How do you find a topic for a TED Talk?

Before you do a TED Talk, you’ll need to know what to say.

Step 1: What is your topic/message/idea/subject?

This can come from any number of places, like life experience, your profession, a side project, a book, talks you’ve already done, and so on. Your topic is the starting point.

Normally, this is a single sentence, like “I want to talk about driving and the anxiety that comes with it”, or “I have a book about X, and I’d like to speak about that”.

If you don’t have a topic or idea for a TED Talk yet, this isn’t as much of a barrier as you’d think. Chances are, there are ideas in your head that could be TED Talks, and most of the success of your talk comes in developing it.

If you don’t have a topic/idea yet, join the Find a Winning TED Talk video series. It’s a free 3-day video training system to help you identify TED Talks topics you could share and prioritize them. In this training, you’ll learn:

  • The Gap Strategy — uncover a list of winning TED Talks Topics hidden within you…even if you don’t have any ideas yet
  • Extract the TED Talks Topics from your personal stories and existing topic ideas, and make sure they meet the TED Talks criteria and best practices
  • The TED Talks Prioritization Framework – hone in on a specific topic you know is the best choice for you, even if you’ve got lots of ideas
  • Your TED Topic Tracker – A downloadable tool that shows you the math behind topic selection so you’re sure you made the right choice

Get the Find a Winning TED Talk video training here.

Step 2: How do you develop it?

When most people think about developing a full talk from a topic, they think of things like this:

  • researching the topic
  • creating an outline
  • writing the talk and choosing the visuals
  • getting feedback from their inner circle, then the audience

These are all the right activities, but how you do these things makes all the difference in how well your talk goes over.

Developing an idea is a little like steering a ship. It’s relatively easy to move forward (eg: add detail to your talk). It’s harder to know whether you’re moving in the right direction (adding the right detail, enough, or too much).

For example:

  • Of the 3 points you decided to share, is one of them actually 10x better than the others? (eg: maybe your talk should be focused on that alone?)
  • Is the way you’re describing your idea a little confusing to your audience at first?
  • Would a completely different talk on the same subject actually get 10x the results?
  • Did your title initially make people think your talk was about something else?

It’s hard to know all this and apply it without getting overwhelmed. With so many things to think about, how do you know whether you’re doing it enough, too much, or incorrectly?

How do you know if your title is good enough, or whether it can be better? (or if people are just being nice when they give you positive feedback, or if your talk really is good?)

With a “normal” talk at stake, the consequences of sub-optimal talk development are pretty low.

But with a TED Talk that’ll be online for years to come, an up-front investment in developing your talk is the single best thing you can do to make it spread over the long term (and get selected for a TEDx event in the first place).