The TED Method

Everyone wants to incorporate TED-style talks into their meetings and conferences, but how do you know if you’re doing it right?

Want your speaker sessions to resemble TED Talks? Go straight to the source. In TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, Chris Anderson shares what he’s learned about connecting with audiences since taking over TED in 2001 — including how to get started:

Chris Anderson book - TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking. Photo: Dian Lofton / TED
Chris Anderson book – TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking. Photo: Dian Lofton / TED

There’s one thing you have that no one else in the world has: your own first-person experience of life. Yesterday you saw a sequence of things and experienced a sequence of emotions that is, quite literally, unique. You are the only human among 7 billion who had that exact experience. So … can you make anything of that? Many of the best talks are simply based on a personal story and a simple lesson to be drawn from it. Did you observe anything that surprised you? Maybe you watched a couple of children playing in the park, or had a conversation with a homeless person. Is there something in what you saw that might be interesting to other people? If not, could you imagine spending the next few weeks walking around with your eyes open, being aware of the possibility that some part of your unique journey could be of interest and benefit to others?

People love stories, and everyone can learn to tell a good story. Even if the lesson you might draw from the story is familiar, that’s OK — we’re humans! We need reminding! There’s a reason religions have weekly sermons that tell us the same things over and over, packaged different ways. An important idea, wrapped up in a fresh story, can make a great talk, if it’s told the right way.

Think back over your work of the last three or four years; what really stands out? What was the last thing you were really excited by? Or angered by? What are the two or three things you’ve done that you’re most proud of? When was the last time you were in conversation with someone who said, “That’s really interesting”? If you could wave a magic wand, what is the one idea you’d most love to spread to other people’s minds?

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