How to Give a Ted Talk to Share Your Best Ideas

You may be called upon at least once in your life to give a talk or presentation in your community, lead a meeting or deliver a lecture.

As our focus today will be on how to give a Ted talk, venturing a bit into the Ted background may help us understand what it entails.

What is a Ted Conference?

The Ted conference (which stands for technology, entertainment, design) was started in 1984 as a conference where creative types and industry leaders came together to exchange various ideas with a focus on technology, entertainment and design.

Since then though, TED has developed into an institution that delivers hundreds of speeches online annually, which receive millions of views.

This has changed how people view public speaking.

But what is a Ted talk?

A Ted talk is based upon an idea that may motivate individuals to action or become more self-aware, or it is an idea that talks about your personal experiences or a scientific breakthrough. It may also be based off of something counter-intuitive.

It should be noted that a Ted talk is usually 18 minutes long, which is based on both strategy and neuroscience.

It was understood that 18 minutes was long enough for a speaker to talk about or discuss an idea, but short enough that an audience could listen to, digest and understand all the key information.

Pro-Tip: This length also allows the speaker to really think about the main points that they want to put across, given its clarifying effect. You should therefore take your time before deciding on your key points.

So, how do you give a Ted talk?

Below are a few preparation tips for how to give a Ted talk that adheres to the time limits but also allows you to give a presentation in the most effective way possible.

We will discuss these tips in three stages; before writing, while writing and after writing.

Before writing your talk

Sometimes, you may find it difficult to figure out what to talk about and how to talk about it. To help with this, you should ask yourself, “Where can I start building content from?”

How to get started

You should always begin with your audience when crafting your presentation. To do this, you need to be aware of who you’ll be addressing; is it consumers, students, health professionals, etc.?

You should also ask yourself, “What do they need/want to hear?”

Knowing who you’ll be giving your presentation to will help you modify your talk in a way that will keep your audience engaged.

Additionally, considering the number of people you’ll be presenting to may influence how you give your presentation.


Pro-Tip: Asking yourself what you want your audience to know could help you decide on a takeaway that you’d like them to get from your presentation.

Develop a catchy way to talk about your idea

Your audience is more likely to remember what you say more easily or pay more attention to you if you deliver your idea in a catchy way.

It doesn’t have to be a complicated statement that leaves your listeners confused, it does have to memorable though.

Finding inspiration

You should draw inspiration from various sources be it movies, TV shows, podcasts or other Ted talks.

Checking out other industries other than the one you’re in and looking out for speaking styles you may like could also help you chart the course for your own presentation.


Try paying attention to what doesn’t work for you and what works for you when listening to your sources of inspiration. Listen to what they say as well as what they don’t. This gives you the chance to learn from something and mimic it, which may enable you to give an inspirational presentation.

Additionally, you can jot down any vivid facts, stories, illustrations or examples that help your audience recreate your idea in their minds. This could be a story that relates to your idea, a fact that supports your idea or even an analogy that helps explain your idea in detail.

Pro-Tip: The best talks are a mixture of inspirational and education, micro examples and big picture concepts.

While writing your talk

As you draft your presentation, you should keep in mind that it isn’t about you but rather, about your audience.

Focus on how you’d like your audience to feel and what you’d like them to get out of your presentation.

writing your talk

Think about how you’ll open and end your presentation

Before picking out the structure you’ll use to draft your talk, keep track of the things you’d like to say while giving your presentation and also bookmark other things you’d like to include.

An effective way to start a presentation is by using an opener that’ll grab your audience’s attention. It could be an unexpected observation or a surprising statistic.

With regard to structures, the most common structure is the one that starts with an introduction, discusses key points in the body and reiterates these points while finishing off with a closing argument in the conclusion.


You should remember that the body usually carries the bulk in a presentation, so try to distill your ideas down to three key points, which will be easier to remember.

Additionally, while the introduction sets up the talk by focusing on what the audience seeks to discover, conclusions remind the audience of your main points.

As for the close, try ending your presentation in a forward-looking, positive way.

