"TED Talks: The Official Guide to Public Speaking" by Chris Anderson


Today is the day! What a perfect time for TED curator Chris Anderson to release a new video, and book on what exactly makes a great talk.

Spring has been a busy TEDx season in around here. TEDxBYU took place on March 24, TEDxUSU applications recently closed, TEDxWestminsterCollegeSLC wrapped up on April 16, TEDxSaltLakeCity speaker applications just closed but performer applications are open until May 15, TEDxYouthParkCityYouth coming up on May 4, and TEDxMarmaladeLibrary is coming up on May 16.

Pat and I have spoken at or coached speakers for 8 different TEDx events, as well as investor pitches, keynote speeches, and storytelling. We love the community, camaraderie, and fresh thoughts at TEDx events and keep returning to this format that draws so many of us in.

So, what exactly is a TED talk? How do you craft your life experience into an idea worth spreading?


As Chris Anderson highlights in his video, the steps are simple, but not easy.

Limit to one major idea.

When I wrote the outline for my talk for TEDxWestminsterCollegeSLC, I had at least 10 drafts. Each new draft slashed paragraphs, dropped pages, and even cut whole concepts until I centered on one idea. (I’ll share it when the video comes out!) It’s tempting to share all the newest iterations and furthest reaching implications of your work, but your talk won’t be memorable unless you center on just one idea. Save the others for next time.


Give people a reason to care.

Get on the same page as your audience, start from the same vantage point, and “get their permission to welcome you.” Once you’ve established common ground, then you can point out the problem you see in the world. This is a great place for connecting stories. Bassam Salem’s TEDxSaltLakeCity talk invited the audience to close their eye and imagine with him. Vicky Whiting’s TEDxWestminsterCollegeSLC talk started with a familiar scene of a first job, but twisted into a shocking moment. Judy Robinett’s TEDxSacramento talk shared her vulnerable experiences as a shy and bullied Idaho teenager.


Build your idea with familiar concepts.

Weave together concepts that are in their language - not yours.” As Pat and I have worked with speakers from many different TEDx events, we’ve seen that this is the place where speakers benefit from outside feedback. You may think that the language you are using is common, but you won’t know until you run your ideas past someone on the outside. You may think your concepts are in a logical sequence, but a benefit of group feedback is you get to see the holes in your idea structure, and give you information about what the audience needs to hear to lead them to your idea.


Make your idea worth sharing.  

Ask yourself the question, “who does your idea benefit? Just you or your company?” If the answer is your company, it probably isn’t an idea worth spreading. Instead, how can can you give insight, change perspective or inspire your audiences to action? One question I ask my individual clients is, “How could the world could shift if everyone heard your talk?” Listen closely to your practice feedback audience about what they hear as your takeaway.


So, what idea do you want to share? How will you stretch the minds around you to new dimensions?

If you have a message you want to share more effectively, join Pat and I at a workshop exploring these concepts and more. We will be gathering with other change-makers at Salt Mine on May 21. Bring your idea to share and leave knowing a variety of idea-builders, infused with passion, and a new-found community.

Speak your truth, spread your message, and shift the world.  

Information and Registration