INNOVATE

TED Speakers Use This Pro Trick to Instantly Improve Their Presentations

Got toes? Then you’re all set to use this odd but effective trick.

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BY Jessica Stillman - 11 Sep 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

If you want to improve your speaking skills, you can learn a lot from watching TED speakers. After all, the best among them are some of the most accomplished presenters around. But there might be an even better source of presentation wisdom out there -- those folks whose business it is to coach TED speakers to such heights of speaking skill.

The academics, athletes, musicians, and adventurers who grace TED's stage each year aren't all naturally gifted at holding a crowd's attention. Many of them need professional help to polish their talks and make their insights ultra compelling. TED speaker coach Bryn Freedman provides that help.

Last month she offered some of her wisdom at a speaker bootcamp in New York City. You'd have had to attend to learn all her tricks, but one Quartz journalist managed to preserve at least one simple but effective trick for all of those who weren't there. Weirdly, it involves your toes. Yes, your toes.

Like a monkey on a branch

The basic idea behind Freedman's trick is that a less fidgety presenter is a more compelling presenter. But if you're naturally nervous about speaking, how do you keep yourself from pacing, tapping, and otherwise distracting your audience with constant movement? Quart's Anne Quito reported Freedman's advice:

With feet about six inches apart, Freedman asked speakers to imagine curling their toes around a small branch. The task is imagine gripping the branch and keeping it from slipping for the duration of their presentation. This simple visualization centers the speaker and prevents them from moving their feet.

Could such a little trick actually work? "Of the many presentation pro-tips they learned that day, many cited Freedman's toe tip as the most useful," reports Quito, who talks to one formerly fidgeting software engineer who claims to have used the trick in real life and found that, despite its strangeness, it worked like magic.

If you're a natural fidgeter give it a try the next time you're speaking to a group and let us know how it goes in the comments.