How To Write A TED Talk In 7 Quick And Easy Steps (2023)

Within the speaking industry, there’s more than one way to make it to the top. The most obvious path is the numbers game, in which you speak at as many events as possible. On the other hand, the second option for gaining prestige is by first doing so in your focus industry. For example, if you work in finance, you would climb the latter within the finance industry first. From there, you would branch into speaking as a secondary profession before eventually speaking full-time. In many cases, it is this route that leads to an invitation for a TEDx or TED event. As a result, learning how to write a TED talk can be a bit less structured than writing a normal speech.

That said, although writing a TED talk can be a challenge, the benefits of speaking for TED events far outnumber the trials. Not only are they a stellar addition to your resume. They’re also a highly publicized and easily accessible way for you to share your message. Unlike in-person events, because TED talks are also available for free online, giving one allows you to reach people and groups that might not otherwise have the opportunity to hear you speak. Together, these benefits supplement your credibility and increase your exposure, aiding in that climb to the top of the speaking industry.

So, without further ado, let’s talk about how to write a TED talk that absolutely blows your audience away. Although, in this guide, we’ll focus on the seven steps below, feel free to check out our companion blog, “What Is A TED Talk? The Fundamentals of TED Explained” for more information about the TED Organization.

(Video) How to sound smart in your TEDx Talk | Will Stephen | TEDxNewYork

Table Of Contents

  1. Choose a topic you care about.
  2. Craft your message around that topic, and keep it clear and concise.
  3. Define a key takeaway for the audience.
  4. Draft your TED talk as a story.
  5. Tailor your visual aids to your audience, your story, and your brand.
  6. Practice, practice, practice.
  7. Remember it’s okay to show your flaws.

Choose a topic you care about.

How To Write A TED Talk In 7 Quick And Easy Steps (1)

First and foremost, a great TED talk demands a great topic. As a rule, when choosing your topic, there are four questions to answer. The first, as recommended by the TED organization, is “Is my idea new?” Here, the goal is to either choose a completely new idea or put a new spin on an older idea. Likewise, the second question asks, “Is my idea interesting?” Regardless of your topic’s age, you need to demand attention. Dr. Guy Winch’s 2019 TED Talk, for instance, is a perfect example of this. As a psychologist and speaker, Dr. Winch takes the common idea of work/life balance and makes it relevant to the modern practice of telecommuting.

That brings me to the third question to keep in mind when you write a TED talk: “Is my idea factual and realistic?” Besides capturing the audience’s attention, you also want to inspire them to action. In Dr. Winch’s talk, he suggests building a metaphorical barrier between your work life and personal life. Ultimately, there are a few ways he recommends doing this, but each way is achievable immediately. Similarly, as you choose your topic, keep in mind that although your idea can be big, the actions you inspire in the audience have to be smaller-scale and realistic.

Lastly, within the SpeakerFlow team, there’s a fourth question we recommend asking yourself as you write a TED talk: “Do I care about my idea?” Unsurprisingly, the more passionate you are about your topic, the easier it will be to write your talk. You’ll also be more confident about the topic, as a whole, making you more confident and comfortable on stage. Plus, if you’re passionate about your idea, the more likely it will be that you can answer “yes” to each of the questions above.

(Video) How To Give A TED Talk Series: 7 Ways to Prepare for a TED Talk (Or TED Style Talk)

Craft your message around that topic, and keep it clear and concise.

How To Write A TED Talk In 7 Quick And Easy Steps (2)

The next step, after choosing a topic for your TED talk, is crafting a clear and concise message around it. At most, TED talks run 20 minutes total, some as short as 10 minutes. There are two reasons for this design, the first of which is for the audience. As seen with students throughout the world, there are many factors that contribute to people’s attention spans. In light of this, the more concise your talk, the less likely audience members’ focus will stray. The other reason TED talks are kept short is to test your speaking ability. Since the TED Conference was first hosted in 1984, their mission has been to “change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world” through the ideas of their speakers. That means each TED speaker has to be exceptionally knowledgeable in their focus industry and able to explain their knowledge on a variety of levels.

Depending on your topic, this may be easier said than done, especially if you’re discussing a complex subject. This is another reason to choose a topic you are passionate about. In most cases, the more you care about something, the more you know. Because of this, the more easily you’ll be able to identify the most important things the audience needs to know. You’ll also have an easier time when you write a TED talk, as each of these things can serve as a part of your speech. It’s almost like drafting a five-paragraph essay, as a high school student. The introduction and conclusion take care of two paragraphs, leaving three to outline yourself. When you write a TED talk, the same outline applies on a larger scale, and the most important pieces of your message are those body paragraphs.

