The TED Talk has become shorthand for brief, powerful speeches that focus on one worldly issue. I have attended the conference for years now and, even though I've done a TED Talk myself, I'm still in awe when a powerful orator hits the sweet spot between information and enlightenment. 

And entrepreneur Chris Anderson is the mastermind behind the iconic TED brand and a darn good speaker himself. As he gets ready to release The TED Official Guide to Public Speaking, Anderson breaks down the four things that make TED Talks special. I've included talks that I think capture his argument well.

1. Focus on one major idea

Here's the biggest danger when you are an expert; You know too much. It's tempting to cram everything into the 18 minutes or less you have on the stage. Anderson says do the opposite. "Explain that one thing properly and give context."

My pick would be Brian Greene's Is Our Universe The Only Universe. I was in the audience for the 2012 talk and was blown away by how he explained string theory in 20 minutes. Focus, indeed.

2. Give people a reason to care

Anderson says it comes down to curiosity. It's not only a matter of having a great story or concept, but making it relatable enough to the audience so that they want to learn more. It is putting them in your shoes.

I was stunned by Joshua Prager's In Search of the Man Who Broke My Neck. The journalist explains how a bus accident left him partially paralyzed - and the process of hunting down the driver twenty years later.

3. Build your idea with familiar concepts

"Build your idea, piece by piece, out of concepts that your audience already understands," Anderson says. It's taking your big idea and bringing it down to earth.

A favorite is Rob Reid's The $8 Billion iPod. Brilliantly short, the talk explains the hyperbole behind the outrageous lawsuits against Napster, Limewire and Reid's own company, Rhapsody.

4. Make your idea worth sharing

Anderson puts it best: "Ask yourself the question: 'Who does this idea benefit?'... If the idea only serves you or your organization, then, I'm sorry to say, it's probably not worth sharing. The audience will see right through you."

For my money, it's Elizabeth Gilbert's Success, Failure and the Drive to Keep Creating. The famous Eat, Pray, Love author shares how her follow-up was a massive flop - an honest, vulnerable statement - and how failures can benefits us all.

Published on: Apr 20, 2016