TED Talks are now one of the most popular forms of spreading leading edge information. A few years ago, only an elite minority of techies and business leaders had even heard of them. Now, TED Talks are the modern equivalent of PBS or BBC where you can absorb important information in an easily digestible 15-minute talk. However, not all speakers are equally persuasive. Now that these talks are so popular, with TEDx all over the country, there’s a lot of competition. If you’re planning to give a TED Talk of your own (or a similar type presentation), you need to know how to make it memorable. The following are the top 3 common traits of a great TED Talk.
1. A Compelling Topic
The first quality of a great TED Talk is a topic people want to hear about. Just as an article or ad requires an engaging headline, a talk needs a title and topic that reels the audience in. Start by identifying a problem or issue and promise a solution. The most compelling talks often start with the words “how”, as in “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” or “How to Make Stress Your Friend”, which are actual titles of two of the most popular TED Talks of all time. Topics that tend to do well with TED audiences include leadership secrets, ways to improve performance in all areas of life, health, time management, and life hacks to help busy professionals.
2. A Persuasive Manner
Aristotle identified three modes of persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos. Although the Greek philosopher was writing more than two thousand years ago, his ideas on rhetoric are still relevant today and apply to both writing and speaking. Ethos refers to ethics and requires the speaker to establish credibility. Even if the audience knows your impressive credentials, it always helps to make references to your experience and success in a certain field.
Pathos appeals to the emotions. Every good speaker, whether a politician, minister, or CEO needs this quality. Study of oratory styles of great speakers such as Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy and observe how their words and oratory styles appeal to the audience’s emotions.
Logos, meanwhile, appeals to reason and logic. When you see a TED speaker pointing to a chart with statistics to drive home his or her points, you’re looking at logos in action. The best speakers seamlessly meld ethos, pathos, and logos together. They will, for example speak in an emotional tone of voice while proving a point logically and simultaneously, establishing their expertise.
3. Clear and Concise
TED Talks are relatively brief at less than 20 minutes. Many of the best talks are only around 10 minutes. You don’t have much time to capture your audience’s attention, introduce your topic, make your main points, and drive home your message. If you waste any time with digressions or irrelevant points, you risk diluting the talk’s effectiveness.
One of the selling points of TED Talks is their brevity, providing time-challenged viewers with a way to absorb valuable information in their spare time. However, it’s also a challenge for the speaker to condense complex information into a concise package. Keep in mind that you don’t have to provide an entire college course in your presentation. Your goal is to make one main point and introduce people to your way of thinking. If they want more details, send them your book or website.
Watch, Listen, and Learn
We’ve looked at three characteristics of the best TED Talks. However, it’s necessary to watch dozens, if not hundreds of talks to really understand what makes them succeed or miss the mark. Rather than watching to merely absorb the speakers message, watch and listen critically. It helps to watch less successful talks as well as great ones. Note as many details as possible about the speaker and what makes him or her great or not so great.