When we’re trying to title a TEDx talk, we need to make sure it fits a format the organizer expects. If you look at the top 20 titles of TED talks, you’ll notice that none of them use the “Name: Subtitle” format. Instead, they’re always phrases like, “Do schools kill creativity?” or, “Your body language may shape who you are.”
The reason for this is that the organizers of both TEDx and TED want the focus to be on the idea, not the speaker. The focus is on what question the talk will answer. Other titles, like “How to tie your shoes,” or, “How to use a paper towel,” hint at something unconventional or unexpected. These kinds of titles naturally provoke a question in the audience because they suggest a new angle or insight.
If you’re trying to title a TEDx talk, make sure that you’re not putting ownable phrases in there. Instead, focus on giving enough information to let the organizer and your audience know exactly why your idea is one worth spreading.
– In the previous episode, we talked about how to title your talk so that your meeting organizer or potential client gives it the green light. But what if the talk you want to get the green light is a TEDx talk? And the meeting organizer is a TEDx organizer? As it turns out the rules are a little different, so that’s what we’re talking about this week on Find the Red Thread. I’m your host Tamsen Webster of tamsenwebster.com.
When it comes to titling a TEDx talk, the underlying Problem and Truth are still the same. We need to answer the organizer’s interests when it comes to that talk title. Because it’s the organizer that’s making the decision. So we need to make sure the title itself fits a format the organizer expects and wants. That makes the organizer’s job easier.
If it already sounds like a talk that they want then a lot of your job is already done. But with TEDx’s and TED talks the titles are fundamentally different. If you go and look at the top 10 or 20 titles of TED talks, you’ll notice something very significant. That there is no example that I have yet found of “Name: Subtitle.” They just don’t happen on TED and if they do they were really, really old.
They’re always phrases like, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” or, “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are.” They are just phrases, there’s nothing ownable about it. That’s because the organizers of TEDx want the focus to be on the idea, not on the speaker. So you don’t hear things like “Start With Why,” or, “The Five Second Rule” in the title of the talk. Those may come out in the talk but they’re not in the title of the talk.
The audience that TED exists for, and that the TEDx organizers exist for, have questions that they’re hoping these talks answer. And so almost all of the titles are focused on what is the question that talk will answer? It still needs to be something specific enough that people understand this is a different, unconventional, or new approach to answering that question.
So if you think about for instance Amy Cuddy’s “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are.” We don’t necessarily think of body language and who you are as something that has a cause and effect relationship. And so even though it’s a very short title it still has both pieces.
Now you might be saying to me, well what about titles like “The Power of Introverts?” Okay, well that’s still unexpected. It doesn’t necessarily ask a question that you may have been asking., I don’t think most people walked into Joe Smith’s TEDx talk and said, “Well shoot, how do I just use one paper towel?” Or another talk, “How do I tie my shoes?”
We’re not asking that question on a daily basis but the fact that it’s posed that way, now all of a sudden it makes us want to know. How do you use only one paper towel? What is the power of introverts? The piece that’s still relevant there is it’s an unexpected answer to a question that in certain cases we may not have had.
So, this is what it means for you when you are thinking about your TEDx talk. First of all, get rid of the colon subtitle structure. That’s just, it’s not going to work. Now, I’ll tell you that and that’s fine, but my TEDx organizer still let me do it. Yeah, and then TED is going to retitle it. So again, make it easy for TED to take.
This is a lesson I learned while I was the executive producer of TEDx Cambridge. Because we had five speakers promoted to TED.com. Every time they retitled what I even thought were great titles. So for instance, David Autor’s talk on, as it was ultimately called, “Will Automation Take Away All Our Jobs?” was originally titled “Why Are There Still So Many Jobs?”
Now I think they’re both great titles but I see why TED added the additional information. They wanted to make it clear that this was a talk not just about jobs. Specifically, it ws about the role automation will play in the future of work.
As an additional example, we had a talk that was originally called, “The Social Dilemma of Driverless Cars.” We thought that was kind of like “The Power of Introverts.” But when TED got ahold of it they retitled it as “What Decisions Should Driverless Cars Make?” So they turned it from that kind of “Power of Introverts” type title into a question that people might want to hear an answer to.
So think about that when you’re titling your talks. Make sure that, for TEDx at least, that you’re not putting ownable stuff in there. And yet you’re still giving enough information to let the organizer know exactly why your idea is one worth spreading. If you want more information on how to find your TEDx idea or to work with me, I do that with clients.
The offer is called the TED Thread Session and you’ll read more about that at tamsenwebster.com/consulting under the Products and Packages section. Now if this was useful to you, please do me a favor, like, subscribe, and share it. Otherwise, I will see you next time.