At TEDxNewYork, Will Stephen sounds smart saying nothing. It is virtuoso nonsense. The professional comedian has studied many, many presentations to figure out just what makes a speaker sound brilliant (hint: it has a lot to do with tone, gestures and pauses) — even if their message is not.
See the magic unfold in his talk:
Insight from the TEDx office — why we like this talk:
Comedy writer Will Stephens uses studied communication skills: He moves confidently. He shows humility. His timbre rises and falls. He shows simple visuals to punctuate shifts in topic. He carries the arc of an argument – from idea (nothing), to evidence (irrelevant data), to big surprises (the glasses), to a call to action (think about nothing). Aspiring speakers should take note.
But it’s worth noting that none of these lessons are really spelled out in this talk. To borrow from Stephen: We’re pulling something out of nothing here. Which points to another important lesson: When people sound smart, they compel us to conjure meaning, regardless of substance.
It’s an effect that has empowered con men of all kinds. Which is to say, we should watch well-polished talks (or read books and articles) with a skeptical eye. But we should also remember that when performance and substance do align, the format lends power to truth.
In any case, we like this talk because it’s funny.