Rawan Al-Wazzan

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What guidelines would you give someone preparing a TEDx talk?

TED Community, I’ve attended a number of independently organized TEDx events and seen plenty on YouTube and was disappointed to find out that some talks presented weren’t TED material. They lacked the ‘idea worth spreading’ element. What would you suggest to a speaker who’s preparing to deliver a TEDx talk in order for them to make sure their talk is up to standards?

Closing Statement from Rawan Al-Wazzan

Don't you just love the TED Community?!

Some great feedback. Thank you Fritzie Reisner, Deborah Zotian, Kashaf Mamoon, Edward Long, Shariq Hashme, Tofig Ahmed, Abhinandan Chatterjee, Johnson Tam-Lit, Philip Kanoutos, Jenoye Cole, Lucas Avelleda, Asha de Vos, JenniferAnne McCool, Carlos Miranda Levy, Bharath Kumar Kunjibettu, Lesley Rickard, Edmond Hui, and Tosca Killoran. :)

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    Apr 9 2012: If you don't thoroughly understand what you are talking about postpone the talk until you do.
    If you are not driven by a burning enthusiasm to promote your subject cancel the talk.
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    Apr 23 2012: Hi Rawan, how are you?

    I'm sharing with you a presentation called "XYZ of a terrible TEDTalk", made by Chris Anderson during the TEDxSummit:

    - Take a really long time to get started;
    - "Too important to be just a talk, slow down and orate;
    - Make sure everyone knows who you are;
    - Make yourself seem smart, use abstract language and lofty concepts;
    - Who needs real substance? All that matters is that you inspire;
    - No need to build an argument;
    - Try to sound as intellectual as possible;
    - No time to waste telling stories
    - Copy your visuals of the web, too easy and no one will notice;
    - Be very serious. Humor is a terrible distraction;
    - Give lots of details about the storie and structure of the organization;
    - Slip in some snarky political comments;
    - If you`re an artist or architect, try to sound as intellectual as possible;
    - Memorizing 90% of your talk should be just fine;
    - Don`t risk being true;
    - Talk about crucial funding needs;
    - Great TEDTalks follow a formula. Crack the code and copy it.
    • May 2 2012: Regarding what makes a good TED Talk:


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      May 5 2012: Hi Lucas, I'm great. How about you?
      Will be sure to crack the code. ;)
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    Apr 18 2012: Any idea to become more than just another one to be filed in a drawer has to have authority behind it.
    That authority only comes with lived out truth. So for me the best talks have to be personal
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    Apr 17 2012: Rawan Al-Wazzan Thanks for the thread - I feel this is an important topic as TEDx should be no less than a TED event. The ideas should be worth it, the speakers should be fun and up to the task. Conviction is the key and it should count.

    I like Tofig's point about getting doers and not talkers. Or at least someone genuinely passionate about what they are trying to say.

    I gave a tedxtalk last year and that was a huge learning experience for me.( http://bit.ly/HQj525 ) I have listed down some key points that I would keep in mind before selecting a speaker.

    Balance speakers across the event - Have people who are known and people who are great at what they do at the same event. It is hard to get both these qualities in everyone. This will stop the TEDx events from becoming boring.

    Community creates comfort - Its easier to connect for the speakers if they are from similar/ or linked communities as the audience. As a listener, i need speakers I can relate to.

    Everybody likes a good show - While people have fantastic ideas, but not all are good speakers. They need to understand that TED is doing them a favor by inviting them and the not other way round. So they must practice. Hardwork is must and the organizers must make this a point.

    For Organizers - Before selling the idea to a speaker, Sell the Idea of TED. If they seem to believe in the opportunity, only then take it forward. Ego hurts ones ability to learn and share and the event should not be a tussle between the speakers. (Saw this happening in a TEDx event I went to.

    Lastly, TED is not an advertising opportunity and should never be treated like one. The rules for TEDx; if followed diligently will tackle a of these things. The challenge is that in lot of communities,these rules are disregarded leading to the bad state of some talks.

