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Anatomy of an Inspiring Speaker: Ken Robinson – “Do schools kill creativity?”

Ginger Leadership Communications

Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson is celebrated as the standard to which all TED Talks are held. Robinson is an internationally recognized leader in education, innovation, creativity and human resources. His three TED Talks have been viewed an amazing 21.5 million times, making him the most viewed speaker on Ken’s first talk “Do schools kill creativity?“, remains the most viewed of all TED Talks so far. Downloaded over 20 million times from all platforms in over 150 countries, it still continues to be downloaded about 10,000 times a day from the TED site.

But why? Why is it that we (and the rest of the world) can watch this talk again and again and still love it? As public speaking expert Sarah Lloyd-Hughes analyzes Sir Ken Robinson, we’ll see just why he is the most popular TED speaker of all time.

1. No movement, yet captivating

As a child Robinson had Polio, as a result he stands in one spot. He manages to engage the audience through words rather than movement. He is the polar opposite of another speaker we’ve analyzed, Anthony Robbins. If you look at the “rules” of public speaking you hear you have to move to create energy. Ken Robinson’s speech shows that to be untrue. He captures the audience without moving… at all. Even if you’re not mobile you can still enthrall your audience and create a specific atmosphere by taking them on an emotional journey.

2. Understated power

Robinson is actually a very confident man, captured in his opening line. There’s something so charming and warm about the way he talks to his audience. He’s not a pushy speaker, instead of chasing and pursuing the audience through excitement, he leans back and relaxes while telling wonderfully engaging stories. This makes the audience want to lean in and listen closely, with an almost intimate feeling.

3. Settled & self accepting

It’s very normal for a speaker to be nervous, most of us ARE nervous when we’re presenting because we don’t fully accept ourselves. Whether we tell ourselves we’re not the right shape or size or that we don’t know enough, we always focus on our imagined deficiencies when we speak. Ken Robinson clearly is cool with himself on a basic level. Negative self talk just doesn’t seem like something Ken Robinson experiences. He doesn’t look around and say “Wow I’m at a TED conference… I should be nervous!” He just does his thing without comparing himself to all the other speakers, marching about on stage. Robinson just stands there and is in complete acceptance of himself. Staying away from statistics and justifications for his viewpoint, he just presents his narrative thread by storytelling. His speaking comes across in an incredibly informal, spontaneous, enthralling way.

4. Amazing insights

Sir Ken Robinson is so appealing because he’s so fresh. It’s very unusual to speak of education through the eyes of a student, a child’s eye view. Yet he brings us a combination of a child’s perspective mixed in with our own. He helps us to laugh at the way we see the world.

5. Persuades through humour

The main reason this particular speech is so powerful is humour. He allows us to see the lightness and the joy of the situation. People learn better when there are endorphins present. And one of the main triggers of endorphins is laughter. By laughing at and with his jokes, we are more likely to remember and pass on his message than if he just gave basic scientific facts.

6. Brings subject to life through human stories

Robinson uses masterful timing and pacing, utilizing perfect pauses to allow the audience to think. Without needing to overdo it, he uses personal examples to bring humor to his cause. Using the example of what Shakespeare would have been like as an English student created an air of informality and humor but still illuminated his point. Utilizing incredible tonality and storytelling techniques, he charms his way into the psyche of the audience, bringing them closer and more engaged in his subject.

You can see Ken’s other amazing presentations on  and read more from him on his blog

Ginger Leadership Communications

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