Define a key takeaway for the audience.

After outlining the important bullet points to cover in your TED talk, the next piece of the puzzle is defining a key takeaway for your audience. In our essay analogy, this is like the thesis statement in your opening paragraph. In short, it needs to answer the question, “What sentence or phrase should the audience remember when they leave?” If you’re not sure how to define your thesis, the team at Ethos3 put it perfectly in one of their guides from 2018. In it, they recommended to write a TED talk and then sum it up in a single sentence. Although it sounds difficult, this ultimately forces you to narrow your message as much as possible. This makes it easier for the audience to remember your talk and gives you a reference point as you draft it.

More inspiration can also be found in video titles in the library of past TED talks or on the TED YouTube channel. Some of my personal favorites include “Dangerous times call for dangerous women” by Pat Mitchell and “To help solve global problems, look to developing countries” by Bright Simons. In each of these examples, there’s enough information to see what the speaker’s main topic is and get an idea of their argument. Likewise, your key takeaway should be engaging and succinct. Think of it like you’re designing it to be a mini version of your main idea, and remember the questions we covered earlier. Is it new, interesting, factual, and realistic? Can I passionately back it up? If your key takeaway can answer these with a “yes,” you’re all set for the next piece of the puzzle.

Draft your TED talk as a story.

How To Write A TED Talk In 7 Quick And Easy Steps (4)

At this point, you should be all set to write a TED talk. With your main arguments outlined and your key takeaway narrowed down, all that’s left is to add the entertainment aspect. This is largely where you can bring in your personal style and really make the TED talk your own. If you’re an experienced speaker, although TED talks are unique, you probably already have this nailed down.

(Video) How to speak so that people want to listen | Julian Treasure

On the other hand, if you’re a new speaker and still a little nervous about this, no worries! Learning to write a TED talk is like learning to write any speech in one way more than any other: the importance of stories. In addition to including facts and evidence, there are a handful of less structured ways to make your speech more of a story than a lecture. This not only makes you more relatable to members of the audience. It’s also yet another way to make your TED talk more engaging. After all, everyone loves a good story, right?

Some of the simplest ways to write a TED talk as a story are outlined by Disney film writer and director Andrew Stanton. Overall, one of the greatest tips he has can be found in his own TED talk from 2012: “Use what you know. Draw from it. It doesn’t always mean plot or fact. It means capturing a truth from your experiencing it, expressing values you personally feel deep down in your core.” In short, your speech should have a beginning, middle, and end like a story, but it should also be personal. Your audience is full of people just like you, so although being a little emotional might feel scary, it also makes you easier to connect with. If you can make ‘em laugh, too, that’s an added bonus. 👏

How To Write A TED Talk In 7 Quick And Easy Steps (5)

Tailor your visual aids to your audience, your story, and your brand.

How To Write A TED Talk In 7 Quick And Easy Steps (6)

Besides the verbal aspects of your TED talk, you may want to consider a visual component, as well. In many of the examples we’ve touched on, this means a slideshow presentation to play behind you as you speak. Depending on the depth of your topic and the length of your talk, the complexity of your slideshow may vary. That said, it’s important to remember to keep things simple. The goal of the slides is to add to what you’re saying, not distract from it. Knowing this, as you create your visual aids, try to avoid gifs or images that could be distracting or disturbing. Conversely, take note of the less intriguing parts of your speech, too. Then, design your slides to include a visual aid or two during these points. That way, you can keep everyone engaged for necessary information, even if it’s not exciting.

The other piece to keep in mind, as you write a TED talk, is branding. On any visual aids in your speech, be sure your style is consistent with your spoken language and your brand. For example, if you’re speaking about how to handle grief, steer clear of a slide show with holographic gifs or a hot pink outfit. Again, the goal of visual aids is to add to your message and your stage persona. That means each piece of your TED talk – clothes, body language, wording, cadence, visual aids – works together to convey your message. As you wrap up the drafting part of preparing for a TED talk, keep this in mind.

Practice, practice, practice.

How To Write A TED Talk In 7 Quick And Easy Steps (7)

The final step in the pre-event steps to write a TED talk is a simple one: Practice, practice, practice. In front of as many people as you can, rehearse your speech and iterate as needed. Even as an experienced speaker, there could be ticks or bad habits that you may not notice but your audience will. Take one of my college professors, for example – We’ll call her Ms. Smith. Although Ms. Smith was a font of knowledge when it came to microbiology, she unknowingly was an incredibly distracting speaker. This was largely due to her constant gesticulating and the drama with which she moved her hands as she spoke. Obviously, for her students, this made it hard to follow her, but I’m sure to this day, she doesn’t even realize she does it.

