A Million Inspirations

by Phil Waknell

Four years ago, my talk at TEDxSaclay, The 3 Magic Ingredients of Amazing Presentations, was published on YouTube and then on TED.com. It’s now been viewed by a million people, which seems significant, until you think that any kind of cheap TV game show in a medium-sized country will reach more than that in a minute. It took me four years.

But then I also happened to look back this weekend on some excellent talks by well-known speakers from four or more years ago. How many views? Just a few hundred. So maybe a million isn’t such a small achievement.

I’ve always been a believer in quality rather than quantity, though. I’d rather have my talk viewed by one social entrepreneur or climate-change scientist who can benefit from it, than a thousand retirees who are grateful never to have to give another presentation, and would probably get more from the cheap TV game show anyway.

So in this article, I’d like to look back at some of the comments and reactions I’ve received – the good, the bad, the funny, the odd…

There was the headteacher in a township in South Africa who politely asked if his school could teach the Audience Transformation Roadmap (ATR) to their pupils.

There was the teacher in Japan who used it with teenagers, helping to turn one shy boy into a prizewinning presenter.

And just this weekend, a startup entrepreneur who started using the ATR to build a killer pitch, and reached out to thank me. Feedback like that makes it all worthwhile. And it does come in regularly, usually on LinkedIn.

For the first time in a while, I took a look at the comments on YouTube, which are sometimes painful but often gratifying. Let me share a few here, together with some of my comments and reactions.

First, the good.

This information is phenomenal! People pay thousands of dollars for this level of consulting. Phil Waknell is my hero.

It’s true, people do pay this much. Why give away this methodology? Because our mission is to help people to communicate, not to make money. I’m a firm believer that if you focus on making a positive contribution to the world, the clients will come anyway.

Quite awesome and mind blowing.

This is excellent, excellent advice.

I find endless pleasure by watching this presentation.

I wonder how many of the million views were this last commenter who just keeps coming back for more! But seriously, giving people a presentation they enjoy is half the battle, because at least they listen attentively, and you have a chance to achieve your objectives.

You made me watch till the end.

Yes, keeping people’s attention should be a primary objective of any presentation!

But then, the bad.

I got bored and had a hard time paying attention.

You can’t please everyone – that’s the first rule of presenting. Of course I’d love it if everyone felt I were their hero, but that’s just not possible. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and given that young people are now used to TikTok and Instagram reels, this is frankly a long talk to pay attention to, but I wanted to share the ATR and this was the fastest and least boring way I found to do so.

This video is a bit long to show to teenagers, but the ideas inside of it are SUPER potent. The ATR is a magical tool. Thanks for sharing!

Not really a negative comment, but it does make the point that 14 minutes can be long for teenagers nowadays. As it happens, I rehearsed this talk for 12 minutes, and I didn’t actually say more than I had planned – I just spoke more slowly on stage, because the technical team failed to start the countdown timer, meaning I had no idea whether I was on schedule or not. I wasn’t. But I have also had feedback from non-native speakers of English who are grateful I spoke that slowly. Anyhow, even 12 minutes would be too long for many teenagers. Who’d be a schoolteacher?

He is so monotone damn

Ouch! Perhaps the first time I’ve been called monotonous. On the advice of my coach (yes, even presentation specialists have coaches!), I actually toned down my usual quite exuberant and energetic presenting style for this talk. Maybe too much?

No kidding, this is one of the worst TED talks I have ever watched.

Double ouch! Well, you can’t please everyone. Tastes are different anyway. I loved my father but a good gauge for music or movies I might like was that he hated them, and I think my kids feel the same way. It’s also entirely possible that people commenting didn’t watch till the end – if I hated a video, I probably wouldn’t get to the end either. But everyone is entitled to dislike anything, so we just have to accept the rough with the smooth.

The magic wand was kind of embarrassing and senseless.

It probably was! It would have been better if the cameras had caught a better angle of me throwing it away. That’s the first and last time I’ve used a magic wand on stage in any case, and if I were to do the same talk today there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have used the wand (or many of the slides), but hey, the talk had “magic” in the title, and it’s just a little something to make the talk different and memorable. I’ve done other talks with a Christmas tree and with hundreds of balloons, and most likely somebody found them useless too. Such is life!

Next, the odd.

His suit is one of the few suits that really look perfect.

I wasn’t angling for comments on my suit, but thanks!

Everyone else: this will help me thanks!

Me: this would have helped if I saw it before I failed yesterday.

I feel sorry that this person saw the talk too late – but I hope they didn’t fail again.

Sir that was boring and did not help me for my case presentation…. or my attention span is effed

Not sure whether to laugh or cry. Perhaps both statements are true!

And finally, the gold.

The gold is not just people saying the talk is fantastic or they love the Audience Transformation Roadmap (or my suit). The gold is feedback from people who have actually used it, or even better, shared it.

I have used this once for a presentation and it was the most interactive and engaging presentation I have given. I am back here today because I am preparing for an even bigger presentation. Thank you Sir.

You’re welcome! And did that even bigger presentation go well?

So I have an update, I used it for the bigger presentation in front of 500 people online, and I got some great feedback. The audience understood and agreed with the content. This video is gonna improve a lot of bad presentations.

That’s a big online audience! And hopefully 500 people who’ve seen a great presentation and will raise the bar for their own presentations.

My Boss shared this in our team meeting, and I’m so glad she did.

I’m very happy if managers are using this and sharing it with their teams. Most businesses waste so much time on poor presentations, so if we can fix that, we can improve the working experience as well as deliver better results.

My professor made me watch this video, and now I really feel transformed.

It’s also great if teachers can share this. I heard from a friend that his son’s a business school in the Netherlands put my talk on the syllabus as required viewing. (Would have been nice to hear that from the school, but hey!) My friend’s son saw me and thought: “Hey! I know him!”

Great presentation. I shared this with so many friends. Love from Indonesia

And of course, you can share it with friends too. A successful TED(x) talk is one that you not only watch till the end, but that you then decide to share with others. I’ve shared many over the years, and I’m happy if some people share mine. It’s also wonderful to reach people in countries I’ve never visited, and I’m sad to say I haven’t (yet) visited Indonesia.

One more thing…

“I haven’t failed, I just haven’t succeeded yet” is my new mantra.

It’s a good mantra. And I still haven’t succeeded in ridding the world of bad presentations, despite hitting a million views on this talk, writing a bestselling book, training thousands of professionals and entrepreneurs, and working on customer presentations and teaching at business schools for 14 years now.

But they say that the aim of a leader is not to produce followers, but to produce more leaders. So my hope is that some of the million viewers of this talk will not only use it to deliver better presentations, but also inspire others to transform their own presentations, and then together we can truly make a difference.