What is a Thought Leadership Speech (and Why We Love TED Talks)

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I could spend hours on TED.com. In fact, I have spent hours watching TED Talks. Blissful, mesmerized, thrilling unplanned hours. Maybe you have, too.

Clearly we are not alone. The 20 Most Popular TED Talks of All Time each have many MILLIONS of views. Forgive me for stating the ridiculously obvious: That's a whole lot of people captivated by these speeches.

What IS it about TED Talks that fascinate us so? What makes them so different – so much better – than the zillions of other things that we could be doing with those hours we spend watching them?

I know what it is. It's that TED Talks are specifically designed and delivered to meet our greatest desires for rich experience in our lives, with a low investment of energy on our part. It's a tropical island vacation in an intellectual wonderland.

See, we are desperately seeking delight and rich engagement.

We want to be moved. We want to be lit up and surprised. We want to feel the thrill of the unexpected. We want to believe that something else is possible – something we never imagined. Something totally mind-boggling – or maybe something so richly right and real that we literally feel the truth of it in our blood and breath. And we are absolutely blissed out to learn what we knew all along but didn't know how to name. 

The best TED speakers remind us – in beautiful, simple, descriptive language – that there are still amazing new ideas. That every story has not been told – at least not like this.

And in this we see a glimmer of hope. Hope for our own ideas. Hope for inspiring that kind of thrill in others. Hope for seeing what maybe we, too, are capable of creating, saying, contributing to the Conversation.

Much like falling in love, we are infatuated by TED speakers and the ideas shared because they reflect back to us what we most want to see in ourselves.

The beauty in this is that possibility does exist for us. We really can be a part of this gorgeous, rich conversation.

All we need is an idea – one that we are committed to taking a stand for. An idea that changes things.

And the willingness to turn that idea into a message that captivates and inspires others.

So, what do you think? Do you have an idea that changes things?

Are you willing to take a bold, powerful Thought Leadership stand for that idea? This is what Thought Leadership looks like. Your Thought Leadership Speech is the one that makes a big impact with your idea. The one you craft using the perfectly chosen captivation, inspiration and motivation techniques to support your idea. The one that is committed to changing things.

So how do you turn your idea into a TED style Thought Leadership talk? These five things will transform your speech: 

  1. State your idea with incredible clarity. Make it so simple that you could teach it to third graders. (Even if you wouldn't share this particular adult idea with kids that age.) 
  2. Make it impossible not to care about this idea. Give everything you've got to creating connection between your audience and your idea. Help them feel the idea in their belly. Light them up while you do it. To do this, you must understand why this idea matters so much – and to whom. And tell them why in the world this matters this much to you. 
  3. Tell stories everywhere. Tell simple stories that touch us in ways that matter to us. The relevant story about your grandfather. The one from when you first got an inkling of this idea. The one that broke everything before you figured out how to put it back together. Choose story over everything, wherever possible. 
  4. Surprise them with the Unexpected. DARE to say it – the thing your audience wonders, wishes and secretly desires. Visuals, experiences, shocking turns of events. Let them ride the roller coaster of your idea. 
  5. When the ride is over, tell them how they can carry this experience with them into their life beyond the room. Give them specific things they can do to apply this idea. Tell them how to make a new choice when they leave the room. Ask them to commit and remind them why this matters – for them and the world. 

TED presentations and talks have shown us what's possible in the way of Thought Leadership presentations. We are incredibly lucky to have so many examples of how to share our ideas using all of the most captivating and inspiring speaking techniques. But we do not need a TED stage to step into Thought Leadership.

If you know that your idea will change lives, it is worth spreading. What would happen if every single time you stepped in front of a room full of people you committed to changing lives and inspiring positive action? I love the idea of living in that kind of world.

Let's do this.