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Not Every Idea Is Worth Sharing

Posted on April 26, 2012 and read 1,682 times

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michaelweiss Not Every Idea Is Worth SharingMichael Weiss
Managing Director
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I have a confession to make. I love TED. I may go so far to say that I am infatuaTED with it. But lately, I feel a bit overstimulaTED with so many TED videos flooding my inbox and Facebook wall. And while I am exciTED by the amount of TEDx events there are, I feel wholeheartTEDly that the TED brand is in trouble. Why? To put it simply: The TED market is saturaTED.

During the month of May there will be nearly 40 TEDx Conferences happening in the United States alone. Is it too much? I don’t know. Are there really that many ideas worth sharing? Probably not.  But more importantly, are there that many people who can give a well crafTED and stimulating TED talk? Nope.

And therein lies the problem.

If the quality of the TED talker begins to equal that of the standard conference presenter, then the brand will begin suffer. While reading slides and offering dispassionate content with no story whatsoever may be tolerated at conferences and in boardrooms, it is not allowed or expected at TED or TEDx events. What makes a TED talk so impactful is the TED Talker’s wonderful combination of content and performance. The best TED talks are engaging and entertaining as well as educational and inspirational.  TED talkers are the best of breed. They possess the necessary skill set to weave a story while keeping the audience interested and wanting more. Some of the greatest TED talkers could read a diner menu and it would still be amazing simply because of their ability to deliver.

The TED talk is different.

The TED talk is unique.

The TED talker is special.

As a speaker coach, I have begun to notice something going on in the speaker industry.  The TED talk seems to becoming the standard by which ALL presentations are being measured. Many of my clients come to me and say, “I have to present at a conference – I have 15 minutes and they want it to be like a TED talk.”  Why is that? Because everyone knows that TED talks are engaging, entertaining and inspiring. And they are often delivered by well-educated and passionate individuals who have done amazing things with their lives.

Because of TED, the audience’s expectations are… well… rising. It doesn’t matter if it’s a simple meeting or a conference Keynote, people want engaging presentations. They demand to be inspired. They expect to be blown away. But, there is a time and a place for everything. And sometimes you need to talk about excel spreadsheets in a breakout session at a conference or roll your up your sleeves and get geeky with data and PowerPoint slides. What I am trying to say is that sometimes a TED-like talk may not be appropriate for a certain setting.

What TED has taught us is that today’s audiences – whether in the conference room or the auditorium – expect high quality delivery from the speaker. They want their speakers to be polished and engaging. They want to learn. They anticipate a grand performance. The greatest orators have an innate skill that makes them exceptional. Yet, with some work, each and every one of you can improve and elevate your speaking skills. Now, can each of you become a TED talker? Truth be told, not everyone is capable of giving a TED-like talk. I equate it to the “you’re so funny, you should be a comedian” comment.  Not every funny person can do stand-up. Nor can everyone who has a decent voice win American Idol. It’s the same for speakers.

But it is not so much a person’s speaking skills as it is his or her subject matter. Not every story is an “idea worth sharing” on the TED or TEDx stages.

I am a supporter of TED and TEDx. I have been lucky enough to be on a TEDx stage four times in the past year. I coach TEDx Talkers at Speaker Boot Camps as well as in private sessions. The hardest part of my job is not telling someone they are an inadequate speaker; because I believe everyone can learn to be successful on stage. The hardest part is telling someone that his or her subject matter is not TED worthy. That is something we all need to accept.

We need to keep the TED talks for the TED stages; to keep them extraordinary and special; to make sure they remain riveting, mind blowing, emotional and utterly unique. If we do that, then the TED brand will remain intact; if we don’t then what’s so special about a TED?





  • http://twitter.com/jackoatmon Thomas Smith

    You hit the nail on the head here.

    TEDx is unmitigated bullshit.

    Even if you are hedging because you have a vested interest in not saying it outright.

  • http://twitter.com/mikepweiss michael weiss

    I wouldn’t go so far as calling it BS. What I am trying to say is that if they continu to saturate the market, the brand is going to lose its integrity

  • http://www.facebook.com/markemersondewey Mark Dewey

    I would absolutely go to a TEDx event over 99% of the events out there. and trust me there are some bad ones… TEDx events are still some of the best keynotes, but I agree that organizers NEED to keep-up the quality of the talk and push the creative envelope on the art and entertainment aspect of the day. There are still a lot of people who can benefit from TEDx. Especially the speakers who want to share their message.  I say open the flood gates and if you don’t like what you see or hear then change the channel!

  • http://twitter.com/mikepweiss michael weiss

    I am curious though….as a TEDx coordinator, how do you feel about the fact that there are literally hundreds of events happening every month? Is it getting diluted?


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