Dan Pallotta is a humanitarian, author, speaker, social entrepreneur, and activist involved with countless charities. His focus is primarily on heath and human services causes. His TED2013 talk already has nearly 3 million views. In this post, I deconstruct the factors that make his talk so popular.
Tip 1: Share an idea worth spreading
The most powerful TED Talks generally have a single idea worth spreading. Having more than one tends to water down the message. However, Dan’s talk proves the exception to the rule by combining two intrinsically linked ideas where one is at the macro/societal level and the other is at the personal level.
a. (Macro/Societal) To scale charitable giving from 2% of GDP to 3% of GDP, focusing the resulting $150 billion increase on health & human services charities so that we can have real change
b. (Personal): To judge charities on the scale of their dreams, their progress, and their resources so that the not-for-profit sector can play a massive role on behalf of people in most desperate need
Tip 2: Build the narrative by raising and answering a series of questions
In How to Deliver a TED Talk, I outlined three structures for highly-effective presentations. One is the classical hero’s journey structure. The second is the inductive logic group which consists of an introduction, a series of supporting points that could be re-ordered without much loss of clarity, and a conclusion. Dan went with the third approach which I call a logic chain. A good way to spot a logic chain is that the speaker builds his or her narrative by raising and answering a series of questions that grow progressively more nuanced and profound.
|Ice Breaker||(1) I’m here to talk about social innovation and social entrepreneurship.||(2) I have triplets and am gay which is the most socially innovative thing I have done.|
|Introduction||(3) What we have been taught about the NFP sector is undermining the causes we love.||(none)|
|Part 1||(4) Does the NFP sector have a role to play in changing the world with the emergence of FP social business?||(5) FP sector is having a positive impact. But, NFP establishes a markets for laughter, compassion, and love (ex. Center for the Developmentally Disabled) that creates a world that works for everyone.|
|Part 2||(6) But why is the NFP sector struggling to affect change in cancer, homelessness, poverty?||(7) The NFP rulebook is broken in 5 ways:
a.Incentive compensation viewed as parasitic, so top MBAs stay away
b.Paid advertising viewed as wasteful overhead
c.Risk-taking is punished by reputation destruction
d.NFPs face expectation of instant (time) return-on-investment.
e. NFPs have no access to capital markets so few NFPs have achieved scale
|Part 3||(8) Why do we impose these restrictions on NFP sector?||(9) Charity was way for Puritans to do penance at 5 cents on the dollar for their profit-seeking behavior. In 400 years, nothing has intervened to change this.|
|Part 4||(10) How does this ideology get policed today?||(11) “This ideology gets policed by the question, ‘What percentage of my donation goes to the cause versus overhead?’” We confuse morality with frugality.|
|Conclusion||(12a) To scale charitable giving from 2% of GDP to 3% of GDP, focusing the resulting $150 billion increase on health & human services charities so that we can drive real change
(12b) To assess charities on the scale of their dreams, their progress, and their resources so that the NFP sector can play a massive role on behalf of those most desperately in need
(Note: NFP = Not-For-Profit; FP=For-Profit)
Tip 3: Expose your passion and your emotion
Every speaker has a persona. The more their on-stage persona matches their off-stage persona, the more powerful the talk. For the majority of his talk, Dan’s (genuine) tone is a thoughtful and concerned humanitarian. At 14:45, his tone intensifies (genuinely) to outraged activist when he says, “On one day, all 350 of our great employees lost their jobs (pause to compose himself) because they were labeled as overhead.”
At 17:20, he makes one more (genuine) tone shift to hopeful visionary when he says, “The next time you are looking at a charity, don’t ask about the rate of their overhead. Ask about the scale of their dreams, their Apple, Google, Amazon scale dreams, how they measure their progress toward those dreams, and what resources they need to make them come true regardless of what the overhead is…”
Tip 4: Stay contextually relevant at all time
Dan’s talk is extremely powerful, but I have one tiny nit to pick. Everything inside a talk should be contextually relevant to the idea worth spreading. I am not a big fan of Ice-breakers at the beginning of talks. They can work when they bridge the content of previous speakers to a new theme as Ken Robinson did in the beginning of his TED Talk.
At the beginning of his talk, Dan built rapport with his audience by introducing the audience to a photo of his children; but, in hindsight, his personal life did not have strong contextual relevance to the rest of his material. Additionally, at the end of his talk, Dan used a video to ‘call-back’ his lovely children who said, “That would be a real social innovation.” To me, this ending felt formulaic and took away from the momentum he built. While his kids are cute and touching, I did not feel they belonged in this talk – they might have been an effective addition if he were talking mainly about children’s charities.
Again, this was a small nit and other viewers could easily argue that his icebreaker and video clip ending were clever and emotionally effective. Either way, his powerful talk earned him a standing ovation and, more importantly, will drive critical change in charitable giving.