Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge fan of the TED Talks. Our city has a TEDx program and I am one of its biggest supporters. In fact, the organizers asked me to help some of the speakers prepare their talks for a recent TEDx event.
However, whether you are a budding speaker or one who has been around the block, the constraints of TED speakers—time, space and memory—can be intimidating.
Time: Eighteen minutes may seem like an eternity to fill if you aren’t passionate about your topic, which most TED speakers are. But many big ideas take longer than 18 minutes to unpack. Remember, there is nothing magic about 18 minutes—that’s just the time the TED folks have allotted to speakers for efficiency sake.
Space: Every TED Talk speaker is confined by the red dot they must stand on. If a TED Talk event lasts an entire day, it is much easier for the videographer to limit the movement of the speaker. This is not natural for most speakers. I encourage speakers to move around if that is their natural movement. Movement creates interest. Movement puts nervous energy to good use. Most audiences find it easier to engage with a speaker who is moving around a stage. That being said, a speaker who can get a standing O while sticking to the constraints of a red dot is a darn good speaker.
Memory: You rarely see a TED Talk speaker with notes in hand. I highly recommend having notes on a table or lectern when you speak. It is dangerous to speak without notes to reference. We all experience a lapse in memory on occasion. There are not many other speaking situations where the speaker is discouraged from having notes on a table or lectern. In fact, well-prepared notes are usually a sign of a well-prepared speech.
Don’t be intimidated by TED speakers. They have 18 minutes of content and they have to nail it without notes—or being able to move around much. The TED Talks are worthy of emulation but don’t be frightened or feel defeated by their specific standards. Constrained time, memory and space usually apply only in the world of TED. You are free to loosen these constraints when you speak, so go for it!