    Hope it helps, having said that it also important to gather a meaningful audience which seems to be a thing that a lot of organizers end up ignoring. That drives the speakers
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      Apr 18 2012: Thank you Abhinandan. I definitely agree with you on all the points you have mentioned. The guidelines you've provided are mostly dedicated to the organizers themselves. I think we can both agree that the organizer has A LOT on their plate when it comes to choosing the speakers, theme and audience. As you said, they all have to be in harmony in order to achieve the best possible outcome.

      Thank you for providing your talk. An interesting topic! A topic that makes you think.
      "Learning is not compulsory, neither is change, nor is survival."
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        Apr 18 2012: Thank You, I am glad you found it interesting and hopefully stimulating:)

        While it is true that the organizers have a lot on their plates , I also feel that when you handle some else's baby, you do it their way and if you want to do it your way - get your own baby. ..
  • Apr 9 2012: - TED speaker should have an Idea that worth spreading, not just a good presenter!
    - TED speakers are doers, not just talkers.
    - TED speakers should be at the cutting edge of their fields.
    - TEDx speakers should at least have one of the above on their X region !!!
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      Apr 10 2012: Don't you think we should expect the same out of TEDx speakers as we do TED speakers? That way we can guarantee that the TEDx events are the same quality as TED's.
      • Apr 10 2012: That's exactly what I meant to say, and yeah you got it!
        Unfortunately, I don't think it's easy to find such speakers in our communities.
        And yet even if you did find them, then they might not be quite open enough to spread their ideas freely in a compelling way and in a very complex and restricted environment such as ours!

        Disappointing and not so optimistic point of view, but it's the truth in my opinion.
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          Apr 18 2012: That's a bit pessimistic, don't you think?
          I find that we have an enormous number of highly capable speakers with amazing ideas that are indeed worth spreading, especially the young generation, in our region.

          I do agree with you that the obstacles we may face do not exist in other communities, but that makes the challenge of surpassing them an enriching experience.

          Out of curiosity, what TEDx event(s) have you attended in the Kingdom that you believe were what a TEDx event should be?
      • Apr 21 2012: - I told you it is not so optimistic, but I still believe on it.
        - "but that makes the challenge of surpassing them an enriching experience.'
        I would totally agree.
        - As of any TEDx event I attended, none!. but watched some in youtube.
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    May 7 2012: I am a TEDxYouth@BIS organizer and I give the speakers this:

    The ideal TEDxYouth@BIS speaker is...

    1. Engaging and Inspirational (Will the idea engage the audience? Would our audience be excited about hearing this talk? Does the idea generate conversation among the audience?)

    2. Original and Creative (Is the idea presented in a new way? Will it open people’s eyes to a new point of view?)

    3. Relevant (Is the idea relevant to our theme? Can our audience relate to the idea?)

    4. Logical (Did the speaker give a clear overview of their talk? Is this structure clear and logical?)

    5. Experienced (Will the speaker’s background appeal to the audience? Are they qualified to give this talk? Is their presentation style enthusiastic and entertaining?)

    6. Selfless (Is the idea free from branding? Does the speaker think about others and leave out any personal agenda?)

    As the young speakers develop their talk we ask them to reflect on if they embody the above qualities and if they are ready for the stage. We pair them with mentor teachers to help them define or refine what they want to say, and practice in English if they need to. We encourage them to think, "If people walked away with a headline of my talk, what would it be?" and most important we encourage them to think of this as a learning journey and remind them that they will get improve each time they take on the challenge!
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    May 3 2012: Talk about something that matters to people already or MAKE it matter
    Be authentic
    Be funny where appropriate
    Have some illustrations for the visual learners
    Engage don't entertain - we can go to the TV for that
    Follow up your talk with ACTION
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      May 5 2012: "Engage don't entertain - we can go to the TV for that." Definitely an important element.
      Thanks Lesley.
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    May 3 2012: Hi Rawan,
    All I can say to a prospect TED speaker is be yourself and know the rules well :)

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    May 2 2012: Tell a story. Complete with an arch in the story line. Keep it simple. Watch Ridley Scott's Prometheus video and study its structure. That's what I did for my last 2 talks in TEDxSilkRoad and TEDxUChicago and the audiences enjoyed it (ppt at http://www.relief20.com/tedx ).

