Learn the Art of Public Speaking: Full Analysis of Bono’s ‘bird flipping’ TED speech

Art of public speaking: Bono flip bird at ted imageIn the art of public speaking, what does it take to create a speech worthy of a standing ovation?

A fantastic question. And can you flip the bird and get away with it too?

To help you become a sleeker public speaker,  I’ve created a special video analysis of a very famous TED speech.

Read the instructions carefully, and enjoy. There is a lot to digest, which is why you also have a transcript below and why I created a specific model to help you synthesise the experience.



Below you will find my audio analysis of the video. Play the audio and then when instructed play and pause the video underneath it as suggested by the audio. In simple terms, play the audio and follow my directions.

Alternatively, there is also a transcript of my analysis under the video. If you wish to read it along with the audio, or read it without the audio, I suggest you open this page up in a new browser so you have two of the same pages on your screen and can watch the video with one and read along with the other.

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Hello and welcome I’m Aleks George, Psychologist, accidental entrepreneur and your Superstar influence coach.

So you’re a passionate person and you have an important message to share. Congratulations – now what? How will you get people to connect to your message and take action? One area of vital import is the need to become a sleeker speaker. And one avenue for study is to dive into my “In Bed with Ted” training. That’s right, we are going to get intimate with famous Ted speeches, pulling apart the key components to help you become a masterful presenter and communicator.

Today, we are going to look at a great speech delivered by U2 front man and human rights campaigner Bono, and I’m going to reveal why he took on a very specific persona for the speech and also why he flipped the bird during it.

At the end, I’ll also summarize the whole intimate in bed with Ted experience through my special sleeker speaker PERSONA model.

Let’s begin, play video.

Pause 0:28

We start with the joke obviously Bono is a massive star and he wants to connect to the audience as one of them and uses a cross-cultural joke, which can work really well and does in this instance.

Pause 1:00

So he offered another little joke, about his messianic complex, once again to endear himself to his audience connect to them and now he’s begun to speak about history.

Now you getting the feeling that this is going to be an epic kind of presentation if he’s going back 3000 years, he is probably going to be going ahead in time and projecting some time into the future as well.

Pause: 1:32

You already getting a feel that this is going to be about justice and he is also talking about a sense of equality as well by looking at the Bible and what it preaches giving an indication of where this talk is going. He is speaking with a very calm demeanor at the moment. There is nothing rock star about him and his actions appear subdued.

However, if you look closely the way he moves on stage, there still is just a little of the bit larger-than-life, but this does not appear intentional but old habits dying hard. There must be a reason for why he is acting in such a manner.

Pause 1:42

Aiming to connect to the younger audience and future change makers, mentioning Facebook.

Pause: 2:12

We have just revealed the major theme: equality and social change.

Pause: 2:45

Okay, we can see the perception he is attempting to create. This is about reality, this is about facts and science. There is virtually no emotion about these issues at this time because he’s trying to build credibility with his audience. People know him is quite an emotional person, so to counter that, he keeps using terms like the facts sticking to the facts in order to show that this is a serious issue that has been examined scientifically and he wants to be seen as a serious social commentator.

Pause: 3:41

Once again, he uses a little self-deprecating humor in order to connect and even offers a symbolic gesture by the reversal of the glasses illustrate his so-called “inner nerd.” Basically he is doing everything he can to demonstrate that he is a serious and credible speaker and continues to jovially attack his normal on stage persona through humor as a way to illustrate that.

Ironically if you look at his body language you’ll see that he is really struggling with this the idea of being a serious-nerdy-factual person. His body is really yearning to be much more emotional, which is a very interesting contrast. He is doing everything he can to connect his audience but at the same time that emotion is coming out which in some ways actually endear him more to his audience. He is obviously passionate about this, but at this time in speech and in the conversation, it’s not the right time to be passionate.

Pause: 3:58

The first graph is revealed now and this is very interesting. He hasn’t used any visual aids up until this point so the impact of now using a very good graph is going to have quite a powerful effect.

Now here is what is fantastic about this graph?

It’s very easy to understand and that’s important because our mind wants easy things to follow. If something is too difficult to understand and follow we just tune out. There is also movement in the way the graph is presented. We are designed by nature to be attracted to movement. A moving graph is so much more attention-grabbing and maintaining for an audience in comparison to a static graph.

Pause: 4:18

Once again a lot of movement and color and we see the numbers shifting. All these factors work really well in terms of creating a perception of activity and change. The positive message is now coming out! His emotional side is also starting to slowly leak out.

Pause: 4:33

He makes his first BIG STATEMENT.

Now he is relating that figure to the emotional side and the human side. He says “Stop” and tells you to take a moment to really examine how important that number is. This is a great thing to do with an audience.

Indulge them with a little bit of visual spectacle in order to arouse interest and then just say stop and make a very important point now that they have had a bit of a dopamine rush to the pleasure centers in the brain. The audience will be much more receptive to remembering and paying attention to that key point.

