Structuring a Presentation | Case Study: Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk

For a TED talk, presenters are given a maximum slot of 18 minutes to share their message with the world. 

Some choose to present without slides. 

For example, Sir Ken Robinson delivered a very inspiring speech on education without the use of any slides. He felt that his talk didn’t require any visual aids, so instead of using slides as a crutch (which is what most mediocre presenters do) he gave his talk without them. 

The Problem / Solution Speech Structure

The problem/solution structure is a powerful speech structure. 

You open with an attention-grabbing opening which highlights the problem. You then transition into the body of the speech where you establish the extent of the problem and describe the consequences of not solving it. 

Once you’ve built up enough pain and have your audience members craving a solution, you present your solution. You explain how it will help alleviate the pain and offer the advantages of the solution. 

In your conclusion, you restate the problem and the consequences of not solving it. You remind them of the advantages of your solution and end with a clear call to action urging audience members to support your solution. 

In his fascinating TED talk, Sir Ken Robinson uses a loose version of the problem/solution structure. 

For example, most of his speech focuses on the problem with the current educational system. Here’s a paragraph from the first half of his speech: 

“…it’s education that’s meant to take us into this future that we can’t grasp. If you think of it, children starting school this year will be retiring in 2065. Nobody has a clue – despite all the expertise that’s been on parade for the past four days – what the world will look like in five years’ time. And yet we’re meant to be educating them for it.” 

Only after having completely explained the problem does Sir Ken present the solution. 

In your speeches and presentations, make you sure you never present the solution without first having built up the pain/problem. 

People don’t care about a solution unless the pain is excruciating enough for them to feel an urgent need to find a cure.

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