Learning how to speak in front of thousands of people starts at an early age. Just ask 10 impressive children who have given outstanding talks before a TED stage–one of the most coveted speaking venues out there today.
Besides an elevated IQ, these exceptional speakers under 20 were trained in public speaking in their schools and were motivated to take the stage not only by their teachers, but their parents as well.
So, when most of us were learning reading and writing skills, these brilliant kids were mastering high-level presentation skills, which used to be the sole terrain of high school and college-level students.
In this post, we will give you some quick advice on how to encourage your own students or children to give TED-like talks and then show you some of the most remarkable examples of TED talks given by speakers under 20.
One of the ways teachers and parents can motivate their children to become star presenters at an early age is to start a TED-Ed club in their local schools.
Launched in 2013, TED-Ed clubs provide a space in which students can present and discuss their ideas in a TED-like setting so that their ideas can be expanded and acted upon.
The process to start a TED-Ed club is simple. Just begin by watching this short video and filling out this application.
Once your application has been processed, you’ll be asked to participate in a video call, meet other facilitators and share your ideas for creating your own TED-Ed club.
Next, you will receive a TED-Ed guidebook which will help you facilitate the talks and prepare your team for each presentation. Some of the suggested meetings include discussing topics such as finding your passion; how to frame and unpack your idea; how to visualize your idea; and how to prepare and polish your presentation. Finally, you can take some lessons from these outstanding kid speakers who didn’t let their inexperience hold them back from delivering truly memorable presentations:
“A tiny literary giant.” This is what the Diane Sawyer once called this child prodigy with uncanny verbal abilities. An avid reader from the age of three, Adora started writing when she was five and was already able to express herself better than the average adult at this young age. At the age of seven, she typed out more than 250,000 words worth of short stories, poems and opinion pieces on current events over the course of a year.
In this jaw-dropping eight-minute TED talk, Adora blows her audience away with an expertly delivered presentation full of humor, wit, eloquence and insight. She makes a solid case for reframing the way we perceive children and their ideas.
Adults should start listening to children, she says. Unfettered creativity, bold ideas and optimism are just some of the “childish” things adults can learn from these tiny powerhouses of innovation.
This 12-year-old app developer is not only a prolific programmer, he is also a skilled speaker who knows how to capture his audience’s attention, as seen in the video above.
Confident and at ease, Thomas is able to clearly present his ideas and get his audience to smile at the same time–sadly, something which many adult presenters aren’t able to do.
Thomas started to learn programming languages such as Python, Java and C–”just to get the basics down”–and then persuaded his parents to allow him to sell his app through the Apple Store. At only 12 years of age, Thomas is already launching his own company, CarrotCorps, and is starting a programming club at this school to encourage other students to create and share their own apps.
A 12-year-old from the Maasai tribe in Kenya, Richard gives a very simple but engaging TED talk in which he describes how he invented a system of lights to prevent local lions from attacking his father’s cattle. After tinkering with some household appliances, Richard started inventing fans made of car parts and then stumbled upon the idea of the “lion lights” for his neighborhood.
In his presentation, Richard also exhibits expert presentation skills by using attractive visuals to complement his talk and weaving a basic yet intriguing story of how he became a self-taught inventor.
At the tender age of 15, when most of us were thinking about high school crushes and how to get rid of acne, Jack was pondering the possibility of finding an early-detection test for pancreatic cancer.
A gifted presenter, Jack tells the unlikely story of how he stumbled upon the idea of combining carbon nanotubes and antibodies sensitive to mesothelin, a protein found in abnormally high levels in people with pancreatic cancer, to create an inexpensive test in the form of a strip of filter paper.
After 199 rejections from labs, Jack was contacted by Johns Hopkins to develop his device. After months of refining his invention, Jack created an early-detection test which has 100 percent accuracy and costs only 3 cents.
If you think these kids are absolutely brilliant, wait until you hear about Taylor Wilson. At just 14 years of age, he became the youngest person in history to build a nuclear fusion reactor–and, of all places, in his parents’ garage.
At the age of 17, he took the TED stage not only to tell his exceptional story, but to put on display his advanced presentation skills. Seemingly unperturbed by the challenge of presenting at one of the most popular conferences in the world today, Taylor also wows his audience with a clear, concise and captivating account of his genius experiment.
Now, a few years later, he is also working toward revolutionizing the battle against cancer, energy development and the fight against terrorism using nuclear energy.
At only 18 years of age, Memory was already leading national campaigns to outlaw child marriage and end sexual initiation practices in Malawi.
Although her younger sister was sent to an initiation camp to learn how to “sexually please a man” before puberty and became pregnant at the age of 11, Banda was able to persuade her community leaders to pass a bylaw that prohibited child marriage before the age of 18 in her community. Not only that, but at the national level, the legal marriage age was changed from 15 to 18, thanks to Memory’s efforts.
Like the previous cases, Memory knows how to capture her audience’s attention. She begins her talk with a moving poem written by a 13-year old girl who decides to take a stand against child marriage.
At the tender age of 14, William was able to build a windmill which produced electricity to power his family’s home.
In his presentation before a TED audience, William presented his efforts in such a moving and unassuming manner that not only has his story been turned into a book and a movie, they have also garnered widespread support from the TED community, which has funded other projects involving access to clean water, malaria prevention, lighting and solar power for other homes in William’s family compound.
Another astounding example of a child prodigy with polished presentation skills is the case of 12-year-old Amy O’Toole. At the age of 10, Amy took part in a participative science project with 26 other elementary school students and was able to lead the publication of the first peer-reviewed scientific paper in history written by children. Clearly enunciating her words and varying her tone of voice, Amy is at the level of presenters well over twice her age.
In 12th grade, Miranda and Jenny set out to find a strain of bacteria that could break down deleterious compounds called phthalates, which are found in certain types of plastics and are linked to health problems. They not only found a solution, they were also able to present their ideas convincingly and effectively before a large TED audience.
Last on the list are a group of teenagers who were all winners of the Google Science Fair. Here, they present their extraordinary projects and tell their stories of how they became passionate about science at such a young age.
From researching the effects of air pollution to determining the mechanism of chemotherapy resistance, their accomplishments will both inspire and move you to take up the challenge of finding and presenting your life’s best ideas.