    Be creative, different, and then maintain a good flow and rhythm. Use anecdotes, stories and images the audience can relate to. That's what I did for my TEDxTokyo talk ( http://tedxtokyo.com/tedxtokyo-2011/program/carlos-miranda-levy/ ).

    Most important, be confident and practice, rehearse, monitor your talk, people's reaction to it, and your own opinion. Practice is the key to a good talk. Do you want to stand there and talk or do you want people to be moved by your words and stories?
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      May 5 2012: Carlos, thank you for providing your talk. Many gripping factors in it starting with the pitch-black introduction and ending with the message that "everyone" can lend a hand.
  • May 2 2012: They need to draw attention to something others have not noticed or focused on.

    They need to care about the subject and think it is important.

    They should not always have to be at the cutting edge of their fields. Some may never be rich or famous, but have creative ideas. Those who have not succeeded can learn from those who have failed and succeeded, both.

    Sometimes it takes one person noticing something to create a breakthrough. For instance the cure for smallpox was found when Edward Jenner (1749-1823), an English doctor, learned from a milkmaid that she believed herself protected from smallpox because she had caught cowpox from a cow. The milkmaid noticed, the doctor listened and observed and the deadly smallpox was almost eliminated because of that.

    The quiet person and the homely person usually make better leaders. A good looking person has a lot handed to them and life is better to them. The same with the great personality type. The quiet or homely person has had to work harder, learn more and are probably wiser.
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      May 5 2012: "The quiet person and the homely person usually make better leaders." They do!
      Thanks JenniferAnne! :)
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    May 1 2012: Make sure you are talking about something close to your heart - that makes a difference. You can then be freely passionate and inspiring. Don't talk about something that IS NOT your work.....you are more inclined to make blunders.

    Make sure you fact check before embarking on a talk. The worst thing you can do is inspire people about an idea that is completely misleading.
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    Apr 20 2012: I agree with your observations. I saw some poor material myself in here.

    When something is presented in a big stage or printed in a multi thousand copy book, we use to see it as well established knowledge. If someone starts the right questions then problems start. We have to be prepared for the right questions. So before presenting or printing or publishing we have to take some experts to give us an opinion. Or at least test our arguments our selves extensively.

    Secondly, you point it correctly yourself, someone must have an idea that interests others.

    Third, someone must have a good plan or knowledge, how others can apply that idea. Or as minimum a good suggestion in what short of societies and contexts that idea can be applied. For instance, how much money an idea like that would require or in what sort of environments that idea would have applications. More over if this idea is always an improvement. If it isn't an improvement for everybody, how can we judge that? Not all ideas are a "good idea" for everybody in the world.

    Fourth and more important you must say the truth no matter who is not going to like it. You should not start with a goal to offend people. But if someone doesn't like your suggestion, if you have good arguments and you are well prepared, it is his/her problem to bring some evidence and argue against your point. With reasonable arguments not yelling.

    No matter what are the personal beliefs of the audience someone must find arguments and reasoning that will help christians, atheists, muslims, buddhists e.t.c. to cooperate with each other and not start a war. He must follow reasoning that it is based in human rights for freedom, education and free will.

