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How to Analyze a Ted Talk (+ Examples)

Ted Talk Analysis
A TED Talk rhetorical analysis is an examination of a TED Talk presentation to understand and evaluate the persuasive techniques and strategies used by the speaker to convey their message effectively to the audience. Rhetorical analysis is a common approach used in communication, literature, and public speaking courses to dissect and evaluate the elements of persuasion and communication in a speech or presentation.

Key Steps

Here are the key steps involved in conducting a TED Talk rhetorical analysis:

  1. Select a TED Talk: Choose a TED Talk that you want to analyze. Make sure it’s a talk that interests you and has some persuasive or informative content.
  2. Watch the Talk: Carefully watch the TED Talk from start to finish, paying close attention to the speaker’s delivery, content, and overall message.
  3. Identify the Speaker’s Purpose: Determine the speaker’s main purpose or goal in delivering the talk. Are they trying to persuade, inform, entertain, inspire, or provoke a specific action from the audience?
  4. Analyze the Speaker’s Credibility: Consider the speaker’s qualifications, expertise, and credibility in the subject matter. How does their background enhance their ethos (credibility) in the eyes of the audience?
  5. Examine the Audience: Who is the target audience for the TED Talk? How does the speaker tailor their message to connect with and engage the audience? Consider demographic factors, interests, and values of the audience.
  6. Analyze the Rhetorical Appeals:
    • Ethos: Evaluate how the speaker establishes credibility and trustworthiness. Look for evidence of their expertise, experience, and character.
    • Pathos: Examine how the speaker appeals to the emotions of the audience. Identify emotional stories, anecdotes, or examples used to create an emotional connection.
    • Logos: Assess the use of logic and reasoning in the talk. Are there data, statistics, facts, or logical arguments presented to support the speaker’s claims?
  7. Examine Rhetorical Devices: Look for specific rhetorical devices such as metaphors, similes, analogies, anecdotes, humor, and repetition. These devices can enhance the impact of the message.
  8. Evaluate Structure and Organization: Analyze how the talk is structured. Is there a clear introduction, body, and conclusion? How does the speaker transition between ideas and maintain the audience’s interest?
  9. Assess Delivery: Consider the speaker’s tone, body language, gestures, and vocal delivery. How do these elements contribute to the overall effectiveness of the talk?
  10. Reflect on Visual Aids: If the TED Talk includes visual aids (slides, props, videos), evaluate how they are used to enhance understanding and engagement.
  11. Conclude and Summarize: Provide an overall assessment of the effectiveness of the TED Talk in achieving its intended purpose. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the rhetorical strategies employed.

Remember to back up your analysis with specific examples from the talk. Quote or reference key moments in the presentation to illustrate your points.


Here are examples of TED Talks, along with a breakdown of some key components for each, as part of a rhetorical analysis:

