TEDxTuesdays, a weekly-ish 'zine about TED-style messaging.

TEDxTuesdays: Weekly Tips... from The TED Talk Whisperer (5.2.23)

Published about 1 year ago • 5 min read


You see the advertisements.

You know the promises.

Give a viral TED Talk. Get millions of views. Idea Spreading.

Sure “viral” happens (on rare occasions). But the counterpoint is this painful reality:

There are 100,000 “mehhhh to maybe” TEDx Talks on YouTube that missed the mark.

Tragic really.

They were (hopeful) big ideas.

(Well maybe they were big.)

But they will never rise out of the cemetery of the YouTube TEDx channel. Nor will they ever be featured on the TED home page.

Why? Those many, many wannabe TEDsters failed to “Start at the very beginning, a very good place to start” — as Julie Andrews sang in The Sound of Music.

The Very Beginning

The overriding misstep of hopeful TEDsters is beginning with a half-baked idea.

The “Ahaa” may have been good. Great even.

But it wasn’t TED-ready.

Or as we say…

“It was a not-so-big idea that’s not worth spreading.”


Frankly, few TEDx organizers properly vet ideas. They don’t have the bandwidth or experience to adequately stress-test them. A LOT of event producers are new volunteers. Less experienced production teams are (too often) ready to roll, if the idea sounds trendy or timely at first blush.

On the other extreme, some large veteran events are akin to bloated talk-producing machines. They rely on VOLUME to produce a handful of home run talks.

For more on avoiding both TEDxAmateurHour and TEDxCookieCutter events, click to this previous article: TEDx Stages Are Not Created Equal

Remember, in both cases, TEDx-ers are all part-time volunteers.

It. Is. Overwhelming.

For those reasons (and others), not all TEDx events are created equal.

For more on this topic, read one of my previous TEDxTuesdays articles: TEDx or better off TED? What’s the (real) difference?

That’s not to suggest (in any way!) that scores of dynamic, powerful, and catalytic TEDx events don’t happen each year. There are some amazing top-tier events, whether run by veterans or the Unicorn first-time producer.

But you must consider the numbers. Only 4,200 or so are elevated to See that gap?

Mistakes are made — many thousands of times each month.

And speakers pay the price. (#missedopportunity)

When people leave an auditorium or close a browser window, they should be able to easily answer the question:

What was that talk about?

(And be able to share the same.)

So how do you craft a message that will land with an audience and stick? How do you create a talk that hits the TED standard?

It all starts with developing messages that are built around one singular BIG IDEA.

Everything else in the talk — every story, subpoint, or specific application — serves this one overarching, controlling idea.

The best TED speakers know this. Borrowed from theater scripting methods, it’s called the Through-Line. It is the one central thread that ties the whole talk together.

I call it the BIG IDEA.

A BIG IDEA that is TED-worthy is one that is focused, sticky, and drives action. That's a TED Talk BIG IDEA.

Isolating your singular BIG IDEA, distilling it, and milling it into its essential and fundamental elements is where the power of your message gets its Ummmmph!

I mean it needs to be refined, stress-tested, focus-grouped, and more before it ends up being scripted, rehearsed, and delivered on any TED “red dot” rug.

The BIG IDEA Mill™ can get you there.

This is a time-proven, 6-step process that my team has used 100s of times with high-view TEDsters. It refines an “idea worth spreading” into a high-caliber, TED-worthy, compelling message.

Look, YOU likely have an idea you want to share with the world, and watch spread. You believe it will resonate worldwide.

And, there is no more potent, idea-spreading way than a (successful) TED Talk.

So let’s get to it!

Give your idea a chance. Let’s start at the very beginning...

That’ll help you avoid the “mehhh to maybe” result.

Want to learn more? I’m happy to come alongside you one-on-one to help you refine your BIG idea worth spreading. Or, you can check out The BIG IDEA Mill™. Another cohort is forming next week.

DEVIN D. MARKS is known as The TED Talk Whisperer. His firm, CONNECT to COMPEL, has represented hundreds of TED, TEDx, and TED-style speakers with millions of views. His team helps leaders, just like you, catalyze insights.

You can reach Devin at 617.804.6020, or DM him here.

>1M <1Yr.

It is said that 100K views make for a "viral" talk. I'm not quibbling here, but those are really a dime a dozen.

What defines a BREAKAWAY in my way of thinking is a talk with 1M+ views.

I love to highlight and celebrate those (whether from my clients or otherwise) that have just recently surpassed the one-million-view mark. They are outliers.

The following Dec 2022 TED@BCG Talk by Nithya Vaduganathan — 5 Hiring Tips Every Company (and Job Seeker) Should Know — is a stand-out.

Here's the TED description:

Boston Consulting Group's Nithya Vaduganathan is a managing director and partner in people and organization and education practices. She helps leaders think more creatively about their approach to talent (from what roles and skills they recruit for to how they recruit and develop that talent and more) in order to better deliver on their business objectives.

When a talk like this one hits the 1M marker within the first year... that's special.

It. Is. Spreading.

Many so-so talks can accumulate an impressive view count over years. But hitting the 7-figure marker within a concentrated time frame is a signal that there's something truly extraordinary going on in the talk and around the topic.

So my equation is as follows:


P.S. Know of an about-to-happen breakaway talk? Even better, did you deliver one (or hope to)? Please touch base and 411 me here.

PROBLEM: What is your TED Talk type?

SOLUTION: Take my short quiz to find out.

Ever consider giving a TED Talk? It's actually not as impossible as you might imagine. I can certainly help you get there. That's what I do.

If so, where to begin...

TIP: Begin by identifying the CATEGORY of your talk type. This provides a framework for you to approach your particular topic.

There are generally 8 different categories of talks. What category could yours be?

𝐆𝐞𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐬𝐰𝐞𝐫𝐬 by way of 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐓𝐄𝐃 𝐓𝐚𝐥𝐤 𝐓𝐲𝐩𝐞 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤𝐬𝐡𝐞𝐞𝐭.

In just 15 questions you’ll have your answer and a 15-page PDF with worksheets, TEDster examples, and more.

DM me with your results.

We can synch up to explore which of your ideas falls within that category and has the potential to truly be TED-worthy.

That's a simple, easy step towards the red dot stage!

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TEDxTuesdays, a weekly-ish 'zine about TED-style messaging.

From... The TED Talk Whisperer, DEVIN

I help niche execs, experts and authors master the TED stage and "short talk" messaging style. (TEDx clients enjoying views in the many, Many, MANY millions.) LET THE WORLD LIVE YOUR MESSAGE!™ #tedtalks #tedx #tedstyle #publicspeaking #speechwriting #pitches #presentations #messaging #branding #publicrelations #events #conferences

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