(Video) How Five Simple Words Can Get You What You Want | Janine Driver | TEDxHardingU

To sum up, when you write a TED talk and start practicing, learn from Ms. Smith and have someone watch you present. Not only can they catch any habits distracting from your speech. They can also provide their own perspective on your body language or the structure of your presentation. All in all, you’re giving a TED talk for the benefit of the audience, in-person and online. What better way to make sure you reach that audience than to practice with a few “test’ audiences beforehand?

Remember it’s okay to show your flaws.

How To Write A TED Talk In 7 Quick And Easy Steps (8)

Lastly, as you write a TED talk, remember you don’t have to be perfect. Obviously, we all want to nail everything about our presentation, from our clothes to our body language to the words themselves. However, even if you’ve spoken thousands of times before, it’s normal to be nervous or slip up. In fact, tons of past TED speakers have felt the same. Just remember, in the words of artist (and TED speaker) Janice Tanton, “Fear is just a misguided form of creativity.” You entered the speaking industry because of your creativity and passion, so anything that you see as a flaw just makes you all the more memorable for your audience. Plus, if you do slip up on stage, being able to laugh at yourself helps connect you to your audience, too.

In conclusion, there are countless speaker awards and certifications out there that demonstrate how great a speaker you are and how much experience you have. The same validation also comes from speaking for the TED organization. Whether you appear at a small TEDx event or the yearly TED conference itself, having TED on your resume gives decision-makers their answer immediately. In other words, seeing that you’ve given a TED talk makes them more likely to hire you!

So, this year, as you either write a TED talk for an upcoming event or simply work to gain the TED Organization’s attention, remember this checklist. Feel free to also check out TED’s illustrated preparation guide or TEDx speaker guide, for tips and tricks from the TED Organization itself.

Have a TED talk in the books already? Let us know! Here at SpeakerFlow, we’re all about real connections with real people, and we’d love to give you and your TED talk a shoutout. 😊🎉

How To Write A TED Talk In 7 Quick And Easy Steps (9)

FAQs

How do you write a good TED Talk? ›

In a TED Talk setting, this generally includes three sections. First, introduce your main idea and any background information. Second, present evidence for the main idea, so as to prove your point. Lastly, give your conclusion, based on the evidence provided.

How do I start a TED Talk script? ›

Draw in your audience members with something they care about. - If it's a topic the general TED audience thinks about a lot, start with a clear statement of what the idea is. - If it's a field they never think about, start off by invoking something they do think about a lot and relate that concept to your idea.

What is a TED Talk format? ›

TED style talks are delivered without notes and the speaker wears a lapel or headset microphone and is never behind a lectern. TED style presentations have minimal or even no slides. If slides are used they are often highly visual, the images are of exceptional quality with maybe only one or two words on each.

What are the top 3 ways to start a speech? ›

Here are seven effective methods to open a speech or presentation:
  • Quote. Opening with a relevant quote can help set the tone for the rest of your speech. ...
  • “What If” Scenario. Immediately drawing your audience into your speech works wonders. ...
  • “Imagine” Scenario. ...
  • Question. ...
  • Silence. ...
  • Statistic. ...
  • Powerful Statement/Phrase.
7 Apr 2015

How many words is a TED Talk? ›

A person speaks on average 125-150 per minute and TED gives you a maximum of 18 minutes to deliver your talk. To be on the safe side aim for 16 minutes max. (When you are nervous you may speak more slowly or more rapidly.) 16 x 150 = 2400 words.

How long is a TED Talk? ›

Talks may be no longer than 18 minutes. This is the maximum length, not the goal of every talk. TED often asks speakers to present for 3, 5, or 9 minutes, so make sure your speaker knows how much time they have.

How do you end a TED Talk? ›

“Thanks for being such an amazing audience. I have loved every moment, standing here, talking to you. I'll carry this experience with me for a long, long time. You've been so patient, and I know that you'll take what you've heard today and do something wonderful with it.” (“Thank you” would have been just fine.)

How do I start a TED Talk at school? ›

Fill out our application to provide us with more information about why you and your organization/school want to use the TED-Ed Student Talks program. We review applications and approve access to our curriculum three times a year. To learn more about the application process and the program, continue reading below.

