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How do I write a TEDx-like talk?
I mean, not just a talk—but a really good talk. An impactful, authentic, creative, engaging talk?
A connected talk.
A memorable talk.
A talk that gets both you and your idea noticed?
There is a path to an impactful TEDx-like talk! (And this is the place to be to learn how!)
Below are my key strategies, tips, and insights (ordered in three distinct phases) that I’ve used with my clients over the last 20+ years to help take something that feels overwhelmingly terrifying and complicated (aka public speaking) and turn it into an exciting and doable journey.
I want you to click around and explore the resources below. Take these tips, tricks and strategies (seriously...save them to your hard drive) so you feel supported and informed as you expand your ideas about what's possible for you as a speaker and increase your skills so you can step into bold new career and life directions (because speaking opens new doorways...it just does)!
THE FIVE LESSONS I LEARNED GIVING A TEDX TALK
PHASE ONE: 1000-FEET
From 1000 feet up—before you ever start to write—there are some key ideas you want to get clear in your head. Before you can put pen to paper (or hand to keyboard), you’ve got to know where you’re going. As in all things, context is king—and that is especially true in the speaking realm. Who’s in the room—and what kind of room you’ll be in—and what time of day—and WHY YOU’RE THERE—and what the point is—and how these people feel about it—all contribute to what ultimately goes on that paper!
Without taking stock of the view from 1000 feet up, I promise you will get lost in the woods of content creation.
TAKE THE SASI SPEAKER INVENTORY
KNOW YOUR SPACE
Where will you be speaking? How will it be set up? What’s the tech expectations? Will you use slides? Getting all the specs of that space clear in your head before you start might be the difference between a successful talk and a flop.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
It takes time and effort to really care and connect with our audiences. Do your research, and ask yourself some essential questions about where they’re at now - and where you want them to go.
I really believe that people don’t ultimately remember what we said - they remember how we made them feel. So setting your intention on this is essential, and can determine your way forward as you create your content.
To thine own self be true. Know thyself, et al. Super smart people said this because - DUH - if we want to create an authentic and connected talk, we need to first be sure we have a sense of who we are (so we can be sure that who we are is coming across).
There are a million different personality tests and approaches to knowing yourself… but in the context of speaking, I like to think of it as knowing your “pearl button.” Curious what I mean by that?
Once you know your “pearl button” you can utilize those strengths in connecting with your audience.
KNOW YOUR IDEA
Before you dive into writing and creating your talk, you need the 1000-foot view of your idea.
KNOW THE POINT
What is the key idea you’re trying to get across?
This is NOT your cool and pithy title; this is NOT a paragraph-long explanation. (And it’s probably not the first 10 things you write down.) It will likely take you awhile to really nail this down. That’s ok. I want you to get this point to a “good enough” place before really digging into the content more fully.
LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE SASI METHOD SERIES BELOW:
THE 7/7 TEST
If you can easily—within 7 seconds—explain it to a 7 year-old (and they get it!) you’re good to go.
For my TEDx talk it’s: "Most of us have the wrong idea about speaking, so my talk is about being more authentic, connected and courageous as speakers!”
(Shoot, that’s 8 seconds, but close enough.)
Once you have THE POINT “good enough” in your mind, you can dive into the 500-foot view. (And you’ll likely come back to edit/clarify THE POINT as you develop your content.)
JAMMING IT ALL IN THERE
Most people, without realizing it, have several talks in their talk. There’s so much we want to say! Be really tough with yourself, and get as simple and clear as possible as about what this talk is, and isn't. This will help you edit as you go on. If you have trouble cutting, start a new document to capture those ideas and know it will likely live on in another talk, someday!
PHASE TWO: THE 500-FOOT VIEW
8 - CREATE A 5-POINT OUTLINE
Before you head off on a trip - you want a general sense of where you’re going, right? Of course you do! The same is true for our talks. If we decide a few hours into our journey that we really want to go somewhere else (and we probably will), we need to know we’re moving in the general right direction.