Pause: 4:51

Now is a perfect time to add the human element as humans we love faces we’re attracted to faces. Nothing creates more of an emotional pull than a face. A contrast is arising even though he is saying he is the scientist and is the rational person, throwing up a picture of two human faces is designed to throw people in the exact opposite direction away from an analysis and into the emotional.

Now what about the actual picture? Look how cute those kids are! What pulls a person more than a child? An look at the hope and brightness in their eyes. A perfect emotional pull. So after a rather subdued and rationality focused introduction, he begins to layer on more and more attractive elements. The simple, colorful and intelligent visual movement is used to entice attention and then to solidify an attractive link to what is being spoken, the human element is introduced with two very young, very hopeful, and healthy looking children and we want to believe that a great life is ahead of them.

Pause: 4:42

To add to the emotion a lovely and relatively informal, friendly and joyous picture of the doctor is added.

Pause: 5:06

Now he mentions “The Global Fund” with the aim clearly being to attach the cause, which is very important, to real people. He has been building an emotional connection and moving away from the rational. To further solidify the argument, it will be time now to go back to the rational argument.

Pause: 5:45

Once again the back to the graphs nice movement nice color big numbers very simple to understand.

HALVED he exclaims.

Now we get into possibility here. This is the possibility point, the tipping point of the presentation where he is going to start to make his case to the audience. Now is the time to work on getting them on board with the message.

Pause: 6:12

He quickly praises the audience and starts to work on inspiring the audience to consider change. He has already shown a picture of the kids and now starts broadening the topic to, our kids, our children with his hand on his heart.

The pattern is a colorful graphs with a lot of movement, and with very simple concepts to understand and then he holds his heart and connects emotionally. He begins to speak of the greater meaning and implications of where this is all going, the implication is you could be part of something very important and very powerful and meaningful All great speeches need to have this unifying element.

Pause 6:48

Okay, now it’s full steam ahead. First we have the “big reveal”, that statistically it could become zero. Of course the possibility of that is quite unbelievable and so he makes a little joke himself, calling himself number cruncher. He obviously is not one of those people and he’s tying in a joke from before, to illustrate the numbers are important.

He then goes on to call the zero zone an erogenous zone. Clearly he will need to go on explain what it all means as the statistics are too startling and unbelievable to be left as is without further discussion.

Pause: 7:46

Another fantastic animated active graph to illustrate the possibilities and at the same time he is speaking very fast, and the information is coming up very fast leading to a feeling of progress. The aim here is to overload the critical parts of the audience’s minds and cement the point that changes is occurring.

He is overwhelming the rational mind and it all sounds and looks really good. You can hear in the way he is speaking that he is excited. He is saying “look at what’s happening,” all these amazing changes are occurring right now in the Pride of Lions countries.

This is a crucial point in the speech. It looks like he is being rational, and the graph is there to support that assumption and illustrates that, but really the key to this section are the emotional pull points being disguised by rational perceptions. Of course the evidence is actually there but that’s not what’s hooking the audience.

Pause: 8:16

“Jumped up Jesus.” Once again, he is using self-deprecating humor to connect to the audience with the aim of making them feel comfortable with what is being presented once again working on the feeling that he is a compassionate person like them, but at the same time there is a little bit of truth behind the statement. He is a very passionate person with a big mission and his actions allude to revealing how he sees himself and his place in the world, which is as a change maker.

Pause: 9:18

Back to the graphs. Keeping language and imagery really simple. “How to screw it up” versus “how not to screw it.” All the information is moving quite fast so it tends to bypass critical analysis and slide seamlessly into the unconscious minds of the viewers.

Pause: 9:38

THERE IT IS. Now you might have seen something and it happened very quickly, and this fascinates me about this video. Clearly Bono has a history and it’s revealed right here, of struggling with politicians, and if you were paying attention and paused the video at 9:37, you would see him flipping the bird.

Now was this conscious or unconsciously done? I would claim that he would want to do it but probably couldn’t and yet it still slipped out. This brings up a concept called the gestural slip, very few people know about this, it’s like a slip of the tongue, which is the concept where you have something on your mind that you not supposed to say because of social convention and yet the words slip out. For example maybe you’re talking to a very beautiful female and instead of saying that’s the best you accidentally say that’s the breast.

Also known as a Freudian slip, it also happens with our gestures. Also fitted with a facial expression here there is the narrowing of the eyes of and tightening of the lips. That is an expression of anger. This gestural slip illustrates that he has had a hard time with politicians, is passionate about what he is doing, and there have been many challenges and setbacks some of which he feels were not justified.

Pay attention to body language because that’s where you find the real truth, even though he is trying to be polite and professional, his real beliefs, thoughts and frustrations have been revealed in that moment.