What makes a good life TED Talk main points? ›

In his TED talk, “What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness,” Waldinger says that while many young people tend to think that fame, fortune, and hard work will bring them happiness, it's actually our social connections that are most important for our well being.

Do TED talks use notes? ›

Slides are a commonly incorporated element of TED Talks. TED presenters typically do not use teleprompter or notes, but they do offer "confidence monitors" at the feet of presenters. These allow presenters to glance down at see slides or notes without calling attention to itself.

Do TED talks use slides? ›

In fact, a lot of our best TED and TEDx Talks have had no slides. So if you don't think your speaker needs slides, don't let them use slides. Explain to them that their talk is strong enough without them. When your speakers do have slides, the general consensus is that less is more.

What are the 7 steps to writing a speech? ›

7 Steps To Writing An Effective Speech
  • Identify the purpose of your speech. ...
  • Analyze your audience. ...
  • Condense your message to the basics. ...
  • Strike the right tone. ...
  • Pull them in with your intro. ...
  • Perfect the flow. ...
  • End strong.

How do you end a speech? ›

Thank the audience

The simplest way to end a speech, after you've finished delivering the content, is to say, "thank you." That has the benefit of being understood by everyone. It's the great way for anyone to signal to the audience that it's time to applaud and then head home.

What is the easiest way to write a speech? ›

Speechwriting 101: Writing an Effective Speech
  1. Know Your Audience. Learn as much as possible about the audience and the event. ...
  2. Choose Your Core Message. If the core message is on target, you can do other things wrong. ...
  3. Research and Organize. Research until you drop. ...
  4. Develop Structure to Deliver Your Message. ...
  5. Spice it Up.
11 Jan 2013

Do TED Talks have to be memorized? ›

You don't need to memorize your whole speech, word for word, but you do want to be sure you can replicate your main pieces of content and your stories. Trust me, you'll love the results, and so will your clients.

Why do TED Talks last 18 minutes? ›

A TED Talk is 18 minutes long—a length that was chosen by TED organizers based both on neuroscience and strategy. They understood that 18 minutes was long enough for a speaker to flesh out an idea, but short enough that a listener could take in, digest, and understand all of the important information.

What's a good TED talk topic? ›

Topics
  • Activism.
  • Addiction.
  • Africa.
  • Aging.
  • Agriculture.
  • AI.
  • AIDS.
  • Algorithm.

What is a good hook for a TED talk? ›

One of the most common hook ideas is to start with a rhetorical question. Better still, start with a series of rhetorical questions. An excellent example of this tactic is Simon Sinek's TED presentation on how great leaders can inspire action.

What makes a TED talk popular? ›

Emotion and Passion. TED speakers go beyond just reciting facts and know how to captivate with emotional influence and speaking passionately about the topic. These presenters touch the hearts of their audience, use enthusiasm, and inspire the audience to positive action. 5.

What is TED TED stand for? ›

TED was born in 1984 out of Richard Saul Wurman's observation of a powerful convergence among three fields: technology, entertainment and design.

Are TED Talks recorded? ›

Almost every TED Talk hosted on TED.com has full subtitles and a snazzy clickable time-coded transcript. While some of your favorite TED Talks were shot with multiple cameras — up to nine — others are filmed very simply.

What age are TED Talks for? ›

If you are under the age of 13, you may not create a TED.com account, but you are welcome to watch TED Talks and enjoy the site. If you are under the age of 16, and from the European Union (“EU”), you can only create an account if you have verifiable parental consent.

Does a TED Talk go in quotes? ›

Only italicize very long UTube videos such as hour long TED Talks. The short ones go in quotation marks. In general, always defer to the publication's choices. Italicize titles in these categories as well.

Do TED speakers get paid? ›

TEDx does not pay speakers. Speakers receive complimentary tickets for themselves and one guest. Most speakers stay for the whole event. Other benefits include pre-conference speaker coaching and training, a gift bag, and a web archive of the whole event.

Is Ted ed for kids? ›

Between the excellent-quality videos and the extensive flipped-classroom lesson plans, TED-Ed is a great resource for kids looking for education, inspiration, and fun.

How many slides should a TED talk have? ›

He says there is no “right” number of slides.

However, it's important that every single one shown — even the blank ones (more on those later) — be, as Jurczynski puts it, “connected with the story you're telling.” Here, he shares 6 specific tips for creating the most effective slides.

What makes a good life? ›

Close relationships, the data indicates, are what keep people happy throughout their lives. The study found strong relationships to be far and away the strongest predictor of life satisfaction, and better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, wealth, fame, IQ, or even genes.

