Why Was Sir Ken Roboinson’s TED Talk So Good?

In 2006 Sir Ken Robinson delivered the most popular TED Talk of all-time (90M+ views). I’ve always wanted to understand WHY it was so good so I tried to figure out why.

It turns out that the reason it worked was that it followed some very basic rules that Aristotle wrote in 335BC.

So, here’s my notes and 6 things to remember the next time you’re delivering a big presentation. (They’re ALL important but 6 is my favourite).

1. The 19 minute talk was broken down into a simple 3 act structure. i) Be prepared to fail – ii) Why education fails – iii) How to not fail in the future.

2. Even though this was a serious academic talk about educational reform, Sir Ken resisted the temptation to fill his talk with numbers. (He only used 2 stats in the entire talk).

3. He made the audience laugh every 29 seconds. (As a professor he understood that the quickest way to make someone remember something is to make them laugh.

4. He told 8 stories averaging just 2 mins 5 seconds each. (Harvard’s MBA programe estimates this is roughly the attention span of the average executive).

5. Sir Ken leveraged Aristotle’s rhetorical appeals of persuasion: Pathos (emotion & values), Logos (reason & proof), Ethos (personal credibility & trust), Kairos (urgent action).

6. He didn’t use PowerPoint.