When I was accepted into the TED Residency in the summer of 2017, I knew that I was about to go to the next level as a speaker.
If you’re not familiar, the TED Residency is a semi-annual incubator that brings artists, entrepreneurs, social activists, and researchers together to launch projects and share their big ideas with the world. Some of the talks from former residents have appeared on TED.com, including the story of a 66 year-old startup founder and a woman who’s changing how society thinks about disability.
Make every word count
All the TED Residency talks were capped at six minutes. While that might sound like a ludicrously short amount of time, it’s actually a great forcing function and gives you ample opportunity to explore an idea.
Assuming you speak around 150 words per minutes, that’s 900 words, or the length of a short blog post or opinion piece. You can say quite a bit at that word count, if you do it right. This recent NYTimes op-ed on criminal justice reform, for instance, is only 850 words.
My talk started around 1,000 words, went upwards of 1,200, and eventually was trimmed down to just 896 words, taking around 6 minutes and 15 seconds to complete.
Traditional TED talks might go upwards of 18 minutes, but in recent years, even those “long” talks have been pushed down to 15 or 12 minutes.
Why? Because attention is a scarce resource. And just as a magnifying glass focuses to the sun’s rays to produce intense heat, a short talk, if properly delivered and received, can have tremendous impact.
You have to start by making every word, every sentence, every story, count.
So, try the 6-minute limit. And have some fun!
The best talks grab you from the first moment and never lets you go. Research done by Vanessa Van Edwards and her team at Science of People found that the top TED talks receive similar ratings on intelligence, charisma, and credibility when someone watches the whole talk, or just the first seven seconds.
We found that the ratings overall — who people liked overall and who they didn’t like — matched, whether they’d watched the first seven seconds or the full talk. We think that the brain actually decides as soon as that person takes the stage and begins speaking, “You know what? I’m gonna like this talk.”
Make it a champion day!