The Recipe for TED Talks? The TED Commandments.

May 20, 2009

The CharityFocus posse is constantly asked to give talks, and we tend to spread the joy :) amongst everyone.  Viral once addressed 5000 people, Trishna rocked an esteemed panel at Chain Reaction last year, Birju spoke in NYC next to Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia, whole bunch of us got fired up in Palm Springs, Jenny represented us at Margaret Mead Film Festival, Ashish invited Mark Finser to speak at Wharton, Sukh spoke last month at a Peace conference in LA, Pavi screened Infinite Vision at Stanford last week, Arathi spoke to a bunch of UC Davis students about the power of serving internationally, Silas is invited to speak to several hundred youngsters in Portland next month, Guri choreographed a circle of "women in service", Binal often speaks to local healers in Berkeley, yesterday Richard spoke to group of English teachers in Marin about interviewing, and just this month, I've myself addressed various places from a high school assembly to a gathering of doctors in SF to entrepreneurs at the TiE conference.

CharityFocus style of speaking has a certain quality to it -- it's a bit raw, a bit off-the-cuff, and maybe even a bit unprofessional ... and it ends up coming off as authentic, inspiring and effective.  Beyond that, though, we've never really looked deep enough to glean any best practices and such.

Perhaps the only place where I've seen such consistent quality of authentic delivery is the repository of TED Talks!   How do they do it so consistently?  Do they have a recipe?   Well, it turns out that they do.  Before your TED talk, you are sent a slab (quite literally, I'm told) of "TED Commandments" that looks like this:

For your reading ease, the TED Commandments are:

  1. Thou shalt not simply trot out thy usual shtick
  2. Thou shalt dream a great dream, or show forth a wondrous new thing, or share something thou hast never shared before
  3. Thou shalt reveal thy curiosity and thy passion
  4. Thou shalt tell a story
  5. Thou shalt freely comment on the utterances of other speakers for the sake of blessed connection and exquisite controversy
  6. Thou shalt not flaunt thine Ego. Be thou vulnerable. Speak of thy failure as well as thy success.
  7. Thou shalt not sell from the stage: neither thy company, thy goods, thy writings, nor thy desparate need for funding; lest thou be cast aside into outer darkness.
  8. Thou shalt remember all the while: laughter is good.
  9. Thou shalt not read thy speech.
  10. Thou shalt not steal the time of them that follow thee.

 Whether you're speaking at TED or elsewhere, these are certainly worth following.

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