The TED Commandments: Aiding Local Government Reporting to Council


We’ve all spent time online watching TED Talks while the world’s greatest innovators, leaders and dreamers give impassioned talks on their field of expertise. For those that don’t know, TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design and it highlights inspiring presentations organized by skilled orators.

TED and Local Government

The TED conference sends all future speakers a stone plaque with the following “TED Commandments” inscribed on them. These rules can be adapted to many areas, however, the focus here will be on how they apply to local government and more specifically in reporting to Council, committees, etc.

1. Thou Shalt Not Simply Trot Out thy Usual Shtick:

Challenge yourself to present new topics, change it up and adopt a new approach for your next Council or Board meeting.

2. Thou Shalt Dream a Great Dream, or Show Forth a Wondrous New Thing, Or Share Something Thou Hast Never Shared Before:

Embrace big ideas. Share not only what you know, but what you dream of. Evaluate day-to-day processes. If it works, it’s quite possibly worth sharing and inviting discussion to make it even better.

3. Thou Shalt Reveal Thy Curiosity and Thy Passion:

Own your presentation and the room will follow. You may be at a monthly department meeting or in front of Council, but you likely have a keen interest in the subject. Show what you know! If you’re truly passionate about the it, all the better. Share your enthusiasm as well as your expertise.

4. Thou Shalt Tell a Story:

Speaking to other’s emotions, regardless of the audience, will create fertile ground for empathy. The story may be about yourself or someone else, just ensure that its compelling.

5. Thou Shalt Freely Comment on the Utterances of Other Speakers for the Sake of Blessed Connection and Exquisite Controversy:

Fear not controversy. Add your opinions to forums and platforms and explore opposing opinions and add your own if you have them. There is inherent value within every controversy. 

6. Thou Shalt Not Flaunt thine Ego. Be Thou Vulnerable. Speak of thy Failure as well as thy Success:

No matter what you do, no one wants to hear about how wonderful you are. If you’ve learned from your mistakes, someone else may too. Be genuine, be human and have empathy.

7. Thou Shalt Not Sell from the Stage: Neither thy Company, thy Goods, thy Writings, nor thy Desperate need for Funding; Lest Thou be Cast Aside into Outer Darkness:

Desperation is never a good strategy when fundraising. The strongest messages are often the most subtle.

8. Thou Shalt Remember all the while: Laughter is Good:

Laughter is still the best medicine. But the best laughter is when we learn to laugh at ourselves. Self-deprecating humor relaxes the people and sets the tone for more engaged audiences. Also, respect the fact that misguided humor can be taken the wrong way. The best humor does not insight controversy and is always in good taste. Run your ideas by a colleague before you proceed to help you save face, and possibly your job!

9. Thou Shalt Not Read thy Speech:

Don’t. Read. Your. Slides. Worse yet, never turn your back to your audience to read part of your presentation. Do you remember the last presentation that you attended when the speaker read slides or turned their back on you? Were you engaged? Likely not. Slides are best used as visual cues.

10. Thou Shalt Not Steal the Time of Them that Follow Thee:

Make your presentation memorable with your passion and knowledge. Give Council one big thing they won’t forget one week or one month later. Less is more. 

So what does this all mean for local government administrators?

Being an engaging and successful speaker in front of Council or at a TED conference is not that different. There are some simple rules within the TED Commandments which everyone should take note of: stick to the topic, don't read your slides and try injecting a little laughter.

Be yourself, be open and be honest. You may not necessarily be selling anything per se, but no matter what you're presenting you’re still selling. Building trusting relaitonships is essential.