Thursday, April 21, 2016

New official guide to TED talks shares the 'secret': It's all in your ideas

Recently, I was coaching a scientist who had given a short 15-minute "TED-style" talk and wanted help revising it for a high-stakes conference. It had to be shorter, just 10 minutes. So we began with his first talk, and after I watched it and read a transcript, I surprised him by saying, "You need more detail. Just when we get to the point where your idea should be clear, you skip past it. This is too simple. I want to know more." I wanted substance, not just style. He was surprised--and relieved, because he felt the same way.

Many coaches make the error of urging speakers with big, complex ideas to skip over details in order to keep things simple. In the same way, many think the key to a great TED talk is a personal story, a formulaic approach, a big inspiring ending. But in a new and definitive guide to giving TED talks--written by the head of TED, Chris Anderson--you'll find that it's your idea and nothing else that is the most important part of a TED talk. That big red dot would be nothing without your stellar content, something I've learned firsthand coaching more than 140 speakers for TEDMED and TEDx talks.

In the video released as a preview for the book, Anderson shares four essential steps you should take to build an idea in the minds of your audience:
  • limit your talk to one single idea, then focus on how to explain it properly, make it vivid.
  • give your listeners a reason to care, to make them curious and welcoming of your idea. I sometimes call this answering the "so what?" question.
  • build your idea from concepts and language your audience already understands.
  • make it worth sharing, asking who it benefits? If that answer is just you and your organization, it won't work. People will share things they see as useful to them.
In a message to the TED community sharing the new video, Anderson said:
I recorded this talk to share some of the core findings of the book. In part, we want to demolish for all time the myth that there is a TED Talk formula. There really isn’t. A key intention of the book, and this talk, is to encourage greater variety in TED Talks, both in how they're prepared and in how they're delivered.
So speakers, you heard that right: TED wants talks of greater variety in both prep and delivery. Instead of seeking a formula, seek a new way to share your big ideas. And remember, anyone who tells you they know the formula for a TED talk is lying.

The scientist I was working with wound up with a talk that actually shared more needed detail in less time than the first version, while still being well-paced. The result was a powerful talk, clear to any listener, about his powerful ideas. He truly brought his listeners along with him on the path to his idea. And that's just what your TED or TED-style talk should be aiming for, too.

You can sharpen your skills on TED talks three ways with these new resources:

I'm excited to see this official guide come forward, and recommend it to all speakers--whether you're heading for a TED conference or just emulating this popular style.