Is there a Ted Talk app? ›

TED app is free to download on your iOS and Android devices. You can access more than 3,000 talks for free in 100+ languages.

What makes us happy in life? ›

It can stem from a number of positive emotions, thoughts, and experiences, all contributing to your overall positive affect. Since what makes you happy may be different from what makes someone else happy, increasing happiness might be best achieved by looking at ways to increase positive affect.

What is the main motto of TED Talk? ›

TED Conferences, LLC (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is an American-Canadian non-profit media organization that posts international talks online for free distribution under the slogan "ideas worth spreading".

What are the four 4 foundations of a powerful speech TED Talk? ›

In his talk, Treasure highlights four critical components of effective speech: honesty, authenticity, integrity and love (HAIL). These four elements can help individuals drive conversations in ways that are meaningful and thoughtful, but they are most powerful when applied together.

What are the features of a good TED Talk? ›

So here are the five characteristics of a great TED talk.
  • Simple. The first is that the message needs to be simple. ...
  • Clear. The next characteristic is clarity. ...
  • Original. Here is where many TED talks distinguish themselves. ...
  • Relevant. TED audiences expect new and interesting ideas – “Ideas Worth Spreading”. ...
  • Enjoyable.
12 Mar 2012

What are the top 5 elements for an engaging TED Talk? ›

5 Elements of a Great TED Talk
  • Begin with the end in mind, and have a clear idea of your central idea. ...
  • Have a catchphrase. ...
  • Avoid intro buzzkill. ...
  • Open strong to hook your audience.

What are some examples of TED Talks? ›

Top 10 TED talks that'll change your life
  • 1) Elizabeth Gilbert – Your Elusive Creative Genius. ...
  • 2) Amy Cuddy: Body Language. ...
  • 3) Tom Thum: The Orchestra In My Mouth. ...
  • 4) Dan Gilbert: The Surprising Science of Happiness. ...
  • 5) Brene Brown: The Power of Vulnerability. ...
  • 6) Malcolm Gladwell: Choice, Happiness & Spaghetti Sauce.

What is the main goal of TED? ›

TED is dedicated to researching and sharing knowledge that matters through short talks and presentations. Our goal is to inform and educate global audiences in an accessible way.

What is a good hook for a TED Talk? ›

One of the most common hook ideas is to start with a rhetorical question. Better still, start with a series of rhetorical questions. An excellent example of this tactic is Simon Sinek's TED presentation on how great leaders can inspire action.

What are the five senses of TED Talks? ›

A collection of TED Talks (and more) about sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste -- and some other senses as well ...

How can I talk like a pro? ›

14 Tips On How To Improve Speaking Skills (Speak Like A Pro!)
  1. #1 Stay in your zone of genius (only talk about what you know)
  2. #2 Read books or articles out loud.
  3. #3 Use tongue twisters to practice enunciation.
  4. #4 Talk to yourself.
  5. #5 Learn from the best (& mimic them)
  6. #6 Always remember your MVP.

How long is a TED talk? ›

Talks may be no longer than 18 minutes. This is the maximum length, not the goal of every talk. TED often asks speakers to present for 3, 5, or 9 minutes, so make sure your speaker knows how much time they have.

What makes a good life TED Talk summary? ›

In his TED talk, “What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness,” Waldinger says that while many young people tend to think that fame, fortune, and hard work will bring them happiness, it's actually our social connections that are most important for our well being.

What are the best TED talks for students? ›

Top 10 Must Watch TED Talks for Students
  • Everyday Leadership: Drew Dudley. ...
  • How to Speak So That People Want to Listen: Julian Treasure. ...
  • The Power of Introverts: Susan Cain. ...
  • The Key to Success? ...
  • How to Build Your Creative Confidence: David Kelley. ...
  • Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career: Larry Smith.

What are the most inspiring TED talks? ›

Motivational Talks: 5 Most Inspiring TED Talks
  • Simon Sinek – How great leaders inspire action. This is actually the first TED Talk that I ever viewed. ...
  • Shawn Achor – The psychology of positivity. ...
  • Elizabeth Gilbert – Your elusive creative genius. ...
  • Tom Wujec – Got a wicked problem? ...
  • Neil Pasricha: The 3 A's of awesome.

What are the seven types of TED talks? ›

When searching for speakers, you can keep in mind these seven different types of talks — not every speaker's talk has to be exactly the same.
  • The big idea. ...
  • The tech demo. ...
  • The performance. ...
  • The artist's statement. ...
  • The “dazzle with wonder” ...
  • The small idea. ...
  • The “issue” talk.

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