15 Things We Learned From Analyzing The Top 100 TEDx Talks
Since the program started in 2009, over 50,000 TEDx talks have impacted individuals across the globe. These talks provide you with educational, inspirational, and motivational pieces of information. They aim to help the world around them and empower individuals to become the best versions of themselves.
As an organization that helps people land TEDx talks, we constantly receive questions around what makes the best TEDx talk. Here are a few we’ve received before writing this blog:
“What makes a TEDx viral?”
“What do the most famous TEDx speakers have in common?”
“How can I use TEDx to brand myself or my company?”
We’ve compiled data from the last three years to help answer some of the biggest questions regarding TED and TEDx. We found 15 commonalities between the top 100 TEDx talks through our research. These discoveries can help you if you’re looking to become a professional public speaker, an aspiring entrepreneur, an executive, or even a marketer trying to build a brand.
Is TED or TEDx Better?
Before we dive into our insights from the top 100 TEDx talks, we thought we’d answer a common question we get asked by prospective clients, executives, and industry experts alike.
Is it better to give a TED talk or a TEDx talk?
We’ll first need to answer the difference between the two formats to answer this question. A TED talk is a speech that has a global focus. Meanwhile, a TEDx talk is a speech to educate, influence, and empower others to make a difference in their local communities.
While the global focus of a TED talk might sound more appealing to your brand recognition, these talks aren’t easily accessible. It’s often previous TEDx speakers who get featured on the TED platform. Because both talks empower individuals, one isn’t more significant than the other.
What Are the Highest Rated TED talks?
TED has gathered what people worldwide claim to be their favorite talks of all time. This list of the top 25 TED talks is sure to make your asses your life, dream bigger, and aspire for greater self-actualization. Here are the top 3 most informational and inspiring TED videos of all time:
What Are the Highest Rated TEDx Talks?
Below, we’ve rated the highest TEDx talks based on video views. Individuals gave these speeches across various locations and regions, ranging from the United States to Sweden, England, Switzerland, and more. This list of the top 25 most viral TEDx talks comes from 3 years worth of our comprehensive research.
1. I Was Almost A School Shooter
by Aaron Stark
2. The Super Mario Effect - Tricking Your Brain into Learning More
by Mark Rober
3. Change Your Thoughts And Change Your Attitude
by César Lozano
4. 5 Hindrances to Self-Mastery
by Master Shi Heng Yi
5. How to Get Your Brain to Focus
by Chris Bailey
6. How to Not Take Things Personally
7. Intermittent Fasting: Transformational Technique
by Cynthia Thurlow
8. The Most Unexpected Acoustic Guitar Performance
by The Showhawk Duo
9. Waking Up As A Meme Hero
by Andras Arato
10. Coronavirus Is Our Future
by Alanna Shaikh
11. My Journey To Success
by Aishwarya Rajesh
12. Let’s Talk Porn
by Maria Ahlin
13. What Representing Men in Divorce Taught Me About Fatherhood
by Marilyn York
14. Ben Bir Bacaktan İbaret Değilim, Çok Daha Fazlasıyım
by Neslican Tay
15. Let's Talk About Sex: The Reality of the Sexual Pleasure Disparity
by Grace Wetzel
16. Nine Business Lessons at Nine
by Michael Prokopenya
17. We Cannot Lead Others Without First Leading From Within
by Lolly Daskal
18. I Was An MS-13 Gang Member. Here's How I Got Out
by Gerardo Lopez
19. How To Trick Your Brain Into Falling Asleep
by Jim Donovan
20. Life For The Rest Of Your Life
by Nyuta Federmesser
21. Befriend Yourself
by Nivetha Thomas
22. How to Figure Out What You Really Want
by Ashley Stahl
23. How to Talk Like a Native Speaker
by Marc Green
24. What Do The Poor Have In Mind
by Mayra Arenay
25. Don’t Strive To Be Famous. Strive To Be Talented
by Maisie Williams
15 Takeaways Every Business Can Gain from The Best TEDx Talks
While TEDx talks have been around for a little while now, we decided analyzing the last three years’ worth of speeches would provide the best insight to our audience. We chose this timeline because studying recent years instead of ten years prior is most relevant to current-day practices. Considering this information, we’ve come up with 15 things the best TEDx talks teach us about branding, marketing, and business strategy.
1. Black Never Goes Out of Style
Surprisingly enough, there is a favorite color among most 21st century individuals, and it’s not what you’d think. Some might even argue it isn’t a color at all. However, out of the most-watched TEDx talks in the last three years, black took the prize for favorite color. With 33% of top TEDx speakers wearing black, it’s the most viewed TEDx color to date.
Here’s a breakdown of colors worn between the 100 best TEDx talk speakers
- 33 Black
- 16 White
- 16 Grey
- 15 Blue
- 5 Red
- 5 Pink
When we asked our president and TEDx speaker, Taylor Conroy, why he thought black was the preferred color of choice, here’s what he had to say:
“Black is a safe color. A lot of people wear black because it’s neutral and calming; however, the color isn’t as important as is your comfort level when giving a presentation.”
