I’m deeply involved in TEDxHarlem as their speaker coach, which will be happening the week after this post.  In that role, it’s critical that I push speakers to abide the TED Speaker Commandments.  For your reference, they are here:


These 10 tips are the heart of a great TEDTalk.

  1. Dream big. Strive to create the best talk you have ever given. Reveal something never seen before. Do something the audience will remember forever. Share an idea that could change the world.
  2. Show us the real you. Share your passions, your dreams … and also your fears. Be vulnerable. Speak of failure as well as success.
  3. Make the complex plain. Don’t try to dazzle intellectually. Don’t speak in abstractions. Explain! Give examples. Tell stories. Be specific.
  4. Connect with people’s emotions. Make us laugh! Make us cry!
  5. Don’t flaunt your ego. Don’t boast. It’s the surest way to switch everyone off.
  6. No selling from the stage! Unless we have specifically asked you to, do not talk about your company or organization. And don’t even think about pitching your products or services or asking for funding from stage.
  7. Feel free to comment on other speakers, to praise or to criticize. Controversy energizes! Enthusiastic endorsement is powerful!
  8. If possible, don’t read your talk. Notes are fine. But if the choice is between reading or rambling, then read!
  9. You must end your talk on time. Doing otherwise is to steal time from the people that follow you. We won’t allow it.
  10. Rehearse your talk in front of a trusted friend … for timing, for clarity, for impact.


These tips come from TED’s Director of Film + Video, Jason Wishnow:


A single, strong, graphic image or succinct line of text will tell your story better than a crowded collage or packed paragraph. Remember, people need to process everything


These are great when you want to give TED-style talks.  Which are emotional, focused on giving awareness to a general, curious, and educated audience.  If that’s your speaking gig, go for it!

However, they’re not appropriate for every talk.  For example, if you’re giving a rapid fire talk, you really should memorize your presentation.  If you’re giving a keynote at a conference, you should ask your curator if it’s ok to have notes on stage, if not, then yup, memorize your talk.  You will also want to start with your audience:  do they like to be spoken to in stories or do they want to be deeply informed?  If deeply informed, then you should move towards a different structure, though a story is frequently the right way to set the tone.  And, obviously you should be selling from stage if you’re at a sales conference, etc.

Points 2 & 3 should ALWAYS be followed, regardless of who you’re speaking to.  Plain language is almost always best!  the lighter lesson in point 8 should always be sondiered, rambling is horrible for your audience to listen to, but not every curator will let you have notes on stage.  The lesson:  REHEARSE!!!

But if you’ve always wondered what the guiding principles of TED are, now you know.