How to Create a TED-Style Talk: Advice from an Expert

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Hayley Foster, Short Talk Expert, presents at NSA-MN

Imagine standing on a TED stage, sharing your passion with the world.

Maybe that’s not your dream.  But, wouldn’t you like to have a powerful, TED-like presentation?  TED-style talks aren’t just for TED events.  They are becoming more popular at conferences, too.

On Tuesday, the Minnesota Chapter of the National Speakers Association hosted  a presentation “Short Talk. Big Impact. The Magic of TED for Speaking Professionals” by Short Talk Expert™, Hayley Foster.  Hayley, who has coached more than 200 TEDx speakers, shared insights on how to create a TED-style talk and the whys and hows of speaking at a TEDx event.

In case you didn’t know, TED is an acronym for Technology, Entertainment and Design and TEDx events are independently organized.  TED talks are short, typically fewer than 18 minutes (Hayley showed a video clip of plane crash survivor  Ric Elias’s 5 minute TED talk  to show that powerful speeches don’t have to be long). Speakers speak for free at TED events, but in return can gain massive online exposure. Brene Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability has garnered more than 12 million views.

The TED talk is not just a short version of a keynote, even though it shares the same basic 3 components of many keynotes:

  1. Content
  2. Delivery
  3. Visuals

The critical piece is the content.  You have to have the idea!

“There’s something that you don’t talk about,” said Hayley, “that if you talked about it, it would be extraordinary.”

A useful activity in uncovering your unique idea, which Hayley had the group practice, is to discuss your passion with someone else and have them explain it back to you.  Often other people can connect with your passion and unlock another way of seeing it.

If you want to speak at a TEDx event, you can find upcoming events here.  Be forewarned that TEDx organizers have a bias against professional speakers, seeing them as difficult to work with.  One of the most challenging aspects is a speaker’s willingness to build in practice time in front of a live audience.

Hayley ended her talk with more specifics on preparing a TED talk, including the “TED Commandments.”


You might think that professional speakers would do especially well with TED-style talks, but that’s often not the case.

“Many methods that drive professional speaking success are the ones that get in the way of delivering an outstanding TED style talk, ” said Hayley as she briefly discussed the “12 Mistakes that Professional Speakers Make” from her pocket-sized book, “Don’t Tank Your TED Talk!” ($9.95, email Hayley, if you want copies).

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What unique, extraordinary message is waiting for you to express it?


2 thoughts on “How to Create a TED-Style Talk: Advice from an Expert

  1. Pingback: Preview: Public Speaking Tips from the Top 10 TEDTalks | Virtual Speech Coach

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