Want to Give an Original TED or TEDx Talk?

What’s your idea worth spreading? Do you have a story to tell that would add value for others? Do you have expertise to share that will improve people’s lives? Have you made a discovery that could help others?

I’ve had the privilege of coaching dozens of clients on their TED and TEDx talks. One found me after reading the article below, which was originally featured in Fast Company. Paige told me, “What really resonated with me is how important it is for this message to be congruent with my voice, vision and values. Crafting a quality talk is a front-loaded project, but I’m confident it will pay off to design and deliver a talk that fulfills these 7 C’s.”

She’s right. Well-crafted presentations have the power to change lives – including yours – for good. Hope the insights and examples in this article help you design and deliver presentations, proposals and pitches (they don’t have to be TED or TEDx talks) that achieve your desired results and scale your impact.

Here’s that article:

original-talk

It’s been said there are no original ideas. But what may seem like old hat to you could become the next compelling TED talk.

You can transform your presentations by mining your expertise, experience, and epiphanies. Start by writing down things about your work; your best practices, non-negotiables, and the things you’d like to pass on that you think would open people’s minds and get them talking.

Next, take those ideas and run them through my “Seven Cs of Original Messaging.” These criteria can be used both as a guide and a litmus test to come up with a big idea that pops you out of the pack.

1. CLEAR

A Hollywood producer once told me that directors can predict when their movies will make money. How? Simple. Do people walk out of the theater repeating something they heard word for word? If so, they become word-of-mouth advertisers. When people ask, “Seen any good movies lately?” they’re talking about your movie and marketing it to profitability.

The same applies to your TED talk. Can listeners repeat your big idea word for word? If they can, they’ll become your advocates. If they can’t, your big idea will be in one ear, out the other.

Neil Gaiman’s 2012 commencement speech for Philadelphia’s University for the Arts shows the payoff of distilling your big idea into a crystal-clear sound bite. “Make Good Art” resonated so powerfully with the initial audience of hundreds, the video went viral within days and was turned into a best-selling book.

2. COMPELLING.

You’ve got 60 seconds to capture an audience’s attention or else they’ll start checking email.

No perfunctory opening. No, “I’m glad to be here today and want to thank the organizer for inviting me.” That’s predictable, and predictable is boring. Pleasantly surprise everyone by jumping right into your origin story or into a compelling, counter-intuitive insight that flies in the face of current beliefs.

Test your premise beforehand with colleagues. If they say, “I already know that,” it’s back to the drawing board. Or, as comedian George Carlin said, “What did we go back to before there were drawing boards?” Keep tweaking your idea until people’s eyebrows go up (a sure sign of curiosity) and they say, “Hmmm. That’s interesting. Tell me more.”

3. CURRENT

The keynote speaker at a recent conference used the often-referenced “Pygmalion in the Classroom” study of how teachers’ expectations affect student performance as the basis for her presentation. Really?! That study was done in 1989! She couldn’t find any current studies to make her case? Referencing such an outdated source undermined her credibility.

Recency = relevancy. What just-released report can you reference to prove your point? Recent research will get their attention, and respect.

4. CONGRUENT

After you’ve come up with a big idea, run it by your gut. Ask yourself, “Is this congruent with my voice, my vision, my values? If someone suggests a topic, but it doesn’t feel right, it’s wrong for you. A TED talk is your point of view, not someone else’s. What do you passionately believe? What is a heartfelt legacy message that sums up what you’ve learned from life?

An executive called me a week before his program and said, “I hope you can help. I’ve been traveling almost nonstop, so I asked our company speechwriter to help prepare my talk. It’s well-done, it just doesn’t sound like me.”

I told him, “You’re right. A TED talk has got to be your voice. Get a recorder and ask someone to take notes while you read the script. Every time you read something and think, ‘I would never say it that way,’ say out loud how you would say it. Don’t censure or second-guess yourself, don’t try to be eloquent, and don’t overthink it. Just keep moving forward, rewording it into your natural voice. Ask your assistant to integrate your phrasing into a new version and then read it out loud again until you wouldn’t change a word. Now, it’s your talk.”

5. COMMERCIALLY VIABLE

The purpose of a TED talk is not to sell your products or services, and it shouldn’t be your priority. The fact is, though, an excellent talk will scale your visibility, viability and drive business to and for you.