Pause: 10:24

Once again, he relates back to why the data is so important and why as an audience, you are such an important part of this. He is alluding to how you can be part of the cure of this, the biggest problem, which is corruption.

Now we’re starting to speed along towards what you can do to help. It looks like the message, the big message, as in the cause, or the purpose, or the message of the speech is going to be revealed soon.

Pause: 11:16

Great tie up to the themes originally introduced at the beginning. This is the new SMS based anti-corruption social network. The line “once you know it you can’t unknow it, you cannot un-delete it,” is starting to reveal the true Bono. His passion is starting to build.

Pause: 11:27

There you go. Stronger emotions are starting to come out and the audience is beginning to connect at a deeper level.

Pause: 12:02

Notice the little childlike grin, the humorous term of “factivism”, the charm and emotion is really starting to come out and he is connecting to his audience. if you go to 11:57 you’ll see the grin, basically at this stage, he is starting to become more of himself. It appears he has earned the right with the audience to do that and begin to push his message.

Pause: 12:30

Okay, leading up to this, his voice tone went down. He spoke slower and the tone has shifted to serious. A never ending journey to equality. Now is the time to invest in the serious work. This leads to the revealing of the logo. Now I think you will see him become quite passionate.

Pause: 12:37

Once again, he is connecting to other important people like Mandela, and important scientists themselves, all moving towards greater social change and a bold new future.

Pause: 13:27

Fantastic use of listing. He has obviously let go of the nerdy factivism and is releasing his full passion. “We can win” because of this and that, and that. He is listing all key statistical truths, but the statistics of which they are based are becoming long forgotten.

Now we’re going to close this speech through developing a sense of unity and community and emotion that pulls everyone together. As you can see at 13:27 in the sadness of his face and in his eyes, he clearly cares about this cause and his audience at this stage would be resonating with that feeling as well.

Pause: 13:53

And there with that simple statement – “power of the people is greater than the people in power,” we have come full circle. He receives a standing ovation and unlike the usual rock star response, he does not lap up the attention as to do so would reduce the credibility he worked so hard to build up through the speech. A fantastic example of moving an audience through an important journey.


There you have it. So let’s summarize the key elements of this speech. To help you fully appreciate out In Bed with Ted analysis, you need to be aware of what elements to look out for. To assist you in doing so, I created the sleeker speaker PERSONA model.

It stands for:


Personality (PERSONA) – The issue with being a known celebrity, is people are going to have pre-conceptions about you from the very beginning. To avoid being seen as the flaky overly emotional rock star, Bono worked hard to be seen as one of them. He uses self-deprecating humor, a subdued tone for most of the speech, and continually refers to how his speech is guided by data and science. However as time progresses, more of his truer nature is revealed.

Emotion – He is careful not to be seen as overly passionate as it could destroy his credibility with the highly analytical crowd. Emotional expression is like a slow cooker that builds to the first peak with the revealing of the children and then a second higher peak with the major reveal of the cause and implications.

Rationality – He does not use too many statistics, but does use enough to satisfy the need for proof and data trends. Cleverly, all analytical data is also presented in a highly stimulating and engaging manner.

Structure – The pattern appears to be cyclical. It begins with basic historical information, followed by statistical proof, aided by engaging graphics, and then followed by the emotional/human implications. This pattern is than repeated again.

Objective – The aim is to have the audience and viewers rationally understand the issue but also emotionally connect to the cause, and take action by actively joining and contributing to the movement. He wants you to join and defend and talk about the movement. He wants the elimination of poverty to be seen as a real issue people talk about often with friends and at the dinner table, and in workplaces.

Narratives – There are usually at least two narratives in a great speech. The speaker’s story and the story relating to the creation and implications of the speech itself. In relation to his story, he has actually tried to change his usual Persona and demonstrate a more subdued and serious side. By doing this, by showing a desire to be a “factivist” he shows a depth of character not normally seen and builds credibility.

The larger story, relating to the cause itself is also well presented. He seamlessly cycles through the history, recent data trends, emotional aspects and future implications of what is being done. Poverty is usually presented in very negative and dire terms, his story of how to overcome poverty is optimistic and inspiring. This is a perfect fit for what people at TED want to experience.

There is also the mini-story right at the end of the man which leads to the final message of the speech relating to how the power of the people is greater than the people in power.

Aids – They are used extremely well. There are not too many graphics, but when used, they are simple in design, colorful, powerful, and a wonderful perception of change is felt through the movement in the charts. It is very effective.

Placing his glasses upside down was also a nice little prop based trick to strengthen his point and make his plea to be seen as a “factivist”, memorable.



Thank you for your careful attention. If you enjoyed this analysis, feel free to share it with others through whatever social media channels tickle your fancy the most 🙂 And don’t be shy, if you want to speak and be heard, take all opportunities to do so, so you might as well leave a relevant comment or question below.

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