2. Introductions Are Overrated
Have you ever watched a commercial where a company threw its name in your face immediately? How did that commercial fair with one where the company just used a familiar motto; or strategically layered their name in a story?
Most public speakers, marketers, and executives often feel the need to introduce themselves to others using grand gestures. While we understand the need to feel seen and heard, this practice is frequently unnecessary and redundant. If you’re a speaker or presenter, your name and title are often in a pamphlet, introduced by an MC, or at the bottom of theTEDx screen.
Meanwhile, if you’re an organization, prominent executive, or marketer, often, people already know who you are before you begin talking about yourself. So sometimes subtly is the best approach to tactful branding.
3. Broad Questions Captivate An Audience
Did you know 20 of the most 100 watched TEDx talks in the last three years started with a question? More specifically, these talks begin by asking the audience a broad question.
For example, Robin Barrett walks on the stage in her talk, Why I chose to Be A Nomad, and a countdown timer begins. It reads 730 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes, and 58 seconds. Robin then asks the audience, “If you knew you were going to die two years from now, would you stay in the same profession?”
Robin’s question immediately grabs the audience’s attention. In addition, the question is also general enough that it can apply to everyone in the room. Death is a natural part of life for all human beings. By tying a shocking occurrence to a general question, individuals enrolled in her speech within one sentence.
4. Storytelling Is A Crowd Favorite
When only campfires and sabertooth tigers existed, humans passed the time with cave drawings and folklore. Before tv and social media, we read books and talked about favorite novels or town gossip. Stories have been a favorite part of our culture since the beginning of time; and, they aren’t going anywhere.
Companies will spend thousands of dollars on consultants and marketing firms that help tell their stories. Why? They know the impact stories have on influencing a target audience. The same rule applies to TEDx talk speakers, coaches, and other professionals. Consider how starting a speech, meeting, or conversion with a story can capture your audience’s attention.
Our client, Eli Nash, understood this concept when he opened up his TEDx talk by saying, “About a year ago I was in a conference room, and someone asked me what my goal was….I looked at him straight in the eye and said my number one goal is never to watch porn again.”
Eli’s talk on Escaping Porn Addiction now has over 3.8 million views
5. Timing Isn’t As Important As You Think
Do you think presentations that are faster or slower perform better with their audience? We asked some of our existing clients this question, and answers were all over the board. Some said slower performances helped the listener understand and resonate with the speaker. Others said faster performances kept the listener engaged longer. The answer isn’t that simple, though.
The average person says approximately 100-130 words per minute. Therefore, one could assume a presentation that kept this pace would probably perform better. However, neither of the two most popular TEDx talks follow this word count formula.
One of the top TEDx talks is a slower-paced presentation. The speaker talks at about 80 words per minute, and he uses eloquence, intentionality, and sincerity to draw the audience in. Meanwhile, another top TEDx talk has a speaker who presents at 142 words per minute. He speaks with excitement, enthusiasm and jumps around the stage a lot.
Our point is that timing isn’t as important as you think. Whatever you’re creating, consider the impact your personality brings to the table.
6. Visuals Enhance User Experience
It’s no secret that visuals enhance an audience and user’s experience. A recent study found that presentations with visual aids are 43% more persuasive than those without visuals. It’s easier to digest information when it’s in a graph. Meanwhile, presentations are more memorable when two-way communication occurs between a visual presenter and an audience.
Visuals are so important when communicating a message that it’s no surprise 9 out of 10 of the top TEDx talks use virtual backgrounds or slides in their message. Here is a breakdown of the top 3 talks that use visuals, along with their total number of viral views:
The Super Mario Effect – Tricking Your Brain into Learning More – 11,482,130 views
Intermediate Fasting: A Transformational Technique – 10,079,396 views
Waking Up As A Meme Hero – 7,392,226 views
It’s good to note, our research found the number of slides and visuals wasn’t as significant as the way each speaker presented the talk. In one of the slowest spoken TEDx talks, the individual only used seven slides. Meanwhile, in the fastest TEDx talk, the presenter used 50 slides. What mattered most was that each speaker tied their TEDx message and personalities to the visuals in their presentations.
7. Establishing Credibility Sets You Up For the Future
Remember earlier when we told you not to introduce yourself because it’s redundant? Well, we still want you to stick to that; however, there is a way to make yourself credible to an audience without blurting out a name and title. It involves a process we like to call organic sprinkling.
So, what’s organic sprinkling?
Organic sprinkling is when you sprinkle bits of information about yourself or your organization into a speech or other piece of advertising.
It’s a subtle way to establish yourself as a reliable source of information. For example, in the popular TEDx talk, “To Reach Beyond Your Limits By Training Your Mind, Marisa Peer mentions her job, awards, and other accolades, all without making her talk sound like a sales pitch. Here’s how she does it:
- At the beginning of her talk, she mentions the connection between yourself and your brain.