Witness what’s happened to Brené Brown. Brené was a professor when she spoke for TEDx-Houston. She was popular at her university, but hardly a household name. Her talk on vulnerability was so evocative, it was quickly uploaded to the TED.com site and has since received 27 million views. Her resulting Oprah appearances made her an international fan favorite, generating lucrative book deals and five-figure keynotes.

6. CONSISTENT

It’s important for your TED talk to be consistent with your brand positioning and primary focus. Ask yourself, “What do I want my next one to three years of my life to look like?”

For example, a colleague was asked to give a TEDx talk about bullying since she’d had a horrific experience being bullied at work. She feels strongly about this issue, and has a lot to say about the importance of speaking up instead of waiting for HR to rescue you (not going to happen). But she is a management consultant. She doesn’t want to keep reliving that negative experience by speaking, consulting, and doing media interviews on it. It wouldn’t serve her goals to drive demand that’s inconsistent with her priorities and the quality of life she seeks. It’s smarter to select an idea that’s in alignment with what she wants to accomplish the next few years.

7. COMPETITIVE EDGE

I had an opportunity to hear the Physics Nobel Laureate Dr. John Mather speak recently. Following his talk, I asked him, “What’s your next “big idea?” He said, “I’ve got one, but I’m researching to see if anyone else has gotten there first.”

Exactly. Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead said, “It’s not enough to be the best at what you do; you must be perceived to be the only one who does what you do.” Once you have a clear, compelling, current, consistent, congruent, commercially viable idea, Google it to see if anyone else has gotten there first. If they have, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should abandon the idea; it just means you should design a provocative premise around it that hasn’t been shared before.

For example, watch Sir Ken Robinson, the most-watched TED talk of all time., with more than 42 million views worldwide. Certainly, other experts have talked about the need for creativity in our schools, but no one does it quite like Ken.

Does your big idea meet all seven C criteria of Original Messaging? If so, great. If not, invest the effort to craft an original idea worth repeating. Your audience, career, and legacy will thank you.

Sam Horn, Founder/CEO of the Intrigue Agency, coaches clients on how to design and deliver compelling presentations, pitches, and proposals that get results and add value for all involved. Her work – including her TEDx talk on INTRIGUE and her books POP!, IDEApreneur, Tongue Fu! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – have been featured in New York Times, Forbes, Inc and Readers Digest and presented to Boeing, Intel, Cisco, NASA, National Geographic. Contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com to ask how Sam can help you create/polish a one-of-a-kind presentation that positions you as a thought-leader in your industry.

POP Your Pitch!

As the author of POP! Create the Perfect Pitch, Title and Tagline for Anything (which Seth Godin calls “Revolutionary” and Ken Blanchard says is a “lively guide to getting results”), I’m often asked to coach funding pitches.

I had the pleasure of delivering the luncheon keynote for the Ignite Clean Energy Summit in Boston for the MIT Center for Enterprise awhile back.

Following my presentation, I conducted on-the-spot coaching of the national semi-finalists who were all developing “green” businesses.

Based on feedback from the group, the following POP! Your Pitch tips were particularly helpful in helping them create winning pitches they presented to potential investors the following day.

These tips work whether you’re delivering a pitch, making a sales presentation or speaking at a conference. Use this checklist to prep so you capture and keep everyone’s favorable interest of listeners and win the funding you deserve.

POP! Your Pitch Tip #1:

Say something surprising in the first 60 seconds that gets peoples’ eyebrows up.  Three“Did you know?” questions that introduce startling statistics or recent research is a great way to turn a monolog into a dialogue and motivate people to look up from their devices and decide you’re worth listening to.

POP! Your Pitch Tip #2.

The purpose of a venture capital pitch is NOT to get funding; it’s to get a follow-up meeting.  It’s idealistic to think an investor is going to give you millions after a ten-minute pitch. It’s realistic to sufficiently intrigue and impress decision-makers in ten minutes so they’re compelled to find out more.

POP! Your Pitch Tip #3.

Turn audience members into word-of-mouth advertisers by crafting a “money phrase” people can repeat, word for word, after hearing it once. If they can’t repeat it, they can’t remember it. Craft an AIR-tight sound bite by using Alliteration, Iambic Meter, and Rhyme.  For example, “Click it or ticket” is better than “Buckle Up for Safety.”   I helped an Ignite Clean Energy team come up with “Any plug, anytime, anywhere” as a tagline for their electric car.

POP! Your Pitch Tip #4.

