4 Keys to a Successful TEDx Talk

Entrepreneurs can use speaking to grow their businesses.
4 Keys to a Successful TEDx Talk
Image credit: Prasit photo | Getty Images

It's been said that the number one fear in the world, even above death, is the fear of speaking in public. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld has said that for most people, this means if they are at a funeral, they would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.

I can relate to this. I spent many of my early talks covered in sweat, knees shaking, often forgetting what I had prepared in advance, being forced to “wing it.” And winging it is something I highly discourage in the early days of your speaking career.Still, I showed up, delivered my talks and aimed to learn from every single moment on stage.

Related: The Top Rules of Public Speaking

Today, with thousands of talks under my belt, and hot on the heels of delivering my second TEDx Talk, I thought I would share the four keys I have discovered when it comes to delivering a successful TEDx Talk -- keys that apply to delivering any talk. After reading these tips, I encourage you to watch my talk, Crush Your Fears and Expand Your Comfort Zone.

1. Have an idea worth spreading.

This is actually the TED tagline -- Ideas Worth Spreading. If you are going to deliver a successful TEDx Talk, it should be built around such an idea. It should also be either a fresh idea or one you have a unique perspective on. In my case, the unique perspective is that I have personally interviewed more than 4,000 influential leaders and can present ideas based on my exclusive findings.

To test if your idea is worth spreading, pitch it to some people you know will be honest in their feedback. Their feedback should go a long way toward determining if you have hit upon the right idea.

Related: Sorry But Successful People Don't Care About Your Brilliant Idea

2. Content is king and emotional connection is queen.

I just watched a talk this morning where the speaker stumbled over her words, restarted multiple sentences and missed key points. At the end of the talk, she received a standing ovation. The reason? Her content was brilliant.

If you have amazing content, people will often forgive minor hiccups, especially during TEDx Talks. If your content is weak, often the best delivery won’t make up for it. Ideally, you’ll hit it out of the park in both respects, but never forget how crucial your content is. If content is important, emotional connection is crucial.

Work very hard in crafting a message that will make your audience laugh, cry, reflect or relate to you. If you can connect emotionally with your audience, you’re more than halfway there. 

A great approach in creating your content and emotional connection is in finding the universal element -- something everyone can relate to -- in your talk. Here again, a good approach would be to pitch it to those you trust, and get their feedback to make sure it will truly connect.

3. What’s the story, morning glory?

I present on storytelling regularly. There are few things that can reach and motivate an audience more than a good story. I would argue that the Apples, Starbucks and Disneys of the world have built their brands almost entirely around their stories.

If you want to craft a strong story, here are the elements that I have discovered are critical. Your story should have a hero -- and it doesn’t have to be a person -- a villain and an emotional component. It should be related to a big why; it should inspire, and possibly, have a call to action.

Related: The World-Changing Power of Sharing Your Story

4. Practice so much that it seems like no work at all has gone into your talk.

After you have decided on your idea, the content, how you will connect emotionally, and you have brought your story together, it is time to practice. Whether it is a TEDx Talk, a concert performance or a business, things can go wrong.

During my recent TEDx Talk, there were many issues with the sound. Thanks to consistent practice I knew my talk well enough to adjust where necessary, while also making sure not to let the sound issue impact my overall performance.

If you watched the recent Metallica performance at the Grammys, I'm sure you noticed that lead singer James Hetfield’s mic was having sound issues. Even though the mic stayed silent during the entire first verse, James kept singing as if the mic were working perfectly, and when the mic finally kicked in, he finished out the song without missing a beat. He may not have been happy about the situation but because he knew his material, he was able to handle the performance itself like a pro.

If you practice your talk often enough, you’ll know your material, and you’ll be able to handle whatever might come your way. Practice these four keys consistently, and you might just find yourself more than ready when the next TEDx or Keynote invite comes in.

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