At least one TEDGlobal speaker I've worked with tells me that 14, rather than 18, minutes is the limit under discussion. But far shorter are the two-minute talks given by innovators featured in TEDMED's The Hive, bringing them to the main stage. And in my coaching outside of proper TED conferences, many clients are asking for me to work with speakers to develop five-minute TED-style talks.
Why the shorter times? I can think of a few reasons:
- Conference organizers can get more content included and more speakers featured--and better speaker engagement. At TEDMED, the two-minute talks served as short introductions to these entrepreneurs and innovators, who would be spending most of their conference time in The Hive, a space for meals, discussion, side events, and exhibits. And the short talks did the trick, encouraging participants to meet and mingle with these entrepreneurs. The shorter talks were early in the program, to encourage interaction over the course of the conference.
- Audience attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. After six years of coaching at TEDMED, I find my foot tapping impatiently 15 minutes into any talk, even a good one. TED and TEDMED helped bring our talk-attention-span to 18 minutes, but they've always included a range of talk lengths, because the variety matters to the audience. And those short talks are some of the most popular in the TED portfolio.
- Speakers get a high-impact opportunity that's more likely to be heard--and listened to--in a wide variety of settings. If you think of talks as your introduction to the audience, rather than a catalog of everything you know, the shorter talk makes a lot of sense. A short talk can have just enough in it to get those donors, investors, supporters, and fans seeking you out for more after the session. And if you have a well-learned five-minute talk in your back pocket, you can speak at a moment's notice, at a wide range of events. Use a two- or five-minute talk to open a Q&A session or town hall; speak at a reception; introduce a day of conference talks with a theme; and more.
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter or track when others tweet about the lack of women speakers on programs via @NoWomenSpeakers. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.