TED Talks – What Are They About?

Courtesy of Mark Hunter (Flickr CC0)

TED Talks have been around for years, but what is going on behind the scenes? How have TED Talks been developed?

First, TED is an acronym. It stands for Technology, Entertainment, or Design and the talk is usually a presentation of one or more of these three topics. These talks usually last around 18 minutes or less. TED is also an organization. In addition to recordings, events are also hosted in different communities. Contrary to other companies, TED lets the specific community manage its event to make it a more precise fit for said group.

What most don’t know is that there is a structure behind these presentations and it’s not just a person making random statements or opinions.

What is the TED Structure?

While most think you only need three, there is a list of components that make a good TED talk. First, you will need a new and interesting idea. While nothing under the sun could be considered “new” you should be able to give a new POV (Point of View). Giving a new POV on an already established idea allows you to make the presentation feel educational.

Next, you will need to be able to give a concise presentation. This means being able to make your message quick and understandable. While a TED talk is usually around 18 minutes you should still be able to get to the point in a timely manner. Remember, in order to be concise you need to be brief and comprehensive.

Last, but not least, you will need visuals. This allows the listeners to be interactive. This also allows the presenter to make their points a bit more real, by illustrating them to their audience. Overall visuals allow a deeper understanding and deeper feeling for said topic. Giving the audience a feeling instead of words to leave with will make them remember the talk that much more.

These components make up the big three of TED talks.


Another component is to start strong. Although this is standard you want to get a good first impression. Starting with a quote, question or joke is also standard but no matter how you start off make sure to catch attention. Coming in heavy at the beginning takes some weight off the other 16 minutes of the talk.

It is also encouraged to show your passion. The audience is full of regular people just like the speaker. Showing your emotion for your topic will encourage listeners to do the same. It helps them be able to “feel” the speaker’s message. Ultimately everyone will be on the same page about the topic and how they feel.

It’s also important to make a call for action. Not only is it important to practice what you preach but encourage others to do the same. Give the audience a thought or a belief to challenge. Really get them involved in and outside of the presentation.

Relating and Evoking Emotion

Speakers should also feel free to share their stories. This is another way to show the audience your passion. This is another way to get your message to stick. Most opinions are backed with numbers and statistics, but adding a personal story gives those numbers more credibility.

Another way to tug at emotions is to make the crowd laugh. Although no TED talk is funny all the way through, it’s good to be humorous. This allows the crowd to be more comfortable and makes the speaker seem more relatable. Once again evoking emotion will also make the talk more memorable.

Something really important for the speaker is to be YOURSELF. Due to social cues and body language, it is easy for a crowd to tell. They know if you’re lying or if something seems off. Always stay true to yourself and be comfortable while on stage. Authenticity is key.

Lastly, just like starting strong, you should also finish strong. Leave the audience with more than words to remember. Leave them with something to think about. Say something inspiring, and let listeners leave feeling better than they walked in. You should end on a powerful note. You should aim to leave the listener with goosebumps.

All in All

TED talks are meant to inform and persuade. Never let a listener leave feeling confused or you may have missed one of the components. These presentations are beneficial to everyone and often give them the motivation to leave and make a change. No matter if the change is personal or global it made them take action.

Being able to talk to a person and give them this type of encouragement is powerful, which is why it’s important to know about TED talks. It’s always good to put power into your neighbor, and it could be as simple as a TED talk.

By Cynthia Thomas

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Speaker Nation: The TED Talk Formula

Top and Featured Image courtesy of Mark Hunter‘s Flickr page – Creative Commons License

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