment, design. It is a non-profit media organisation started in 1984 that posts talks online for free distribution under the slogan: “Ideas worth sharing”.
The talks address a wide range of topics within the research and practice of science and culture, often through storytelling — in more than 110 languages.
Through the years, the conference has grown in attendance and scope of topics.
TURNING PEOPLE INTO STARS
The organisers are skilful at what they do, helping turn ordinary people into stars. They find, coach and provide a platform for people doing remarkable things, or who have big ideas that would never be recognised any other way.
The speakers are given 18 minutes to present their ideas in the most innovative and engaging ways they can. TED curator Chris Anderson enforced an 18-minute maximum length because it was “long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people’s attention.”
The presentations are delivered in front of live audiences at TED conferences. Every speaker has a professional understanding of some topic that makes presentations particularly informative, especially for viewers with certain interests and hobbies.
TED talks are not only informative, but often inspirational. The talks have surged in popularity because they are tailor-made for the social media age.
Slickly produced videos of TED talks are posted free online. The best talks — especially the ones with strong personal and emotional storylines — are shared on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
ATTRACTED TWO MILLION VIEWS
Some of the leading TED talks by Kenyans include one by Ms Kakenya Ntaiya, which has over 2.4 million views. In her story, Ms Ntaiya made a deal with her father to undergo traditional circumcision, on condition that he would let her go to high school.
Fearlessly, Ms Ntaiya tells her story of continuing on to college, and of working with village elders to build a school for girls in her community, changing the destiny of 125 young women.
Another story that has attracted over two million views is that of Mr Richard Turere, a Maasai herdsman. Mr Turere was tired of frequent attacks by lions, threatening to wipe away his herd. In this short, inspiring talk, the young inventor shares the idea of a solar-powered innovation he designed to safely scare the lions away.
If you are looking at honing public speaking skills, there is no doubt that attending TED events, or watching the recorded TED video clips, would be an important consideration. Last week, the participants got to see all the speakers in person. All the speeches will find their way into TED.com over the next few months.
Wambugu is an informatics specialist. Email: [email protected] @samwambugu2