Talk Like TED in Your Sales Pitch

By Lori Turner-Wilson

TED is a nonprofit committed to spreading ideas in the form of succinct yet powerful talks that are all 18 minutes or less – the ideal length of time to connect with and persuade viewers.

TED Talks have a distinct style – a formula that often results in spectacularly high levels of viewer engagement. This style is predicated on several guiding principles asked of TED Talk presenters, as outlined by Carmine Gallo in “Talk Like TED.”

Interestingly, these principles can just as easily be applied to a sales pitch as to a keynote. In fact, if done effectively, incorporating the TED style into your pitch will not only improve trust and grow the relationship with your prospect, but you’ll close more business.

“Unleash the master within.” Passion is contagious. Help your audience understand why you believe passionately in what you do, and they’re more likely to trust you. Prospects make buying decisions first based on emotion – which in large part relates to trust – and then they seek the rational justification for the decision they’ve made. Once trust is established, what you say next has built-in credibility.

“Master the art of storytelling.” It’s hard for people to engage if they can’t relate to what they’re saying, and narrative is a powerful way to relate and break down resistance. Next time you make a pitch, incorporate a well-placed story that reinforces your brand’s primary differentiators. Make your story so rich with imagery that your prospect can imagine being with you at the time.

“Have a conversation.” Prepare extensively for your sales meeting so that you ultimately internalize your content and can focus, in the moment, on just having a conversation with your prospect and engaging him, rather than on what you’re going to say next.

If you want your pitch to stand out from your competitors and remain on the minds of your prospect well after your sales meeting, Gallo recommends that you “deliver jaw-dropping moments.” Include an unexpected or shocking statistic, use props or a demo to showcase your offering, or incorporate pictures and video to reinforce your point.

“Lighten up.” Sales meetings are usually pretty predictable. Combine humor and a bit of novelty to make your audience more receptive to your message and to build rapport. Don’t tell jokes; just don’t take yourself so seriously. Consider a funny anecdote, personal story or observation related to your message, or share a funny analogy or metaphor.

There’s nothing like watching a TED Talk to see how to apply these principles. For a little inspiration, visit and search for “How Schools Kill Creativity.” You’ll see an everyday guy delivering the most persuasive, mind-shaping presentation of his life.

Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and CEO/Founder of RedRover, a sales training and marketing firm based in Memphis, You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (