Speech Analysis by The One Minute Presenter on Jamie Oliver’s TED Prize wish: Teach every child about food [long post]

Jamie Oliver is a well known face as a British TV chef who conveys a down-to-earth, one-of-the-lads image. In 2010, he was awarded the TED Prize and gave a speech about fighting obesity in America. You can view the speech below.

Here is my breakdown of the speech. The things that are great about the speech are:

  • Passion persuades more than anything

  • Open with a dramatic statistic

  • Humour makes a connection, even when delivering a tough message

  • Engage with the audience through questions and taglines

  • Visual aids illustrate key points

  • Memorable use of props

  • Pause from time to time

  • Challenge with powerful statements

  • Connect with use of word pictures

  • Define clear actions

  • Close with a wish statement

The areas that could be improved include:

  • Less use of note cards

  • More controlled gestures

  • More planned movement on the stage

  • Less aggressive tone of presentation

  • Better time management

  • Watch out for slang

If you cannot see the video above, the link here to view.

Type of presentation

This was a presentation to influence through grabbing the audience by the collar and shaking them. It was direct, punchy and powerful. For this reason it may put some people off the message, but it has many powerful techniques that we can learn from.

Passion persuades more than anything

Regardless of what you previously know or think about Jamie Oliver, you can see he is passionate for his subject. The entire 21 minute presentation is full of energy. Jamie’s vocal variety conveys his message with urgency, importance to the audience and – at times – care. He bounds around the stage and combines visual aids and props to add impact to his message. Whether you agree or disagree with his message you can see someone who is passionate for healthy food, for family and for the need to create a “food revolution”.

Warwick’s coaching tip: While you need to express passion in your own way and to suit your audience and type of presentation, ask yourself how you can add more passion into your next speech. Where can you bring up the energy by expressing your own commitment to the message you are delivering.

Open with a dramatic statistic

We all know that the opening is one of the key parts of a presentation. Oliver’s first words were “in the next 18 minutes, four Americans that were alive will be dead through the food that they eat.” He allows a two second pause for the message to sink in before starting his presentation. This sets the tone for what was a challenging message and also demands the audience’s attention.

Warwick’s coaching tip: Your opening is so important to set the frame and context for your presentation that I often recommend you write if after the main content and close has been thought through. The opening should be the wrapping, around your presentation journey and key points. Using statistics, powerful statement and quotations are a good way to get the audience thinking along the same lines as your presentation message.

While being dramatic attracts attention, so too does using humour.

Humour makes a connection, even when delivering a tough message

To illustrate his point on how prevalent obesity is, Jamie gestures to two thirds of the audience and says “you are already obese”, then to the other one third he says “you lot are alright now, but don’t worry we will get you eventually.” The audience laugh and his point is clearly made.

From time to time, Jamie drops in short opportunities for the audience to laugh. For example, he plays on his nationality and the British-American relationship, by saying

England is right behind you …as usual”.

He even managed to get a laugh through sarcasm – a risky strategy – when talking about how important school food is. He firstly used numbers: 31m children, 2 meals a day 180 days a year before commenting that “ you could say that school food is important”.

He also used self depreciating humour by saying that the audience must be “waiting for my rant”. Although after an already hectic opening 9 minutes, I wonder if the audience were laughing because they felt it was already like a rant.

Warwick’s coaching tip: Humour can be difficult device to use effectively. It’s about how appropriate the humour is to the audience, how relevant it is to your message and how naturally you can deliver it. My best advice is to find your own voice while on stage, so that you feel comfortable that the audience is seeing the real you. If you are naturally humorous – and most people are – look for appropriate ways to work it in to your presentation. Always test your humour before you use it live.

While humour helps you make a connection with the audience, there are other interactive techniques you can employ.

Engage with the audience through questions and taglines

Use of questions

Jamie employs some familiar techniques to engage with the audience. For example, asking simple questions: “How many have children?” He does a good job of bringing his point home by saying that your children are the first generation who will have a shorter life span than their own parents. He then points to a person in the audience and says “your child will live a life 10 years younger than you”.

Warwick’s coaching tip: Personally I am not sure that singling out a person in the audience really adds impact to the message. In fact, it only served to embarrass the audience member as she looked down after this statement was addressed to her. While you are passionate about your subject, make allowances for people who are not quite at the same level as you. My advice is never to call someone out in a presentation, you risk alienating them and the rest of the audience might side with them.

Use of taglines

As mentioned above Jamie uses humour peppered throughout his presentation which the audience react well to for the most part. He also gets response through using clear and well delivered statements. For example, “We’ve got to start teaching our kids about food in schools. Period.” This got spontaneous applause. Jamie added a cut it out gesture when delivering the word “period” which added impact to this phrase. Well delivered and well timed.

Warwick’s coaching tip: When you are preparing your message look for ways to wrap up your message into short memorable phrases or taglines of around ten words. These are easy for you to remember and also can be practised and rehearsed so that they come out with a pop.

