TED Talks for Dummies

Summary of Stage 1:

In contemplation of which origin piece to select, I felt really fortunate to land on my first essay from my English 125 class, entitled “Checklist.” I wanted to started off my freshman year with a creative spin, so I resorted to what I knew best – checklists. As you can imagine, the essay was structured as such, with each list followed by a narrative account. It felt right, except for the fact that at the bottom of each list was always a box left unchecked – a certain goal that was frustratingly unattainable. At the time, I thought that this structured organization and rigid system of goal setting was flawless, but, you will come to find out that at the end, I seriously consider dropping this way of approaching life. The last sentence of the essay reads: “☐   Leave the checklists in the past.”


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I’ve realized that the main problem with this piece is that it is, well, unfinished. I have not made up my mind and, as I continue to follow down this structured path in my current life, I am left uninformed as to whether or not I am doing myself any justice. My first experiment aimed to delve into the psychology behind checklists; however, after researching the topic, I ran into a dead end. What’s more – like Maya and her podcast experiment – I found that the “research motions” that I was taking were far too similar to my daily routine. So, moving forward, I’d like to have more fun with my experiments (and venture into disciplines that I am unfamiliar with). I’m really excited that this class lends a lot of flexibility in this cycle, so this time, I’d like to tackle a TED Talk.


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How to Present a TED Talk:

This approach is definitely exciting, though fairly daunting. I would wager that most people have seen at least one TED Talk before, so they would know that they are pretty amazing presentations. They are all very well thought out, covering stimulating topics, accompanied by aesthetically pleasing slides, graphics, etc. For some background information, I should add that TED — which stands for technology, education, design – began in 1984 as a yearly conference wherein industry leaders and creative types went to exchange “Ideas Worth Spreading.”

So ~inspirational~ right?

Since then, though, TED has created a variety of spin-offs, putting hundreds of speeches online every year, garnering millions of views. Notwithstanding that my goal isn’t fame of this magnitude (though, that would be pretty awesome), I still think that I should go about its production in a similar vein. Chris Anderson, the owner and global curator of TED, mentions that in order to create a talk, “you have to have something meaningful to say, and your goal [should be] to re-create your core idea inside of your audiences minds.”

That’s easy enough, I suppose. My ultimate goal is to spark a conversation regarding checklists – a pretty typical, yet, perhaps, overlooked topic. Similarly, in “TED’s secret to a great public speaking” (a YouTube clip), they suggest that presenters must give people a reason to care and build ideas with familiar concepts. I definitely think these are really salient factors – and ones that I think I can incorporate. Crafting stories might prove to be relatable to the audience wherein they might also be able to think about their own personal anecdotes. I know that my origin piece is essentially a compilation of four different personal experiences, all centered on a checklist, so I think that could work really nicely.

On a more detailed note, TED’s website is also very informative as how to develop slides for the presentation. It notes that the slides should be light on content so as to not distract the audience and should use a simple slide background. Although these might be rather straightforward, I think it underscores the importance of a minimalistic approach. I’ve found that a lot of the talks that I am really fond of use pictures, instead of written words, so I think that could be really neat. I’d love to run with some of the visuals that correspond with my stories.

Perhaps one of my greatest takeaways — and most profound revisions to this post — is the fact that when approaching a TED Talk, I must “pick a side” when discussing the topic. In other words, I cannot ambiguously present a variety of perspectives regarding checklists; I must answer the “unresolved” aspects of my origin piece and persuade my audience to agree with me. As noted above, I will still attempt to do this through pictures and anecdotes.

I am really looking forward to hearing everyone’s feedback! There are so many intricate talks that have inspired a lot of people, so I am interested in hearing about all of the different twists that I might be able to incorporate within mine.

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