How to do a TED Talk – start with the basics

Recently, I read the TEDx Speaker Guide for a client.  If you don’t know about the TED phenomenon, it’s a set of conferences owned by the non-profit Sapling Foundation, with 1000s of talks available on the Internet for free.  Its slogan is “Ideas Worth Spreading”.  Readers of this blog will know that we are big fans.

So here’s what I learned:

TED is about ideas – not simply to tell a story or evoke emotions.

You should structure your talk as follows:

  1. Start by making your audience care, using an example.
  2. Explain your idea clearly and with feeling.
  3. Describe your evidence and how and why your idea could be made to happen.
  4. Tell the audience how your idea could affect them if they were to accept it.

More specifically, TED suggests you:

  • start honestly: If your topic is “heavy”, find an understated and honest way to start it;
  • focus on the idea, not yourself: Get your idea out as soon as possible.  Don’t make it “all about you”; and
  • think about how you are going to get the audience to see your point of view and do something about it: Leave the audience feeling positive about you and your idea.  Tell the audience how your idea might affect their lives if it’s implemented.  Tell them what they can do to help make your idea work.

TED’s writing tips are pithy and great:

  • Be concise – no waffle!
  • Be natural – write like you talk.
  • Use present tense.
  • Use interesting words for people, ideas, things and actions.




Hi there, I’m David Kinnane.

Principal Speech Pathologist, Banter Speech & Language

Our talented team of certified practising speech pathologists provide unhurried, personalised and evidence-based speech pathology care to children and adults in the Inner West of Sydney and beyond, both in our clinic and via telehealth.

David Kinnane
Speech-Language Pathologist. Lawyer. Father. Reader. Writer. Speaker.

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