Lessons from Tshering Tobgay’s successful Tedtalk


I always enjoy listening to Tshering Tobgay even in a continuous loop.

What are the reasons that make his speech so absolutely delightful, so much so that every time I play a part of the speech in the classrooms during the training on Public Speaking, my students always want to listen to the whole of the speech and sometimes even request an encore!

Let me try to decode some elements that makes this speech memorable.

*Be modest, be able to laugh at yourself

For one, the speaker comes without any pretensions and is easily able to make a joke of himself. Notice how he draws the first laughter from the audience within just 30 seconds of the opening of his speech.

Tshering Tobgay draws the attention of the audience to his national dress, ‘Goh’, the privilege of the men in his country to show off their legs even as the women cannot do the same.

The ice is broken, the audience is relaxed and the stage is set for an open engagement. As you watch the video you can literally feel how the mood has already lightened.

Set the context early on in the speech

The Goh was only a pretext for Tshering Tobgay to set the context to a far more weighty issue which he wanted to address, he says’ our national dress is unique, but it is not the only thing unique about our country, our promise to remain carbon neutral is also unique’.

It is clear that now the listener knows what to expect and the speaker has full attention. After all climate change and carbon emissions are pressing issues for the whole world.Remember that audience always likes to know what they are in for well, mostly!

Put your story telling techniques to good use

A clever usage of well-chosen images, narrative, tone and body language all together prepares the audience for the story of Bhutan. After the first minute, the speaker plunges deep into the narrative and begins to tell the story of Bhutan. The speaker assumes a more serious tone and the audience prepares itself to listen more attentively.

Assuming the necessary tonal variations and references to the generosity of the monarchy in his country he emphasizes on how committed Bhutan is to the welfare of its people and explains the concept of ‘Gross National Happiness or GNH’.

Be generous with humor

Even as the message is serious in tone, Tshering Tobgay breaks the monotony with a quick reference to the ‘Goh’, the world’s largest pocket as he calls it. While he eulogizes the king for his farsightedness he does so with a dash of timely humor which saves him from sounding like a sycophant.

Present authentic data

The appeal of the speech is emotional but the speaker does not deviate from the facts which he rattles off with consummate ease and some great poise. Definitely the pictorial evidence of the vanishing glaciers sells the point of the danger of rising carbon emissions buttressed as it is with some alarming statistics.

Create real-time experiences

10 minutes in to the speech, the speaker apologizes for the inconvenience caused by the temperature settings of the AC which he says politely has been manipulated.Surely, the audience is already feeling the heat!

End the speech with a call to action

‘We are not here to tell stories, are we?’ asks the speaker pointedly, directing the members of the audience to meaningful action. He has already enlisted the measures taken by his country to go carbon neutral, nay, carbon negative, and he expects some commitment from the rest of the world. Ending a speech with a call to action, invariably creates a deeper and long lasting impact driving the speech to its very purpose that is meaningful action for a cause.

Overall, this is the kind of speech that I would say should be compulsory for the whole world to listen to because not only does it address one of the most pressing concerns of world today, it does so in a very effective manner.


Watch the amazing speech here!

2 responses to “Lessons from Tshering Tobgay’s successful Tedtalk”

  1. It took me too long to get to this post. I should have read it right away, it’s that important. Now I’m going to the talk. (But first so want to say how pleased so am to hear about your public speaking lessons. Sadly, our schools have overlooked, or simply dismissed, that important part of a young person’s development.. Good on you for emphasizing that!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I totally agree with you on the importance of public speaking lessons. I especially enjoy when my students start to speak with confidence, there is a certain sense of achievement on their face which is so palpable.


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