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  • Writer's pictureTarun Kumar

Singularity of Purpose

Some people think that there's a formula for giving a Successful Talk, gulp it down and there you go.

If you are an aspiring speaker then TED talks are considered the platform for launching your speaking journey ……

"Give a talk on a round, red rug"

"Share a childhood story"

"Divulge a personal secret"

"End with an inspiring call to action"

That’s what we all have been asked to do

That's not how a talk should be always in my opinion. In fact, if you overuse these tactics, you're just going to come across as a clichéd or emotionally manipulative speaker.

But there is one thing that all great Talks have in common, and I would like to share that thing with you because over the past three decades, I've had a ringside seat, listening to many hundreds of amazing speakers including on this platform, and also taking the deep dive into what makes your talk tick click with the audience.

One thing that I realized was even though these speakers and their topics all seem completely different, they actually do have one key common ingredient. And that is the ability to transfer into your listeners' minds a piece of extraordinary information -- in a simple but relatable manner.

Let me share with you what I mean. In India, we have inter-state buses when they halt at a bus station the most eloquent, amazing, and inspiring salesperson enters the bus for the duration of the halt. That’s where I’ve heard the best elevator pitches. In fact, in our part of the world, you are considered a good salesperson if you can sell a comb or a hairbrush to a bald person. The interesting part is that this salesperson instills a need that you never thought existed, but now you feel you need it more than ever.

You must have been to one of the Ted talks if speaking is in your genes. Over the course of 14 - 18 minutes, a couple of thousands of people, many of whom have never seen each other before, are finding that their brains are starting to sync with the Speakers brain and also with others in the audience. They're literally beginning to exhibit the same brain-wave patterns, resonating with each other. And I don't just mean they're feeling the same emotions. There's something even more startling happening.

The entire environment, including the speaker, and audience, starts representing a singularity of purpose. And incredibly, this phenomenon is being recreated in real-time inside the minds of everyone listening. That's right; in just a couple of minutes, this Singular idea is being teleported into thousands of minds. How? Just by people listening to a voice and watching a face. Incredible isn’t it?

But wait -- what is Singularity of Purpose anyway? Well, you can think of it as a pattern of information that helps you understand and navigate through the world. How does that help in Speaking? Ideas come in all shapes and sizes, from the complex and analytical to the simple and aesthetic.

Your mind is teeming with ideas, and they're interlinked. These ideas create perceptions that are your personal worldview which helps you to understand concepts. You may call them the brain's operating system. They help you to get across the myriad world filled with complexities. And they help you to establish your own space – your singularity of purpose.

So, for example, if one little component of your worldview is the idea that puppies are adorable, then when you see one, you'll react with love & affection. But if another component of your worldview is the idea that Lions or Tigers are dangerous, then when you see or come across one, you'll react by exhibiting withdrawal. So, it's pretty obvious why the ideas that make up your worldview are crucial. You need them to be as reliable as possible -- a guide, to the scary but wonderful real world that we live in.

Now, different people's worldviews can be dramatically different. For example, how does your worldview react when you see the image of a woman in a Hijab (the veil)

What do you think when you look at her? "A woman of faith," "an expert," maybe even "a sister"? Or "oppressed," "brainwashed," "a terrorist"?

Whatever your answer, there are millions of people out there who would react very differently. So that's why ideas really matter because they lead to the formation of perceptions - your personal worldview. If communicated properly, they're capable of changing, forever, how someone thinks about the world, and shaping their actions both now and well into the future. Ideas are the most powerful force shaping human potential.

So if you accept that your number one task as a speaker is to build an idea inside the minds of your audience, here are four guidelines for how you should go about that task:

One, limit your talk to just one major idea. Ideas are complex things; you need to slash back your content so that you can focus on the single idea you're most passionate about, and give yourself a chance to explain that one thing properly. You have to give context, share examples, make it vivid. Your central theme runs through your entire talk so that everything you say links back to your Singularity of Purpose in some way.

Two, give your listeners a reason Why they should listen to you?. Before you can start building things inside the minds of your audience, you have to get their permission to welcome you in. And the main tool to achieve that? Curiosity. Stir your audience's curiosity. Use intriguing, provocative questions to identify why something doesn't make sense and needs explaining. If you can reveal a disconnection in someone's worldview, they'll feel the need to bridge that knowledge gap. And once you've sparked that desire, it will be so much easier to start building your Singularity of Purpose.

Three, build your purpose step by step, out of concepts that your audience already understands. You use the power of language to weave together concepts that already exist in your listeners' minds -- but not your language, their language. You start where they are. The speakers often forget that many of the terms and concepts they live with are completely unfamiliar to their audiences. Now, metaphors can play a crucial role in showing how the pieces fit together; based on an idea that the listener already understands.

For example, when this lady Jennifer Kahn wanted to explain the incredible new biotechnology called CRISPR, she said, "It's as if, for the first time, you had a word processor to edit DNA. CRISPR allows you to cut and paste genetic information really easily." Now, a vivid explanation like this is an aha moment as it makes understanding the concept easy. It's important, therefore, to test your talk on trusted friends, and find out which parts they get confused by.

Four, here's the final tip: Make your Purpose meaningful. By that I mean, ask yourself the question: "Who does this TALK benefit?" And I need you to be honest with the answer. If what you are going to TALK about only serves you or your organization, then, it's probably not worth sharing. But if you believe that the idea has the potential to brighten up someone else's day or change someone else's perspective for the better or inspire someone to do something differently, then you have the core ingredient to a truly great talk, one that can be a gift to them and to all of us. After all, you are in the business of speaking, your Singularity of Purpose is demystified.

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