Arranging your materials in a reasonable order

Start by creating a high-level outline, after which you can write each element (fact, observation or point) in whatever order you find comfortable.

After this, you can then translate your draft into a PowerPoint presentation - if you need it. This may seem easy, and it is, but instead of focusing on animations and transitions, you need to concentrate on paring your message’s essence into your slides.


This is because your message’s core may get distilled or refined. Keep in mind that the purpose of slides is to serve your narrative, so make them work for you.


i. Try not to use white backgrounds, if you can, don’t use them at all. People focus better on lighter text on a dark background than vice versa.

ii. Keep your fonts appropriate and simple for the content.

iii. Ensure you prioritize the basics when preparing your slides

How to add richness to your content

After getting the basics of your presentation right, you can now add animations and the like to make your work richer.

Animations used in your presentation should always serve a purpose. For instance, functional animations enhance the audience’s comprehension while delightful animations introduce a feeling of uniqueness and spontaneity to your audience

Pro-Tip: Incorporating something topical may also make your content more relevant, in addition to allowing it to feel richer.

After writing your talk

Try practicing alone

Practicing in front of a mirror or in a small room could work, but recreating the environment you’re going to present in would be a much better fit.

For this, you’ll need a space that has a projector, some chairs and preferably a stage. If you do make a mistake while you practice, keep going as it builds resilience as well as confidence in yourself.


You should keep in mind that things may go wrong in the actual presentation, and this will enable you to be as prepared as you possibly can.

Practicing will also give you the opportunity to edit your content, so try practicing on at least three different occasions to get a feel of the words as you say them out loud.

Pro-Tip: Practice everything, from how you’ll enter the stage to give your presentation, to giving your presentation, thanking the audience and exiting the stage.

Practice with others

When giving a public presentation, seeking feedback is extremely important as it allows you to improve on the clarity and structure of your presentation.

You may be more inclined to seek feedback from people you work with closely or members of your team, which is completely fine.


However, it is important to ensure that you explain your idea clearly, that your ‘audience’ understood your main points and ask whether they lost interest at any point during your mock presentation.

You should therefore, try practicing in front of people as their feedback will be helpful in assisting you to refine how you present your ideas or stories in a way that will move your audience and/or capture their attention.

This will help improve the effectiveness of your presentation.

Pro-Tip: If you can, get your feedback from individuals who are good speakers as it will be more informative and based on experience.

Refine your work

You can then make changes to improve your draft based on your listeners’ feedback.

Thereafter, you should practice giving your new presentation out loud before presenting in front of a volunteer audience once more.

Pro-Tip: While it may be tempting to edit the parts of your speech that were okay, refrain from doing so as it may alter the body of your presentation.

Work on improving your stage presence

Most people get nervous when it comes to presenting in front of an audience, be it big or small. Even seasoned speakers do.

If this does happen to you while you’re on stage, try making yourself more audible.


Raising your voice avails you with an outlet for all that nervous energy, allowing you to better your posture, relax your stance and also, fidget less. In addition, it also makes you sound more definitive and clearer to your audience, which allows them to pay attention to you and what you’re talking about.

Take your time

Having more time for preparation allows you to do your research exhaustively on your topic of discussion, without rushing through it.

Additionally, starting your preparations weeks before the actual presentation gives you more time to prepare carefully, make any changes to your work (if need be), practice the presentation till you’re comfortable and also, work on relaxing and ridding yourself of any jittery feelings that may arise prior to the presentation.

You should keep in mind though that perfection isn’t possible so if you do end up making a mistake during the actual presentation, breeze past it.

Conclusion: On Giving Ted Talks

When giving a Ted talk, you’ll want your audience to connect with you as well as respond to you and what you’re talking about. A good way to engage your listeners would be to build your talk from an emotional place rather than from content, as this will help draw your audience in.

Additionally, try to be authentic. You may have a speaker you admire, like John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King Jr. However, trying to sound like them won’t help get your message across to an audience. Instead, try using everyday language while also sounding like yourself. This is key in effectively getting your message across to your listeners. Go and wow your viewers and listeners with your powerful Ted talk!