So - your 5-point outline does just that: it lays out the basic stopping points as you begin to develop your content.
1 // INTRODUCTION (which includes an origin story, “thesis”/or the point, and connects to the audience)
2 // point one (story & commentary)
3 // point two (story & commentary)
4 // point three (story & commentary)
5 // CLOSE
Let’s be clear: You’re sketching out the basic, high-level idea. You’re not creating the whole kit-n-kaboodle quite yet. Why not??!, you ask?! Because we’re just establishing some of the biggest stopping points and key content blocks. If you dive into the depths too early, it’s too easy to get lost.
KNOW YOUR ORIGIN STORY
An origin story is the story of where this idea all began. Like all good stories, this story should be specific, and bring you to an AHA moment that reveals your POINT.
USE STORIES AS THE BUILDING BLOCKS
As you are developing your 5-point outline, identify stories that reveal the point of each of those sections. You may not use all of these, but using stories are the building blocks of your content makes it emotive, relevant, interesting - and - bonus! - easier to pull together.
FOLLOW YOUR STORIES WITH COMMENTARY
The main role of a speaker (vs. simply being a storyteller) is to create insight where they might not be any right now. So, just telling a story without creating meaning from it for your audience, you’ve only done half your job. What do you want to say about that story? How does it support your point?
PHASE THREE: 100-FOOT VIEW
WRITE IT OUT or TALK IT OUT (AND TRANSCRIBE)
I’m one of those coaches who thinks getting it down on paper is useful because it forces you to make decisions about what you are and aren’t going to say, so you get a clear sense of length and depth, and so you are being at least somewhat intentional about these choices.
BUT. (And this is a big bug!) If writing gets in the way of speaking REAL, TALKY WORDS (vs smarty-pants written words) - then please don’t sit down at your computer or take out that pen and paper. For some people, the act of writing suddenly turns them into a writer, vs. a speaker. And you are a speaker! This art form is meant to be spoken (not read as if you’re reading someone’s beautifully written prose).
EDIT and REVISE
I think editing and revising is perhaps the most under-valued skill as speakers. Editing wields incredible power to clarify and crystallize our ideas into meaty and meaningful takeaways for our audience. So, don’t shortchange this part! I think I was on V13 when I finally stopped mussing with my TEDx content.
STOP WHEN YOU’RE AT 80%
What?! 80% is still a long ways from done! I know. But, as I mentioned above—you are not a writer—you’re a speaker! So, if we want the words to truly live in our bodies (and not just in our minds and then come out of our mouths), then we’ve got to shift gears into how this content will live in our bodies.
Whew! That's a lot to take in, right?
Take your time as you study the lessons above. Don't even try to learn everything all at once! I recommend bookmarking this page so you can learn something, then come back and pick up where you left off later.
Ready to learn how to get your mind ready for your next big talk?
FREQUENTLY ASKED CONTENT DEVELOPMENT QUESTIONS
What's the ideal timing for a 20-minute talk?
first story: 4 minutes
point/intro: 2 minutes
first point: 4
second point: 4 minutes
third point: 4 minutes
closing: 2 minutes (This is the MAXIMUM amount of time you need for your closing. A good closing can be done much faster!)
(If it’s an 18-minute talk, you cut each point down and the closing by :30., and try and get to your first point by minute 5 if you can!)
What are the biggest TEDx Talk lessons you’ve learned?
How much time does it take to write a talk?
More than you think. I once heard a rule that for every minute of your talk, you should be putting in that many hours of development time. I think that’s probably pretty close (though truth be told I put in a LOT more time than 18 hours on my 18-minute TEDx talk).
But I’ve also seen people zip past the first two phases of content development because they really truly had CLARITY about what the talk is about, who it’s for, where it will be - and how they creatively want to approach it. Most of us can’t step into writing without doing some initial digging to really determine what your talk is (actually!) about… And that, quite simply, is a creative process that takes time - sometimes months! So dig in, dig deep - and know that they only way to the other side is through.