A memorable presentation is not only the words you say, but also the images and emotions the audience take away.

Visual aids illustrate key points

Jamie used several visuals that drove his message home in a powerful way.


A chart showing the causes of death in America showed how low homicide was on the list

compared to diet related diseases. Jamie’s point was with that all the fear generated through media that focuses on homicides was such a mis-direction when so many more people die from bad diet.


Oliver showed a picture of Britney, a 16 year old with 6 years to live because she is eating her liver to death through a toxic food diet. This was a powerful visual that put names and faces to the statistics. You are more likely to remember Britney’s face than a statistic about obese 16 year olds. By showing the picture of a massive queen-bed sized coffin, it is a powerful and poignant way to convey the impact of the problem. It closes the gap between cause and effect.


Oliver used a simple triangle tying main street (industry) – home – school together. And this then provided some structure to the rest of his speech. Using such a familiar metaphor to help simplify complex relationships is a great help to the audience who might not be as familiar with a topic as the presenter. It helps to simplify the subject.


As a TV presenter he had a lot of material to delve into. Short clips were used to highlight his point. For example, a video showing children guessing (wrongly) what the vegetables were that Oliver was holding up. A powerful way to emphasis his point.

He used another video to convey a point, by following it with a startling statement, “You are killing your children, but we can stop that “

Use of props can be another effective way to get your message across.

Memorable use of props

To demonstrate how much sugar is contained in milk in American schools, a wheelbarrow full of sugar is brought on stage and Jamie scoops out the amount of sugar a child would drink in one week – from milk alone – then a month – until as he tips up the entire wheelbarrow load of sugar and pours it over the floor – he makes his statement that this is how much sugar one children consumes in five years of elementary school – just from milk. Superbly memorable device.

Sometimes it is not what you say or show, but what you don’t say.

Pause from time to time

Although on the whole this was a whirlwind of a performance with little time to reflect, Jamie does employ good techniques, like using a pause to let his point sink in. After telling that obesity costs American US150bn per year. He pauses for two seconds, and follows up with “in 10 years it’s set to double”. He also paused after delivering his opening statement as mentioned above.

Pauses are a great way to set up an important message or phrase.

Challenge with powerful statements

Controversial statements

He follows the wheelbarrow dumping with a punch line that got applause that rammed his point home, “any judge would find any find government of old guilty of child abuse. That’s my belief.” The implication is that the current government is also guilty of child abuse. This could have back fired but the audience seemed to love it.

Warwick’s coaching tip: While courting controversy can be an effective tool to employ, it is a device that should be tested and measured for the audience. Some controversy will work better with internal audiences rather than external stakeholders. Be fully committed and think through all the possible repercussions. If you still think it is worth it, or if it is a point of principle, deliver it with gusto.

Comparison statements

Jamie compared the negative impact of obesity by saying that smoking – which everyone would agree is unhealthy – costs American less than obesity. This is a good device when you can find a statement that almost all your audience agree (or disagree) with.

Connect with use of word pictures

Jamie employs a technique of word pictures which are short phrases that triggers visual images in the minds of the audiences. Examples include:

Landscape of food built around them”: to emphasis how children are trapped by poor food choices

We need to re-boot” : to indicate the need for a fresh start

Obese before she gets to primary school” : to highlight the seriousness of the problem

At the sharp knife edge of the problem”: to show how close he was to a situation

If your purpose is to persuade, inspire, or influence leave the audience with some action steps.

Define clear actions

Towards the end of his presentation, although he was running out of time, Jamie highlighted clear actions that needed to happen to turn the bad situation around. He used a checklist or shopping list approach going through all the relevant stakeholders.

These included:

  • Supermarkets – help us shop with a food ambassador in every store

  • Brands – need to put food education at the heart of their businesses

  • Fast food industry – wean us off the sugar, fat, salt with government regulation (not self regulation)

  • School – cook proper fresh food cooked on site (this got applause)

  • Children – be able to cook 10 recipes before they leave school (applause)

  • Workplace – corporate responsibility needs to get more involved in diet

While these are worthwhile objectives, I wonder whether they are too general and wide-ranging for any action to be actually taken on them. I would have preferred a more personal message for the audience to take responsibility, and this came in his closing statement.

Especially if you are delivering a tough message, look for ways to lighten the tone.

Finish on a positive note

While his tone tended to be a little preachy at times, towards the end Jamie finished on a lighter note by acknowledging all the great people and things that were already going on in America and urging this good work to be funded. And he gave a plug out to the First Lady who has made health in schools one of her pledges. This was a crowd pleaser and helps lighten the tone. “Support Ms Obama do the things she wants to do” (Michelle Obama has recently set up an organic garden in the White House).

Close with a wish statement

Jamie read out a closing statement that was also put on the screen. It summarised his message succinctly:

I wish for everyone to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.”

That concluded his presentation and was a great way to summarise his presentation’s message and also his bigger picture objective.

While this was a dynamic presentation, there were a few areas which could have been improved.

