"Good" visual examples to get you thinking
Think naturalness not perfection

Shai Agassi: The most important talk at TED 09

Shai This TED presentation by Shai Agassi at TED in February was not one filled with tears or laughter or amazing visuals, but it was my personal favorite. This talk was informative, motivating, and inspiring. In 18 minutes you can not answer all the questions, or address all the issues concerning such a technical topic. But at the end of his talk, I wanted more (as did the audience). When the talk was over, I was motivated and in the mood to listen to him and others grab a marker and address the details at a whiteboard. Shai's delivery was not slick or polished, nor were his visuals, but he was himself, relaxed, and totally engaging. It was an excellent talk given in the "Naked," natural style. His pacing was good: not too slow, not too fast. He was a worthy messenger of an important topic, perhaps the most important topic of our day. If his goal was to get us talking, it worked. The halls at TED were filled with people discussing (and debating) Shai's ideas for the rest of the conference. Thanks to TED online, the message can go further and the conversation can grow. Watch the presentation below or on the TED website.

I love Shai's reference to JFK's famous and "crazy" line (highlighted in Made to Stick as well): "...put a man on the moon and return him safely by the end of the decade."  As Shai points out, we did not say in the '60s "we're going to send a man 20% of the way to the moon and there's a 20% chance we'll recover him." You've got to have a vision that is big, concrete, and specific. What Shai is saying is that we need that kind of vision and clarity now. If we do not lose our dependency on oil in the next few years, Shai's says, "We will lose our economy, right after we've lost our morality."

Above: Shai chose to use Keynote in Presenter View. The current slide is on the left, the next slide on the right, and the notes on top (this is customizable, however). As you can see, the notes contain only a few points (reminders) in a font size easy for him to see. I do not generally recommend the Presenter View in Keynote or PowerPoint for ballroom-style presentations like this one as it tends to keep presenters glued to the lectern (and the lectern itself can be a physical barrier), but its use is not necessarily always a bad thing. In this case, Shai was not glued to the computer screen (there were larger "confidence monitors" on stage as well) and he moved comfortably on stage, rarely standing behind the small lectern. If you have two monitors on stage, one of them can contain the Presenter View screen as well.

Shai spent most of the time in front or to the side of the lectern.


Car1   Car2
Sample slides.

The TED blog features an interview with Shai Agassi today.


Kevin Rossen

You mentioned you don't recommend Presenter View for this type of room. Would you apply this same principle to preachers in mid-to-large sized churches? If so, what view do you recommend?

Aaron @ Lawyerist

TED speakers really are the masters of great presentations. Amazing how many examples of public speaking best-practices come from TED.

Jan Schultink

I agree with your analysis of this presentation.

This talk contains 2 presentations: 1 about the need to get rid of oil-powered cars quickly, and 1 about the solutions Shay is suggesting to make it possible.

The latter part is snowed under a little bit. Battery swaps, blanket-coverage of electricity sockets, mobile phone-style charging schemes and subsidies; they all get mentioned briefly but are somewhat rushed. This is actually a presentation that would have benefited from more time.

This story is crying out for visuals that can emphasize its points.

I read a lot in the Israeli press about Shai's initiative (as the almost-CEO of SAP he is a local celebrity here), but none of the old-media newspaper articles managed to capture the scale of the operation he is putting in place. Funny I am learning about it in a TED talk recording, and not over my morning coffee in Tel Aviv.


Hi Garr! Shai like you said really delivered an extraordinary talk, with or without visuals, but one thing we must remember is "preparation & experience". Finding out more about him and watching more videos, he has delivered this talk thounsands of times! the same lines, same jokes.

Prepare, prepare, prepare.


Nice presentation by Shai indeed.
I also am converted to using Keynote now because of that customizable view.

BTW, I noticed you were on the 2009 ACCJ directory cover with the word passion really big on the screen. I remember that presentation!

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