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The TED talk, How I Hacked Online Dating, was an informative and extremely funny speech about the real world applications of data analysis. Amy Webb, the speaker, is a digital strategist who was an award winning reporter for Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal, and currently is the head of a digital strategy house called Webbmedia Group. On October 2, 2013 she gave a speech at the TED conference center. The speech she gave was her personal story of how she began using an online dating website and how she used her skills as a data analyst to improve her chances of success. She then wrote a book called Data: A Love Story, which she summaries in this speech. The audience that was intended for this speech was anyone who is currently attempting to find love through online dating, anyone who is interested in data and data analysis, and anyone who has read Amy Webb’s book. As the modern world becomes more and more digital, a greater number of single people have begun to try to meet people through online dating. This means that the topic of this is extremely relevant to a large number of people already, and that group is growing every day. It would also be easy for the audience to understand as the speech had a very clear purpose.
Amy Webb’s speech conveyed a very clear general purpose, which overall was to help people who were interested in online dating. It appears that her more specific purpose was to tell people how to a better job of online dating by using data analysis in this real world application. This would prove to the audience that they could use data analysis in many real world situations in their everyday lives. The only weak point in her delivery was not making this clear from the beginning of the speech. Once you have listened to the whole thing and look back, it is easy to understand the purpose of the speech. However, if you were only to watch the first five minutes of the talk, the purpose may not be very clear. The thesis of How I Hacked Online Dating is to inform people how they can use data analysis to improve their chances of finding the right partner through online dating. As the speech goes on, the main points of the talk become more evident. First that you have a better chance at finding someone you are attracted to who may be interested in forming a romantic relationship with, if you are actively looking for them in a database full of people who are interested in the same thing. This course of action is much more likely to succeed than just bumping into someone in the middle of the street and realizing that they are the so called one they have been searching for. Another point the talk was trying to convey was to study other people’s profiles to see whom you may be more interested in and seek them out. The final point was to analyze the completion, to see you else want to go out with the people whose profiles you like and see what the main commonalities they had with each other and the main differences between their profiles and yours. By taking the audience through her own personal story of the process, the presentation of the main points of the talk feel more like a conversation than a lecture on data analysis. It also allowed the audience to further identify with the speaker, considering her to be one of them and able to relate to their situation. This implies that Amy Webb did attempt to make the speech more audience centered and succeeded.
Several language devices were implemented throughout the speech. For example she never used extremely sophisticated words, instead using simple words in correct way. This use of language ensured that everyone who saw this speech would understand it, making it appealing to the common man. Amy Webb also used her words correctly and concise, showing that she was well educated and therefore was more likely to be considered credible to those audience members who listened to How I Hacked Online Dating. She also created a memorable word structure within her speech. When discussing being stuck with the check at a really expensive restaurant that had been chosen by “Steve the IT guy,” and forced to pay an entire month’s rent for a meal, she created a sense of drama for her listeners. Rather than using figurative language, her illustrations about the dating process, such as actually going out with her future husband and having a ten hour long conversation on the first date, created figurative images in the listeners mind. While language was a good strategy to use in her speech, it was not the only one she employed.
Throughout the speech, Amy Webb used several forms of reasoning. For instance, entire time she was describing how she got her data, like analyzing the profiles of men she was interested in and making fake profiles to find out about the women interested in them, it was a form of logical reasoning. She explained the reasons why she was doing these things in a step by step way that made it clear she was acting in a completely rational way and not like a crazy woman. There was also the calculation of available men in the city of Philadelphia equation she did. This was clearly another form of logical reasoning as it took the listener through a step by step process of how she came to realize just how limited the number of men she would be interested in were living in a city as large as Philadelphia. This not only helped prove her main purpose to the audience, but also showed how data analysis can be used in everyday life. The appeals to reason and logic were all well executed, she also appealed to the emotions of her listeners quite effectively.
Amy Webb made several appeal to emotion over the course of her speech. For example towards the beginning of her speech, she describes her frustration and disappointment after going through yet another break up and how her family was not nearly as sympathetic as she would have wished. This is a situation that nearly every person goes though in their life at least once, suffering a major disappointment and feeling like no one understands. This automatically made the audience sympathize with her predicament from the start, and as a result made them more likely to listen. She reinforced this sympathy later on when she talked about liking a man’s profile so much she was convinced that he was her prince charming, and he did not like her back; a story very familiar to many. At the same time there were several happy appeals to emotion, the greatest being at the conclusion when she describes meeting the man of her dreams and finally getting her grandmothers stamp of approval. The idea of meeting the one, and or getting the approval of someone you love and respect are two feelings that the general public crave, and inspired feelings of happiness and fulfillment at the conclusion. This ensured that the listeners left with a sense of happiness they associated with Amy Webb’s speech, making it more likely for them to remember the talk fondly. All in all, this was a useful strategy to utilize.
While delivering the speech, there were not many external communication challenges Amy Webb was forced to face. The stage she stood on was designed to be good for speakers. The room was well lite, she was on a slightly elevated platform, and had an audience that had literally paid to hear her speak. However this in itself may have been a problem. From personal experience, I know that it can sometimes be nerve wracking to be the sole focus of a room full of people, and thinking that they might not be paying attention to you can sometimes be the only thing that keeps you sane. If she faced any difficulties, Amy Webb handled the well as she maintained good eye contact and retained a steady rate while speaking. However, there were no obvious signs of her overcoming a specific difficulty, and in general she seemed very well prepared. The speech overall was very effective.
There were a lot of things I liked about his speech. The way she spoke to the audience, as if she were telling a story rather than giving a lecture, was very refreshing. Also the way she presented her purpose in a clear and easily understandable way was extremely well done. As with any speech however, there were several things she could have improved on. For example, there were very few hard facts incorporated into the speech, several equations but few facts. While I understand that overloading the speech with facts would have ruined the style of speech that she was forming, I think that incorporating a few extra facts into the structure could not hurt. Also, while she was speaking she was continually moving and gesturing with her hands. The occasional gesture can be effective, but she would have been better served stilling her hands and limiting her movement. Despite this, I feel that her speech was very effective and well done. I would feel confident in recommending it to a friend.
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