Less use of note cards

Generally I advise all speakers who are on stage to avoid holding notes in their hands. They become a distraction, they can get mixed up and also they can sometimes be used as a pointing device – none of which add to the impact of the message.

Now, in this case it needs to be said that Jamie is dyslexic and he mentions this towards the end of the presentation. I would recommend that Jamie leave the notes to one side to refer to them when needed. He really didn’t refer to the notes much during the presentation, so he knew his content well. Given his dynamic presenting style if he did need to go to a table to flick through the notes, it would give a pause for the audience to process his fast-paced message. Also, this would have avoided him smacking his notes into his hands which makes his passionate delivery verge into aggressive or authoritative areas.

More controlled gestures

As mentioned above, Jamie overused certain gestures that made him come across as aggressive. In particular the hand baton and chopping gesture.

Warwick’s coaching tip: Be aware of the message you send with your hand gestures. A common gesture is a rhythmical gesturing of the arm up and down – like a baton or a conductor. This is often because the animated speaker is conducting the music of his words while speaking. These hand baton gestures can often convey a very assertive and authoritarian meaning. President Clinton was often called on his raised forefinger hand baton, which he has modified in later life to a clasped hand baton. The hand chop which Jamie was using albeit with his notes in his hands can come across as aggressive because he wants his ideas to cut through the confusion or perhaps inertia of the current situation. Many gestures are culturally linked and go back to our earliest stages of human evelopment. Read “Peoplewatching” by Desmond Morris for more great insights.

More planned movement on the stage

Jamie’s movement on stage was generally erratic and random and he tended to look at the screen behind him more often that was needed. This meant he turned his back to the audience breaking eye contact and connection. While it is fine to refer to the screen, limit the amount of times that you physically put your back to the audience.

Less aggressive tone of presentation

While passion is a great motivator for change, preaching at people is not. From time to time, Jamie’s tone felt a lot like he was blaming the people in the audience for the problems. He put special emphasis on words like “disgrace” when mentioning the labelling practices in America. I don’t believe that this was his intention but at time it did feel like there was an “us” and “them” dynamic. I felt that Jamie was an outsider and if you make the audience feel this way you lessen your impact.

Jamie directed his speech directly in the audience. After establishing early on that almost everyone was a parent or aunt or uncle, he frequently used language that put the audience as the people responsibility for the obesity problem and for its solution. This tactic could backfire if people who were not obese or lived very healthy lives felt that it was not their problem, or if over-weight people felt badgered or berated. Oliver played a thin line between berating and being passionate.

Only very late in his presentation did he mention what was probably on people’s minds. Why should I – as an American – be listening to this British guy tell me how I should be eating and looking after my children? By raising this a lot earlier, he could have dispatched this thought and got the audience to focus on his overwhelming evidence.

Warwick’s coaching tip: If you ever feel there is some barrier between you and the audience, then get it out the way as early as possible in as light hearted way as possible. If you try to ignore the “elephant in the room”, then it will come back later and walk all over your best bone-china crockery set!

Better time management

Small point but he did seem to be running out of time and his presentation went over time.

Warwick’s coaching tip: If you are ever in doubt about your content cut it down. With audience interactions like laughter and dramatic pauses you are likely to over longer than the timing in your rehearsals. Look for the content that contributes the least to your main message and cut it out.

Watch out for slang

Given that his audience are in America and online globally, I am not sure how many would know the English slang for “one thousand” is a “grand”. This is a small point because certainly compared to his usual style of using lots of slang, Jamie did do a good job of making his language accessible for the wider audience.

Warwick’s coaching tip: When speaking to international audiences, audit your language. Take out slang or localisms. Explain jargon and acronyms.


Overall an excellent presentation brimming with passion, good interaction with the audience and employing good visuals, videos and props as well as well crafted taglines and powerful statements. As is often the case with passionate speakers then tend to project too much energy, are often mis-directed in their stage movement and go over time. Overall, I would give this a solid 8 out of 10.

About the Author

Warwick J Fahy

“I work with high-potential senior executives who need to be more confident and influential with their key stakeholders. I help the executive quickly and powerfully express their opinions into message based presentations – even when under pressure.”  Learn more about who I help here.

Warwick is the author of “The One Minute Presenter: 8 steps to successful business presentations in a short attention span world”.

Now available on Amazon.com.

Sign up to “52 Tips to more confident public speaking” newsletter at www.warwickjohnfahy.com

3 Responses to “Speech Analysis by The One Minute Presenter on Jamie Oliver’s TED Prize wish: Teach every child about food [long post]”

  • Great analysis! This is very useful – I’ve recommended it to my Toastmasters club in Beijing.

  • Thanks for the feedback Joe. Look out for more Speech Analysis from The One Minute Presenter in the weeks and months to come!

    All the best,

  • Good analysis! I learned something useful to improve my presentation.I am now eager to get a copy of The One Minute Presenter. Where and how can I get one?

Comments are currently closed.