Thursday, February 26, 2015

What's missing from your TED-like talk, and what should be

"I'm giving a TED talk."

There's a lot of that going around. I hear hundreds say it casually, many more than there's room for at any of the official TED conferences. Sometimes, the speaker is referring to a locally organized TEDx conference. But more often, if pressed, they'll say they're giving a "TED-like" talk, something in the style of TED. And then comes the "but:" "But I'm going to [insert change you're making to the TED form here]."

I've coached nearly 100 speakers featured on the TEDMED stage, at TEDx conferences around the world, and on scores more for TED-like talks. My advice? Aim for TED quality. To do that, you need to pay attention to the things that are likely missing from your TED-like talks, and some things that should be missing. Here are just some of the missing and should-be-missing items:

What's missing
  • Why we would want to share this idea: "Ideas worth sharing" is the TED motto. That doesn't mean it's an idea you think is worth sharing, mind you, but one we would think is worth sharing. And by we, I don't mean your immediate family, your boss, or your employees. You can't just put the idea forward, you need to make clear why we'd want to pass it around.
  • Intrigue: Even as straightforward a TED talk as how to tie your shoes includes intrigue--in this case, it's the idea that you've been doing a simple task wrong all your life, and how to tell. That's one reason the simple 3-minute talk has 4.7 million views and counting. Draw your listener in with intrigue, often a missing element in a TED-like talk.
  • The real story you should be telling: I can't tell you how many times I hear speakers include in an aside the thing that should be the real focus of the story. This can be tough to spot, and you may be avoiding it because it's the thing that makes you more vulnerable, precisely what we want in a TED talk.
What should be missing
  • Most of your slides: The rule of thumb for a TED-quality talk is never to use a slide to repeat what's coming out of your mouth. Don't use them to duplicate your words. Don't use them as cue cards. Make word pictures we can see in our mind's eye. Talk directly to us without the slide-shield, and you'll connect better. Most of the people I see giving TED-like talks decide to use all the slides they want, and it really does separate the amateurs from the pros in this format.
  • Your branding or pitching: The best TED talks by CEOs don't mention their companies, their taglines, their marketing mantras. Nor do the best nonprofit talks make a plea for funding. TED asks that you not make your talk a commercial in disguise, even for a worthy cause. See if you can meet this bar--you may be surprised at how well it positions you as a thought leader. The program and the introduction may do this work for you, so save your talk time for your ideas.
  • The lovely picture of success: If you view a TED talk as a marketing exercise, one in which you present a smooth front of success, you've failed before you open your mouth to speak. TED talks are loaded with failure, shame, vulnerability...and the lessons, redemption, and connection that go with them. Question yourself on this score. Are you sanding down all the rough edges? If so, you aren't giving us a TED-quality talk.
There are many more factors among the missing and should-be-missing for these important talks. We'll cover this topic in depth at my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant £100 discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April.

I also work with groups to help them prep for TED-quality talks with a mix of group workshops and 1:1 coaching, or with individuals 1:1. Email me at eloquentwoman at gmail dot com if you'd like to try this approach.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by misspixels)