Sir Ken Robinson’s “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” TED Talk

Each month, we lean into a notable speech example and mine for learnings you can use as you level up your leadership through compelling, effective, impactful speaking. We’re kicking off our speech breakdown series with Sir Ken Robinson’s “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”.

According to TED, this talk has been viewed over 75 million times since its release in 2006. It’s TED’s most viewed talk. The OG. If you’ve not seen it for yourself, you’ll want to check it out.

This insightful talk challenges the traditional education system and advocates for the importance of nurturing and fostering creativity in schools. Children have an innate capacity for creativity, but the education system tends to suppress it as they progress through the school system. Robinson argues that creativity is as important as literacy and should be given equal importance in education.

If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.

Sir Ken Robinson

Speech Breakdown

Our goal in this series is to review excellent examples of public speaking and highlight principles and strategies you can use to become a more compelling, effective and confident leader.

And this talk is just full of ’em!

Key lessons we can learn from this talk:


Sir Ken Robinson masterfully weaves quick illustrations, personal anecdotes and relatable stories throughout his talk. Through stories, he captivates the audience and makes his message more memorable. Leaders can incorporate story into your communications and presentations to engage and connect with your audience on a deeper and more lasting level.


Throughout his talk, Sir Ken Robinson uses humor and wit to keep the audience entertained and engaged. Humor is a powerful tool for leaders to establish rapport, ease tension and make complex topics (and themselves!) more approachable. Pay attention to Sir Ken Robinson’s comedic timing and delivery as you’re working to incorporate humor effectively.

Authenticity and Passion

One of the standout qualities of Sir Ken Robinson’s talk is his authenticity and passion for his topic. He speaks from the heart and conveys a genuine belief in his message that makes him magnetic and irresistible. Watch how you lean into Sir Ken as he is clearly true to himself and showcases his passion throughout his talk. Authenticity helps creates a connection with your audience and enhances your leadership credibility.


Sir Ken Robinson uses slides sparingly but effectively in his talk. We see simple but impactful graphics to reinforce his points and add visual interest to his presentation. When done well, there’s value in incorporating visually appealing and relevant visuals to help your audience understand and engage in the content you’re presenting.

Structure and Flow

Because he is so conversational, Sir Ken’s talk could appear more casual than intentional. Take another look, and you’ll see this is far from the case. In fact, when you analyze the structure and flow of Sir Ken Robinson’s talk, you see a compelling demonstration of the art of creating a cohesive narrative. Even with a casual, conversational style, the most effective leaders are intentional in your messaging. A compelling opening, strong central message points and a clear closing call-to-action help you and your audience understand, process and apply what you’ve shared.

Vocal Variety

Throughout his talk, Sir Ken varies his voice in delightful ways. Using varied tone, pacing and inflection, he enhances the impact of his words and draws us deeper into his message. Note how he uses pausing and repetition to all us to absorb and process key points throughout his talk. As a leader, you increase your audience’s engagement and comprehension when you speak slowly, give pauses and repeat key points.

Sir Ken Breaks the Rules

Finally, you’ll notice that Sir Ken breaks—or at least bends—some of the main rules of public speaking. His start is slow and includes small talk before diving in. He uses more “ums” and “uhs” than we’d like for ourselves. You wouldn’t see points in a traditional public speaking class for most of the “throwaway” comments he adds here and there.

It makes no difference. Because he nails the principle of “connection over perfection”.

And his authenticity, passion, storytelling and clear, compelling content creates a winsome, impactful talk.

What do you take away from Sir Ken’s TED talk?

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