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Why You Need to Deliver a TED Talk Now

I have a friend who thinks delivering a TED Talk is the holy grail of professional validation. He would do almost anything to be invited to speak.

If you're not familiar with TED Talks, each invitee gets a maximum of 18 minutes to present their ideas, be engaging and compelling, and do justice to TED mission by sharing "ideas worth spreading."

"The problem is," my friend says, "I don't have anything worth saying."

He's wrong. He does.

So do you -- even if the only audience for your ideas is you. Roughing out your own TED Talk can pay huge dividends to how you approach your profession, your business, or even your personal life.

First you need to craft your idea worth spreading. Here are the basics:

1. Think simple. Remember, you only get 18 minutes. That's a good thing because it forces you to focus on clarity and simplicity. For example, here are a few of the top 20 TED Talks (by views):


    • Schools kill creativity
    • The best stats you've ever seen
    • The paradox of choice
    • Nurturing your genius
    • How great leaders inspire action

Clean, simple, to the point, each with a clear theme and a definite point of view.

2. Think about something you believe in. Think of a central theme you operate by, a point of view that gets you through adversity, or an against-the-grain perspective that almost always pays off. Everyone has them, even me. For instance, I think the word "idea" should be a verb because ideas without action aren't ideas -- they're regrets. I think the best way to deal with adversity is to TUSB, because the best solutions come from within, not without. I think cleverness can be developed, just like intelligence, and clever often beats smart. Relatively contrarian, somewhat thought-provoking... each could form the basis of a Talk.

Take a few minutes and list a few of your credos. If it helps, think about it this way: If you could only give your child one piece of advice, what would you say?

3. Gather your evidence. List your reasons for thinking the way you do. In most cases your evidence is a large helping of experience leavened by a little research or empirical data. Pretend you just said, "The hard choice is always the best choice," and I said, "That's interesting... why?" You don't have to hit the library; just explain why. Tell an anecdote or two. Give examples from your experience.

4. Pull it together to create a story. Every TED Talk (in fact, every good presentation, article, book -- every everything) takes a person somewhere: From A to B, from ignorance to knowledge, from uncertainty to insight... every great TED Talk takes the audience on a journey. Think about the story you are telling: Where do you want your audience to arrive at the end of their journey?


Then, if you want to develop a full-blown presentation, go for it. But you don't have to in order to benefit from the exercise.

Why? The point is to step back and think about the ideas that mean the most to you. Work and bosses and customers and family and, well, life often cause us to drift away from the core principles and perspectives that make us who we are. As a result we react instead of acting; we defend instead of challenging; we protect instead of taking intelligent risks.

So step back and think about your TED Talk. How do you see the world? How do you see yourself? What makes you you?

That is your personal TED Talk. Put together your presentation and give it to yourself.

Are you working and living that way? If not, listen to yourself -- and get back to living by your ideas worth spreading.

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Photo courtesy flickr user jurvetson, CC 2.0
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