  1. “The Power of Vulnerability” by Brené Brown
    • Speaker’s Purpose: Brené Brown’s purpose is to convince the audience of the importance of embracing vulnerability to lead more fulfilling lives.
    • Speaker’s Credibility: Brown is a research professor known for her work on vulnerability and shame, establishing her expertise in the subject.
    • Rhetorical Appeals:
      • Ethos: Brown’s credibility is bolstered by her research, which she references throughout the talk.
      • Pathos: Brown shares personal anecdotes and stories to connect with the audience emotionally.
      • Logos: She supports her claims with data from her research.
    • Rhetorical Devices: Brown uses humor, relatable stories, and metaphors (e.g., “armor”) to make her points.
    • Structure and Organization: The talk is well-structured with a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. Brown transitions smoothly between ideas.
    • Delivery: Her delivery is engaging, and her passion for the topic is evident.
  2. “The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    • Speaker’s Purpose: Adichie aims to highlight the danger of stereotypes and the need for diverse narratives.
    • Speaker’s Credibility: Adichie is a renowned author, making her credible to speak about the impact of storytelling.
    • Rhetorical Appeals:
      • Ethos: Adichie’s background as an African author lends credibility to her perspective.
      • Pathos: She shares personal experiences and emotional stories to connect with the audience.
      • Logos: Adichie uses examples and anecdotes to logically demonstrate the consequences of a single story.
    • Rhetorical Devices: Adichie employs vivid storytelling, anecdotes, and repetition to emphasize her points.
    • Structure and Organization: The talk has a clear structure with a beginning, middle, and end. The progression of examples is well-organized.
    • Delivery: Adichie’s delivery is articulate and passionate.
  3. “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” by Simon Sinek
    • Speaker’s Purpose: Sinek’s purpose is to inspire leaders to rethink their approach to leadership and communication.
    • Speaker’s Credibility: Sinek is a leadership expert and author.
    • Rhetorical Appeals:
      • Ethos: Sinek’s expertise in leadership lends credibility to his message.
      • Pathos: He uses compelling stories and examples to evoke emotions in the audience.
      • Logos: Sinek presents the “Golden Circle” model as a logical framework to support his argument.
    • Rhetorical Devices: Sinek employs repetition (e.g., “Start with Why”) and visual aids to reinforce his message.
    • Structure and Organization: The talk is structured around the concept of the Golden Circle, which provides a clear framework for the audience to follow.
    • Delivery: Sinek’s delivery is confident and persuasive.
  4. “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” by Amy Cuddy
    • Speaker’s Purpose: Cuddy’s purpose is to convince the audience of the power of body language in shaping confidence and behavior.
    • Speaker’s Credibility: Cuddy is a social psychologist, lending expertise to her message.
    • Rhetorical Appeals:
      • Ethos: Cuddy’s background in psychology adds credibility to her claims.
      • Pathos: She shares personal stories and anecdotes that resonate emotionally with the audience.
      • Logos: Cuddy presents research findings and data to support her argument.
    • Rhetorical Devices: Cuddy uses vivid language and relatable stories to engage the audience.
    • Structure and Organization: The talk has a clear structure with an introduction, body, and conclusion. Cuddy’s personal transformation story serves as a powerful hook.
    • Delivery: Cuddy’s delivery is passionate, and her famous “power pose” demonstration adds impact.
  5. “The Mathematics of Love” by Hannah Fry
    • Speaker’s Purpose: Fry’s purpose is to explore the mathematical principles behind romantic relationships.
    • Speaker’s Credibility: Fry is a mathematician, lending credibility to her discussion of mathematical models in relationships.
    • Rhetorical Appeals:
      • Ethos: Fry’s expertise in mathematics supports her argument.
      • Logos: She uses mathematical models and data to logically analyze and explain aspects of love and relationships.
    • Rhetorical Devices: Fry employs humor, relatable examples, and storytelling to make complex concepts accessible.
    • Structure and Organization: The talk is structured around different aspects of love, and each section is well-organized.
    • Delivery: Fry’s delivery is engaging and accessible, making mathematical concepts approachable.
  6. “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer
    • Speaker’s Purpose: Amanda Palmer’s purpose is to challenge societal norms around asking for help and to promote the idea of “connection through asking.”
    • Speaker’s Credibility: Palmer is a musician and artist known for her unconventional approach to crowdfunding and fan engagement.
    • Rhetorical Appeals:
      • Ethos: Palmer’s personal experiences and success stories with crowdfunding demonstrate her credibility.
      • Pathos: She shares emotional stories and personal anecdotes that create a strong emotional connection with the audience.
      • Logos: Palmer uses logic and reasoning to explain how asking can foster meaningful connections.
    • Rhetorical Devices: The talk includes storytelling, vivid descriptions, and examples from her own life and career.
    • Structure and Organization: The talk follows a narrative structure, starting with personal anecdotes and building toward a broader message.
    • Delivery: Palmer’s delivery is passionate, and her connection with the audience is palpable.
  7. “The Power of Introverts” by Susan Cain
    • Speaker’s Purpose: Susan Cain aims to advocate for the value of introverts in a world that often celebrates extroverted traits.
    • Speaker’s Credibility: Cain is an author and researcher, specializing in introversion and its effects on society.
    • Rhetorical Appeals:
      • Ethos: Cain’s expertise in the subject matter establishes her credibility.
      • Logos: She presents research findings and logical arguments to support her claims.
      • Pathos: Cain shares personal stories and anecdotes to help the audience empathize with introverts.
    • Rhetorical Devices: Cain uses anecdotes, quotations, and vivid language to engage the audience.
    • Structure and Organization: The talk is organized with a clear introduction, body, and conclusion, providing a balanced view of introversion.
    • Delivery: Cain’s delivery is thoughtful and compelling.
  8. “The Hidden Influence of Social Networks” by Nicholas Christakis
    • Speaker’s Purpose: Nicholas Christakis seeks to demonstrate how social networks affect our lives and decisions.
    • Speaker’s Credibility: Christakis is a sociologist and physician, known for his research on social networks.
    • Rhetorical Appeals:
      • Ethos: His background as a researcher lends credibility to his arguments.
      • Logos: Christakis presents data and research findings to logically explain the impact of social networks.
      • Pathos: He uses examples and stories to illustrate the emotional connections within social networks.
    • Rhetorical Devices: Christakis uses visuals, diagrams, and relatable examples to engage the audience.
    • Structure and Organization: The talk is structured around the influence of social networks on various aspects of our lives.
    • Delivery: Christakis delivers his talk with clarity and authority.
  9. “The Hidden Influence of Trust” by Rachel Botsman
    • Speaker’s Purpose: Rachel Botsman’s purpose is to explore how trust works in the modern world, especially in the context of technology and sharing economies.
    • Speaker’s Credibility: Botsman is an expert on trust, reputation systems, and the sharing economy.
    • Rhetorical Appeals:
      • Ethos: Botsman’s expertise in trust and technology enhances her credibility.
      • Logos: She provides logical arguments and real-world examples to support her claims.
      • Pathos: Botsman uses stories and relatable examples to appeal to the audience’s emotions.
    • Rhetorical Devices: The talk includes anecdotes, visuals, and relatable examples to engage the audience.
    • Structure and Organization: Botsman’s talk is well-structured, with clear sections exploring different facets of trust.
    • Delivery: Botsman’s delivery is engaging and thought-provoking.
  10. “The Surprising Science of Happiness” by Dan Gilbert
    • Speaker’s Purpose: Dan Gilbert’s purpose is to challenge common misconceptions about happiness and provide insights into the science of happiness.
    • Speaker’s Credibility: Gilbert is a psychologist and author, known for his work on the science of happiness.
    • Rhetorical Appeals:
      • Ethos: Gilbert’s background in psychology lends credibility to his exploration of happiness.
      • Logos: He presents research findings and logical explanations to support his arguments.
      • Pathos: Gilbert uses relatable examples and humorous anecdotes to connect emotionally with the audience.
    • Rhetorical Devices: The talk includes humor, relatable stories, and visual aids to engage the audience.
    • Structure and Organization: The talk follows a logical structure, discussing common misconceptions about happiness and the science behind it.
    • Delivery: Gilbert’s delivery is engaging, and his humor adds to the talk’s appeal.

These examples demonstrate how speakers in TED Talks use various rhetorical strategies and elements to engage their audiences, build credibility, and effectively convey their messages. A thorough rhetorical analysis considers these components to assess the overall effectiveness of the presentation.

A TED Talk rhetorical analysis is a valuable exercise for students, public speakers, and anyone interested in understanding how effective communication works. It helps dissect the art of persuasion and provides insights into how speakers engage, inform, and inspire their audiences.