Insert a one-minute success story about how clients have benefited from your company so decision-makers have context (not just content) and connect with you on an emotional and logical level.  As the former Pitch Coach for Springboard Enterprises (which has helped women entrepreneurs receive $6.6 billion (yes, that’s a “b”) in venture capital, I helped Lauren Williams of Movie Hatch craft a success story about a client who went from having his film collecting dust on a closet shelf to winning the Jackson Hole film festival in less than 4 months.  Her 60-second example provided compelling proof of concept.

POP! Your Pitch Tip #5.

Your confidence and leadership capacity is indicated by the authority and volume of your voice. If people can’t hear you, they won’t respect you. They conclude you don’t have the command and clout to carry off your venture.  I once saw a CEO of a Fortune 100 company lose a corporate audience at a national convention in the first sixty seconds because she had a little-girl voice that ended with an upward inflection that made her seem tentative and hesitant.

POP! Your Pitch Tip #6.

Your business name is a deal-maker or deal-breaker. Do people “get” your business name the first time you say it? If they don’t understand it, they can’t relate to it and they won’t want it. Zappos, Google, and Yahoo are all fun to say. Arxcis, GPM Technologies, Sempran and other difficult-to-pronounce-or-understand names make people go “huh?”  Remember, confused people don’t say YES. You’ve spend months (years?) developing your idea and organization. Invest in its success by giving it a meaningful, strategic, easy-to-remember name people relate to and repeat.  (My  can help you do this.)

POP! Your Pitch Tip #7.

PROPS! When you show or demonstrate your product, people SEE what you’re SAYING.  Show and tell is more convincing than tell, tell, tell.  I coached Kathleen Callendar of PharmaJet on how to make her elevator speech crystal clear., Instead of describing her “biodegradable medical delivery device for subcutaneous inoculations” she said, “Did you know 1.8 billion injections are given every year?  Did you know up to half are given with unsafe needles?  Did you know we’re spreading the very diseases we’re trying to prevent?.” She then held up a baggie with a “used needle” and contrasted it with her 100% safe, one-use needle. Her visual proof provided memorable, deal-closing evidence.

POP! Your Pitch Tip #8.

Tower, don’t cower. Your leadership is perceived by your posture. A fig-leaf position means you have something to hide. Slouched shoulders and a tucked-down head are signs of insecurity. I coach clients to see speaking as a sport. Adopt an athletic “ready” stance (feet a foot or more apart, not together) with your knees slightly bent so you’re grounded yet able to move naturally. Hold your head high and your hands 6-12 inches apart, like you’re holding a basketball. Don’t grip the lectern or clasp your hands together (both connote nervousness). Look everyone “in the eye” so they feel connected to you.

POP! Your Pitch Tip #9.

The two most powerful words in a pitch? “For example.” Back up each claim with a real-life example with quantifiable metrics and measurable evidence (i.e., 30% increase in sales, 20% reduction in turnover, took company public with a $10 million profit, grew an organization to 300 employees) so investors know you’ve delivered bottom-line results before and can be trusted to do so again. Put us in the scene and re-enact the example with “He said, I said” dialogue so it comes alive and people feel they’re in the room as if it’s happening right now.

POP! Your Pitch Tip #10.

Don’t just ask for the sale – plant-specific action seeds by offering three follow-up options including where you can be found immediately afterward. Always repeat your name to imprint it. If you don’t, you’ll be out of sight, out of mind. For example, “I’m Chris, in the green jacket, with CleanerGreenerNow. I’ll be (point) in the lobby at our next break. If you’d like a product sample, a copy of our financial projections, or to talk with our COO about how we’re going to scale this in the next six months, please come and talk with us.  I look forward to your questions and to seeing you in the lobby at 2:30.”

Want to see a couple of these ideas in action? Check out my TEDx talk which demonstrates how to open a pitch – or ANY presentation – with the “Did You Know?” sequence so you engage your audience in the first sixty seconds.

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Sam Horn – CEO of the Intrigue Agencyauthor of POP!  IDEApreneur  andWashington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – helps people create one-of-a-kind projects that scale their influence – for good.  Her work has been featured in New York Times, Forbes and on NPR.  Her highly interactive, inspiring presentations receive raves from such clients as NASA, Accenture, National Geographic, Cisco, and Capital One. Contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency to arrange for Sam to speak to your group or to inquire about consulting/coaching.

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