Ted Talk by Tim Urban: Inside the Brain of a Master Procrastinator
There are many outstanding Ted speeches I admire, Tim Urban’s “Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator” is one of them, performed on a formal Ted Talk Conference. In this speech, Tim talked from procrastinating things with deadlines to that without deadlines, with a vivid demonstration of procrastinator’s brain. Along with some personal experiences and discoveries, he wanted to persuade all the audiences including people without many procrastinating behaviors to think about what they are procrastinating on and start to do things as soon as possible. Let’s take a detailed look of this speech. Started with personal experience, he compares normal student’s schedule with developing schedules of procrastinators like himself. The huge difference between the 2 kinds of schedules not only arouse the attention and curiosity of the audiences but also increase his credibility and goodwill because of personal involvement. As a highlighted part of the introduction, the humorous fake “quote” from his college is brilliant. The conversational joke startles the audiences. The mentioning of his present occupation and lifelong explorations also builds good credibility for his speech. As he started to talk about insights into the brain, the comparison between “MRI scan” and the stick figure startled the audiences again. Besides, after continuous stressing of phrases like “look carefully”, “brain expert”, the dramatic change afterward leaves a strong impression in audiences’ mind. As Lucas said: “One sign of a good novelist is the ability to create word pictures that let you “see” the haunted house”. Instead of using vague expressions or explanations, along with funny visual aids, Tim uses 3 metaphors to make his ideas come alive. The mentioning of daily things like “Youtube” is also a good technique to build audience-centeredness of his speech. Audiences know exactly what he’s talking about and experienced similar situations and emotions as well. What’s more, a lot of reasoning techniques are been used during his story between 3 metaphors “Rational Decision-Maker”, “Instant Gratification Monkey” and “The Panic Monster”. Instead of just relying on tricky and funny pictures, the smooth transitions between stories and logical expressions inside the speech are beyond compare. For example, the opposite reactions of “Maker” and “Monkey” result in distraction behaviors, which is causal reasoning; The comparison between the tribal world and the modern world explain the Monkey’s response from work rationally; The question that after the introduction of “Dark Playground” naturally brings the emergence of “The Panic Monster”. The logic and reasoning make sense as the whole story move forward. As an ending of his insightful view of procrastinator’s brain, he conducted a dynamic story, the “Ted talk preparation” story that just happened around this stage. This story not only strengthens his main points of the brain theory but also establishes strong connections between his theory and real life. Besides, as the brain intro part ended, Tim used quotations and conclusions from thousands of his readers from all over the world to build a strong and effective transition from “brain” part to “the 2 kinds of procrastination” part. It’s always effective to “use transition statements to help the audience keep track of your points as the speech progresses.”, as Lucas claimed.
It’s also amazing that he extends his idea to a profound view of everyone’s life instead of just master procrastinators’. With a tricky and humorous solution, he reflects his idea of procrastination by saying “maybe not today” and leaves good impressions for audiences to remember. His structures and ideas are good enough to achieve a good speech but with the addition of outstanding delivery, his speech is unparalleled. The vocal variety is just right for the audiences to follow his ideas, stress on important terms like “The Panic Monster” and slip through unimportant things quickly like “Google map ….”. With sneaky eye contact, he makes the comparisons even more obvious, like when comparing between “normal schedule” and “procrastinator’s schedule”. One thing I can’t ignore is that he will low done his voice and make it hoarse when talking about something funny and tricky, just like when saying “take a little staircase”. Along with really good pauses between different topics, after funny things, after saying unusual terms, it’s like that he is acting, instead of just speaking and doing speech in front of the audiences. Enthusiastic and dramatic, his style of making a speech worth learning for all. A lot of many other strengths also make this speech a model for all public speakers to learn from. However, there are shortcomings hard to ignore. I’d like to indicate the most obvious one: he doesn’t include any kind of concrete science research proof for his claims when he’s talking such a topic that is cognitive science and psychology related. Every time we are giving a science-related topic, it’s always good to increase credibility by citing researches. All in all, with a strict usage of problem-cause-solution order in the whole speech, Tim’s speech offers us a brand new view of procrastination. He not only leaves us space to introspect ourselves but also gives us motivations to achieve things. This speech will always be a model on my road to becoming an outstanding public speaker.
- Lucas, Stephen. The Art of Public Speaking. 11th ed. McGraw-Hill Education, 2011.
- Urban, Tim Inside the Brain of a Master Procrastinator. Ted Talk. 2016.