    Use points like I did.
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      May 5 2012: I always find it helpful to list points to better communicate any idea (just like you did).
      These tips are pretty helpful to anyone preparing a talk.
      Thanks Philip! :)
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    Apr 9 2012: The most straightforward approach is for the TEDx organizer to choose only speakers who have demonstrated through their speaking, action, or writing that they have novel ideas worth spreading. Everyone has ideas, but not everyone has novel ideas that are of sufficient public importance or potentially broad impact to be worth spreading widely.There is another case as well. Sometimes a message is not novel but the audience who should hear it would find it more persuasive to hear it from someone they particularly respect or who can deliver it very effectively. A message identical to Mom's might spread better among youth, for example, if it is articulated by an admired political figure, sports figure, or musician.
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      Apr 9 2012: I agree! Great points, Fritzie.
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      Apr 18 2012: Fritzie, what if it is someone who has never presented before? How would you know if they have an idea worth spreading?

      I would think there are some type of guidelines for the conference committee (or TED in general) to have to be sure the presenters have something of interest to the expected audience?
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        Apr 18 2012: Before scheduling speakers for a conference, potential speakers often submit abstracts or some sort of text to be reviewed by whoever hosts the conference. The panel who selects the speakers chooses from among the proposals.
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    May 7 2012: I dont know much but i will say if you are going to talk in TEDx/ TED you should talk what you are passionate about...and be yourself. :-)
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    May 7 2012: This is a classic TEDx talk. http://www.ted.com/talks/rick_guidotti_from_stigma_to_supermodel.html
    It's entirely admirable except he runs out of time at the end. Now notice how much time he wastes establishing himself as a person of credibility at the beginning. At the end of the talk you'll realise it didn't matter one jot where he's previously worked. I tell my speakers to truly believe that if they're invited to speak, they already have credibility. Don't waste time introducing yourself or proving you're worthy.
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    May 5 2012: Read the TED commandments on the TEDx Organiser's page. It's a must.
    Make sure they DO have an idea worth spreading. Insist on it.
    Recommend the removal of all words from presentation slides, if at all possible. Words are meant to be spoken in a TEDx Talk- that's why it's a talk.
    Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.
    Within your first sentence the audience should know what this thing is about. Since the thing is not about you, your first sentence should not be, 'my name is Bighead Braggart, and I have 25 years experience in my field'. It should be something like, 'I thought life was going to be easy until the bus hit me.'
    or, 'The electrical power usage of the average family can be reduced 30% by this simple procedure.'
    or, just play the music.
    The last sentence should leave the audience in no doubt why the speaker was there. 'So for the rest of your life, you'll prefer paintings with lapis lazuli in them!'
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    Apr 11 2012: My guideline when I prepare a talk (not a TED talk, unfortunately, but for business) is to write it up fully, do the PowerPoint presentation as though I had unlimited time. Then I edit like crazy. The first cut will be at leaset 50% of what I prepared, because it is repetitive or irrelevant to the topic. The second cut will be to tighten up what is remaining - Can certain things be combined? Are there too many ideas presented which could confuse the audience? There may be as many as 6 cuts before I get the final presentation. Something that would have taken an hour or more to start will end up being 10-15 minutes, and will contain the core of the idea.

    I try to instill this in my staff as well. I don't need the history of the world - just the facts.
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      Apr 18 2012: The steps you are taking to prepare your speech -in whatever medium it is in- are great to omit redundancy and assist you in refining the idea of your talk. The problem which I think we face in some TEDx events is the weakness of some of the ideas. They could either be irrelevant to the audience or 'over-used' and verging on being cliche. Therefore, boring the audience and killing any chance of interaction between them and the speaker.

      So my question to you now is, how do you choose the 'idea' that's worth spreading?
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        Apr 18 2012: For my presentations, I don't have to worry about choosing the topic. I've been 'assigned' the topic by my client. I train on software so I know exactly what topic I have to prepare.

        As I've not been to a TED or TEDx event, isn't there normally a list of suggested topics or areas for the presenters to select? Or at least some guidelines of some kind for those selecting who will be speaking based on the presenters' suggestions?
  • Apr 9 2012: Would you believe it if I told you that I came to TED Conversations just to see if anyone else had asked this same question...
    for (pretty much) the exact same reason you did?

    Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - I was disappointed watching talks on Youtube filmed at the recent TEDx event there.