The Making of a TEDxTalk

By March 28, 2014Blog

TedXAdliswil: The Nine Billion Dollar Question

American artist Andy Warhol once famously said, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” It’s an interesting notion, particularly when familiarizing yourself with what it means to give a 10-18 minute TED Talk that will be published to their Youtube channel with over 60’000 subscribers.

1. The Art of the Start

There are quite a few useful advice articles and guidelines about how to give an effective TEDx Talk;  I can recommend thisthis or that one. Nonetheless, the most challenging part is not so much finding the advice, but rather picking the right idea for the talk. Bella Glover who shared the stage with me and talked about mindfulness said that human beings run through 60’000-80’000 thoughts per day. But only one is needed for an excellent TEDxTalk. “So what’s the big idea?” is the question with which it all starts. This took me some time; the idea needed to grow on me. Just as with writing – where I often think that it is as much about what you write as it is about what you don’t write – a TEDxTalk is as much about the “Idea Worth Spreading” (TED’s tagline) as it is about  all the ideas you dismiss along the way.

2. Circling in on the Essence

Then, the  writing process began. I started on a weekend-getaway to Copenhagen and my time there can be summarized as: I wrote and wrote, and wrote. Stories, ideas, facts, examples – I  tried to weave it all into one big whole, circling in on the essence as much as possible. Next, the review process started. Rereading all of it, I found three categories of phrases: the “so what?”,  the nice decorations and the  pure necessary. Whenever possible, I got rid of everything that made me think “so what?” because these phrases added neither substance nor advancement to the idea. With the decorative phrases it’s trickier; some are beautiful and make the statements more polished, others are repetitive and unnecessary. The “pure necessary” is self-explanatory; it’s what is absolutely needed to push the idea forward. In retrospect, circling in on the essence meant for me that I wrote about 8 pages, then did multiple rounds of editing until the essence came through in less than two pages of text.

3. Time to Shine

The key challenge throughout the creative process is to keep your own voice and to share your idea worth spreading.  It is tempting (and so easy!) to watch other TED talks  and to then borrow their words, phrases, jokes and non-verbal expressions. But that’s not what makes a TEDxTalk (or any talk) stand out as your own. After all, everybody is best at being him or herself.  So the last few days leading up to the event were spent with rehearsing paragraphs and making them mine. I’d talk through a paragraph while cooking or while walking to the bus. I’d keep on doing this until I felt a sense of eager excitement and fun when thinking of speaking on stage. And that’s exactly how it felt standing up there on March 15th at 3.20pm. You can watch the final result here along with all the other talks from the event.


Thank You Note: As a former lead organizer of TEDxNewHaven, I would like to congratulate and thank the team behind TEDxYouthAdliswil. The event organization was impeccable. Kudos to everybody on the team, you exemplify what I say in my talk: That great results are achieved when everybody in the group is engaged and motivated about their work.

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