How to create a TED-style talk concept that wows event curators and builds your personal brand.



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When I think back to my time curating TEDxClapham, there were very talk concepts that stopped me in my tracks. Most of the applications we received fell into one of two categories, either, 'I want to tell my story' or 'I want to talk about my business.'

(Interpreted by event curators as 'I want to stroke my ego' and I want to push my agenda.)

In both of these scenarios, the only winner is the speaker. Something that we all too often forget when applying to land speaking engagements is that every presentation we deliver is a gift. We might be the ones that end up on the stage, but it's never about us, it's about the audience.

So what does an audience want?

They want to be challenged. Excited. Persuaded. Surprised. Educated. Inspired. (No pressure!)

The event curators are their gatekeepers. If you can't come up with a concept that ticks at least one of these boxes for them, you're not going to make the cut.

A question I am often asked by aspiring thought leaders, is how do I pack all of my knowledge and experience into a 15-minute talk?

You don't - you're not there to lecture your audience, you're there to speak to them!

Perhaps a better question to ask is:

If there was one thing that could significantly further the audience's understanding of your subject, what would it be?

Your whole talk should be based on your one-sentence answer to this question. I appreciate this is easier to say than to do. It takes two weeks to come up with this sentence on my thought leadership programmes.

The first week is to narrow the inevitable five ideas that everyone has down to one. Decisions on this are made based on:

  • Speaker's enthusiasm for the idea. Way easier to create a talk when you're excited about it.
  • The idea's potential impact. AKA the talk's legacy. You've just delivered the talk, what happens next?! The bigger the impact the more exciting it will be for event curators.
  • Longevity. If the recording of the talk is still relevant for the audience and in line with the speaker's goals, then that showpiece will become an opportunity-creating asset that ticks along in the background.

The second week to wordsmith the sentence so that it is:

  • Easy to understand, without needing context
  • Authoritative, with no words expressing uncertainty
  • Short – under 10 words long.

Here are 5 examples of talk concepts that have gone through this process in the past and resulted in landing a life-changing speaking opportunity:

  • Laughter builds resilience
  • Movement can manage your mental health
  • Microfinance can re-define sustainable coffee
  • Technology is polarising the job market
  • Entrepreneurship does not equal fulfilment

Between them, these talk concepts have accumulated millions of views and are still serving the speakers that delivered them. This is by design.

The best way to start?

Open your notes app, title it 'Talk Ideas' and go for a walk/have a shower - the two best places to have eureka moments💡!

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