NATE2017 | David Evans. Confident Connections With TED TALKS | Talk summary

Posted: June 2, 2017 in Conferences

David Evans gave a great keynote at the NATE conference in Moscow yesterday, in which he suggested that teaching has a lot in common with public speaking, overview research into what makes TED speakers good communicators, and suggested ideas how teachers can benefit from this research. He is an absolutely amazing speaker who got the audience roar with laughter and no talk summary can do his talk justice, but still here are my notes. 

Abstract Public speakers and teachers have much in common. The both need to be able to command attention and engage with an audience, while putting their points across in a simple and compelling way. But the real key to success in both fields is to remember that it’s not just what you say, but the ways that you say it. So, in this keynote talk David Evans draws on research into what makes a successful TED speaker and applies those lessons to the classroom. He will discuss the importance of body language and talk about how we can control it. He will suggest ways of using voice and gesture more effectively, as well as proposing some ideas for overcoming nerves and boosting confidence. He will also draw on exmples from the courses Keynote and 21st Century Reading, both produced by National Geographic Learning in association with TED talks.

David Evans started by making a point that TED talks are wonderful examples of communication and a lot of research has been done on what makes TED speakers fantastic communicators. In his keynote talk, David Evans wants to explore some of these insights and how they can be applied to teaching.

confident connections

He started out with told a story that exemplifies that it’s not what you say – it’s the way that you say it.  In this story high school girls were making a mess in the restroom by applying lipstick and leaving lipstick marks on the mirror. The school headmistress addressed the girls twice ordering them to stop, but this didn’t work. Then she showed them how the mirrors were cleaned with the water from the toilets, and not a single lipstick mark appeared on the mirrors again.

The way that we say things is incredibly important. And yet as teachers we often spend a lot of time thinking about the content of what you’re going to talk about, but spend far less time thinking how we’re going to say that.

Here are aspects that are very important to the impression we make on our audience, whether we are giving a talk or a lesson:

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First impressions

First impressions are important. And they’re important not only the first time. Every time you walk into the classroom, you’re making an important first impression: the learners assess what mood you’re in today and what to expect from you and the lesson today. It is possible to change a first impressions, but it’s really difficult.

How long to you have to make a first impression? Researchers into TED talks discovered that people have the same opinion 7 seconds into the talk as they have at the end of the talk. If at the beginning of the lesson you appear unprepared and students think, ‘What an idiot’, it’s going to be difficult to turn this into a good lesson!

Factors important in terms of creating first impressions?

Body language 

Posture. To control the class and command the room you need to make yourself appear big i.e. standing up straight, using your voice properly, breathing correctly. If we appear small, we look submissive and like we don’t want to be in control.

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Controlling the space that we have. If you’re too still, you will appear boring. But fidgeting is distracting too – this is bad too, so balance is important.

Facial expressions are extremely important because of so-called mirror neurons because the people listening to us subconsciously ‘recreate’ our facial expressions.

Here’s a 3 minute extract from David’s talk in which he demonstrated what effect our facial expressions make on the people listening to us:

Then David showed this video which exemplifies that to an extent, we listen with our eyes:

Smile

David maintains that we love Mona Lisa because she’s smiling and that’s unusual in a work of art. One reason for the absence of smiling is that models were encouraged not to smile: in the past, when people smiled and you could see their teeth, which were either missing or black! As teachers, we might tend to think that teaching is ‘a serious business’ and we’re not in class to smile. The TED research discovered that the more the presenter smiles, the more intelligent they think the presenter is. So if you want your class to think you’re clever, smile at them!

Voice

The voice is extremely important.
Correct posture makes sure we breathe properly, which is important for our voice. Another thing to think about is resonance. You need to get resonance using the whole front part of your body. You need to feel your voice in your chest, not only throat and/or face. Another important factor is variety – according TED research, particularly in terms of establishing the speaker’s charisma. British people use enormous variety – the pitch goes up and down and slow and fast. Russians, for instance, sound ‘on a level’.

A few TED talks that David recommended:

  • The Hidden Power of Smiling (Ron Gutman)
  • The Neurons That Shaped Civilisation (Vilayanur Ramachandran)
  • How to speak so that people want to listen.
  • Your body may shape who you are by Amy Cuddy

Amy Cuddy says don’t look protective (placing your hand on your face/neck), avoid hand-hiding, etc. However, this is not the most important. Our body language can change our brains: the way we stand or sit changes the way our brains work. When we stand in a dominant way, testosterone is released into your brain. These hormones stay in your brain for quite a while – and you can change them by the way you position your body.

If you you have a class that you dread, David Evans recommends that you find a free classroom,  stand there in a ‘wonder woman’ for two minutes and in the few seconds of your lessons your students will know not to mess with you. Your colleagues will think that you’re absolutely mad, but you’re an English teacher, so they know that already.

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As I mentioned at the beginning, this was a great and inspiring talk, and I actually enjoyed this talk exploring research into TED even more than the actual TED talks, which says something! The talk was filmed and apparently the recording will be available to NATE members. 

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