Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Four Keys to Speaking at Your Next Local TED Talk

From Jeff: Today’s post is a guest post by John Yates. John recently attended a local TED Talk here in Nashville.

Envious of his experience, I asked John to share about it in a guest post, because I know how much this community loves ideas worth spreading. You can follow John on Twitter or read his blog.

TED Talk in Nashville, TNWhenever I need a quick dose of inspiration, I fire up iTunes and watch a video of a TED talk. So, when I heard a TEDx was coming to Nashville, my interest was piqued.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

TEDx events are independently set-up and self-organized TED-like conferences, but most of the speakers I had never heard of before.

I decided to go ahead and purchase my ticket and keep an open mind. By the end of the day, my mind was filled with a sense of wonder.

I found myself being exposed to many new ideas and concepts including:

  • Collecting air can be art.
  • Poetry can be really cool.
  • Nashvillians will join in on a song about poo and pee.

I’ve always wanted to be a speaker at a TED event, and attending a TEDx event gave me the opportunity to interact with other attendees, as well as with the speakers.

This experience gave me not only the inspiration but also clues on how the speakers accomplished their respective goals.

Here are four keys to speaking at your next local TED Talk:

1) Be an amateur.

David Mead, a Nashville singer-songwriter, centered his talk on the concept of being an amateur.

He told a story of his friend who was humble enough to admit he had never heard of the Beatles, which deeply resonated with me.

I thought: How many times have I missed out on learning amazing new things, because I wanted to appear as an expert?

2) Ask for help.

Jeremy Cowart, renowned entertainment photographer, would never have been able to bring Help-Portrait to life if he hadn’t taken a chance and asked other photographers to help him with his dream.

He shared that you can’t be afraid to call on others in your field or outside of your expertise to help get your vision off the ground.

3) Tell a story.

Ashley Judd brought many to tears during her talk. She explained how she goes into impoverished areas and speaks with human trafficking victims and sex slaves.

She does this not as a Hollywood representative or actress but as an individual and then shares their stories.

As creatives, we do not have to spend our time trying to imagine a new story to tell. There are compelling, captivating stories that are just waiting to be told. It can begin with a simple question:  “What do you want me to know about your story?”

4) Play the ukulele.

If those first three steps seem like too much work but you still want to be onstage at TED, you can always learn to play the ukulele.

The ukulele was well-represented at this year’s TEDxNashville and is featured in one of my favorite TED talks. If all else fails, you might consider learning how to play it.

I hope to see you at the next TEDx talk!

Two questions (answer either of them or both):

  1. Ukulele or not, how can you admit to being an amateur, ask for help, and use your gifts as a storyteller to help change the world?
  2. If you were to give a TED talk, what would be your speaking topic?

By the way, you can audition your very own TED Talk here. For more of John’s insights on the TEDx event in Nashville, click here.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • I am an amateur speaker. I can read books and attend seminars to help make me better. I can use my story to showcase how gratitude can change someone’s perspective on life.

    If I were to give a Ted Talk, my topic would be: Own a home larger than Bill Gates with gratitude:Make the world your home.

    • Sutton, did you see that you can submit your own TED Talk audition?

  • I was reading in Seth Godin’s Poke the Box recently that we should all be ready to give a TED Talk — that is, to have an idea worth spreading. I would give a talk on the importance of travel and experiencing other cultures in life formation.

  • #4. Snort.

    I really am not a speaker. There’s a reason I’m a writer. 🙂

  • No Jeff, thanks for letting me know!

  • Great post! I’ve always wanted to speak at TED, so thanks for these fun tips.

    I’m no Jake Shimabukuro, but I did write a song called “My Ukulele Might Just Be the Best Love I’ve Ever Had” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBQDjvk2q2Y

    Does that count?

    • Totally counts in my book, Melissa.

    • Yes it counts. The musical TED talks are some of my favorites.

      Glad you liked it!

  • I have received so much inspiration from the tech/creative culture in Nashville over the past few months through connecting with others at events like TEDx. I never would have gained so many insights or motivation if I hadn’t had the courage to ask for help and say “Hi, I’m the new guy!”

    If I were to give a TED talk it would be about the future of higher education and learning or time travel. Or maybe a combination of the two.

    • Oooh, would you provide your very own mockup of a flux capacitor?

      • Of course and I would end my talk with “where we are going we don’t need any roads.”

        • just had a thought of doing a post with a back to the future theme.

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  • I’ve been developing a theory of Creative Duality…centering around quantum physics, light, and theology. Creativity is bigger than just one concept.