Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a prolific Nigerian writer whose works range from novels to short stories to nonfiction. She delivered a TED talk which was uploaded on TEDx platform on October 16 2019. The talk is titled: The Danger Of A Single Story.
My intention is to briefly explain what Chimamanda did right and what she didn’t quite do right in that presentation. Kindly watch the video to understand better.
Chimamanda did a lot of things right in that presentation.
First – she had a good story. Storytelling is a powerful public speaking tool and Chimamanda was able to use it effectively in the presentation to drive her point home and paint memorable pictures in the mind of the audience.
Secondly — she had a clear structure which her speech followed. Although the speech was written and somewhat read to the audience, it was very organized and the flow was smooth and effortless on her part. I must say, Chimamanda studied her materials so well and she did a good job of presenting it with ease.
Another thing is that Chimamanda had a sense of humor which was evident in her presentation. She told stories that the audience found funny and she allows them to have some chuckles while she speaks. Humor is a crucial technique in public speaking. What makes Chimamanda’s humor even more interesting is that they were not particularly jokes she told. They were real life events that many found rather funny.
Chimamanda choose content over style and that was a terrible step in public speaking.
She had a very important message, garnished with very interesting stories. But one thing she missed though is the skill to engage the audience, make her presence felt, create a lively atmosphere and make her presentation even more interesting.
First — she had zero to no hand gestures. She kept her hands on the lectern throughout her presentation.
In public speaking hand gestures are essential in projecting your message. 55% of meaning is driven by body language, 33 by tonality and only 7% by words.
Chimamanda could have done better if she stood out from the lectern and spoke to the audience in a way that they can connect with her and not just with her notes.
Secondly — she didn’t use her stage well.
There was little to no body movement of her on stage. In public speaking movement is very essential as it adds warmth to your presentation and increases your overall presence on stage.
Chimamanda stood on one spot throughout her presentation. She has the message but there was no warmth, vibe or presence on stage because she stood in one spot for the most part.
Chimamanda’s dress to the TEDx event was nothing to write home about. When you have the opportunity to speak in a huge event like TED you’re expected to make efforts to get most things right and that includes your dressing.
Speakers must dress to represent or communicate. It remains very unclear how much her dressing to that event says about her as a mother, an African, a thought leader or an international writer.
Obviously, Chimamanda is more of a writer than a speaker. She could use some public speaking coaching to help her improve on the art of public speaking.
Content without skill is sabotage.
You can have both content (knowledge) and skills (presentation techniques).
Learn from the good she did and abstain from the bad and ugly as well.