Paper Towels

I love this four-minute Ted Talk by Joe Smith.

Speech Analysis

Audience and Theme

13 billion pounds of paper towels are used by Americans every year. If we could reduce the usage of paper towels, one paper towel per person per day, [that means] 571,230 pounds of paper not used. We can do that.

Mr. Smith is speaking at a Ted Conference, known for promoting new, innovative ideas. But otherwise his speech is intended for a general audience without any special expertise or experience.

Structure and Style

Mr. Smith makes beautful use of the Attention-Problem-Solution format. You could search for a long time and not find one better. He doesn’t crack many jokes (though his last line is a good one), but his speech still comes across very conversational without losing its gravity.

Also, note his skilled correction at the very beginning of his talk. I can’t imagine so elegantly correcting myself after flubbing an opening line at a Ted Conference. Great job him.

Best Practices

Love the audience interaction and the hands-on demonstration.

Why Did It Work?

He followed the Made to Stick formula. The speech was:

1. Simple
2. Unexpected
3. Concrete
4. Credible
5. Emotional.

I think I’ve personally used at least a hundred fewer paper towels since seeing this talk for this first time about six months ago. So good.

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