I get a lot of requests for feedback on a topic for a TED Talk. They often look like this:
If you’re wondering if your topic is good enough for a TED Talk, this article is for you.
Here’s my take.
There are 2 ways to think about this. Let’s start with the non-obvious way.
There may be something deeper
When I get questions like this, there’s sometimes a fear or barrier behind the question, and it’s this — the speaker is looking for a blessing to go ahead and apply for a TED Talk with this topic. Ultimately, they’re unsure about their idea. They want me to say “yes! go ahead!” and provide assurance for them.
After all, rejection sucks. It’s easier to continually ask for permission than risk rejection.
So consider this – before you ask for feedback, what would you do if everything was ok? Would you go ahead and apply for a TEDx event? Be honest with yourself.
If the answer is no, that’s totally understandable. After all, applying for TEDx is a HUGE step. It’s scary. It requires a ton of courage. So, acknowledge this. Acknowledge the big step you want to take. It’s not always about your topic.
So…is your topic good enough for TEDx?
Let’s assume you’ve acknowledged the courage it takes to apply for TEDx. Amazing!
Now, let’s tackle the question at hand — how do you know your topic is good enough? Once you’re confident in your topic, it’s a lot easier to bring yourself to apply for TEDx.
Let’s think about this in terms of a business idea. If someone asked you, “hey, is a coffee shop a good idea for a business?”, you’d have a hard time answering. There’s just too much that’s unknown:
- Where do they want to open the coffee shop in? Is there already too much competition?
- How is their coffee shop different than the competition?
- Have they ever operated a coffee shop?
- Do they know how to make coffee?
- Do they want to run a coffee shop?
- Are there local suppliers they can get coffee & other supplies from?
You get the idea. All of these factors affect whether a coffee shop is “a good idea” for them, at this particular time.
Often, people put too much value on the initial idea (eg: a TED Talk topic, or an idea for a business), and not enough emphasis on the rest of the process of developing it. There’s more to a business’ success than the initial idea, just as there’s more to whether a TED Talk will be loved by event organizers and the audience than a brief topic.
Instead, you need to know more about it. Once you do, you’ll feel more confident.
So what do you do?
For a TED Talk idea, I recommend you know more about what the audience thinks. People that are experienced with their subject matter understand these things intuitively, but you don’t need to have spent a long time with your topic to understand these subtleties:
- What value can the audience take from your talk?
- Why do you want to speak about this?
- Why would the audience find you credible?
- Do you understand how the audience thinks about this idea already (eg: do they already know and accept this? Are you providing a new angle?)
- Do you understand why people may disagree with you? Are there situations where they’re right? Are there any objections you need to understand?
- Does your audience understand the full scope of your idea? (eg: are you using words and phrases they use or lingo you’re used to?)
- Do you know what your audience finds fascinating about your topic (that could become the focus of your message)? Do you know what they find *least* fascinating (that could be removed)?
If you can clearly articulate all of these things (without guessing or missing anything), you’re ready. If you’re not sure, you can always apply to a TEDx event anyway. There’s nothing stopping you, but the results may not be as good (you’re more likely to be rejected, and if accepted, your talk won’t resonate with the audience as strongly).