- Then, at 22 seconds into the talk, she backs that claim with accreditation by saying, “I’m very lucky I’ve been voted Britain’s therapist seven times.” However, the way she says this isn’t cheesy or pretentious. It fits her narrative.
- Then, at 3 minutes and 10 seconds into her talk, she organically says, “When I wrote my first book…” This statement further exemplifies her knowledge and skillset.
- She also says, “I learned this by working with some clients,” showcasing she works with individuals and welcomes the opportunity to do so.
These tactics of sprinkling what you do in an organic, authentic way offer a subtle but powerful call to action. Establishing credibility lets people know what you do, which subtly encourages them to contact you after a presentation.
8. Sharing Your Success Secrets Builds Trust
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Sharing is caring?” This popular euphemism isn’t only for toddlers in nursery school. It applies to everyone across various aspects of life. For example, businesses can share profits and resources; coaches can share tips and time; executives can share success stories, etc.
Whether you’re going up on stage, offering a downloadable pdf to prospects, or consulting with a potential client, it can be tempting only to want to share tidbits of helpful information. In your mind, saving the bread and butter of what you do for established clients gives you more bang for your buck. However, the best TEDx speakers have shown the opposite to be true.
Our Thought Leader President Taylor Conroy offers his TEDx audience personal research, secrets for motivating charity contributions, and templates. That’s because Taylor has tapped into a fundamental relationship-building technique so often lost in our society. The more you give to people, the more significant impact you have on their lives. That impact builds trust and inspires them to work with you more sincerely.
9. You Don’t Need a New Idea To Be Successful
If TED and TEDx have taught us anything, it’s that you don’t need a new idea to be successful. After all, one of the most popular TED talks of all time is about leaders inspiring action. This talk by Simon Sinek discusses concepts that have been around for centuries. Now, let’s look at some of the top TEDx talks in the last three years.
- 5 Hindrances to Self Mastery
- How to Get Your Brain To Focus
- How Not to Take Things Personally
- Intermittent Fasting: Transformational Technique
Do you know what these talks have in common? None of their topics are new. Self-mastery is a concept that has been around for thousands of years. Therefore, one could infer that some of the best success doesn’t actually come from reinventing the wheel.
10. Selfless Intentions Lead to Big Rewards
Every popular TED talk and TEDx talk exists to help others. Odds are, after watching some of the best TEDx talks, you’ll probably wonder how you can give back to your community and the larger world around you. Whether it’s imparting a great deal of wisdom or value, each talk reminds us it’s important to serve.
These TEDx speakers lean into themselves and speak about what they can most offer the world. It’s a powerful concept that companies and coaches can learn from. Imagine if you gave as much of yourself to your purpose, role, or customers as these speakers do. What would the bigger picture look like for you?
11. It’s Essential To Map Out Your Customer Journey
Popular TEDx speakers have tapped into something each industry can learn from. That is, it’s essential to map out your client journeys. Some of the most viewed TEDx talks were pre-written by their speakers, who segmented their talks into sections.
This talk mapping has allowed the best TEDx speakers to craft a talk that matches their personality with their presentation and resonates with their audience. For example, in the popular TEDx talk: I Was Almost A School Shooter, Aaron Stark does the following to encapture his audience:
1. He starts with an Initial hook:
“I was almost a school shooter.”
2. He takes the audience for a ride uphill by telling a story:
“Growing up, I learned there was a comfort in the darkness.”
3. He drops the audience downhill by describing a sad moment:
“I sat there with my arm covered in blood, knowing if I didn’t do something, I was going to kill myself soon.”
4. He works his way up to the main point:
“My friend brought me in and showed me acts of kindness.”
5. He gives an aha moment:
“When someone treats you like a person when you don’t even feel like a human, it will change your entire world.”
6. He closes with a sticking point:
“We have to give love to the people who we think deserve it the least.”
Throughout each of these transitions, Aaron layers emotions, pauses, and enunciations into the audience’s journey. Because he knew where he was in the emotional spectrum of his talk, his audience connected with him. Imagine if more coaches, executives, marketers, and companies learned the power of mapping out a customer journey ahead of time.
12. Authenticity Is Your Best Brand
Some of the best TEDx speakers lean wholly into themselves. They use the stage as they would the ground and speak to their audience as if they were chatting with a group of friends.
Do you remember earlier when we were talking about timing? We mentioned two speakers, one who spoke at 80 words per minute and another who said 142 words per minute. Neither of these speakers had to worry about timing because they were authentic in their presentation approach.
The guy who spoke very slowly was a monk, had several degrees, and always appeared poised to our team during his TEDx application process. The way he presented himself in his talk was no different. Meanwhile, the guy who spoke fast always brought an aurora of energy to our calls. He was also was notorious for making silly jokes with our team members. That personality shone through his TEDx talk when he spoke with rapid energy and movements.
So, what makes you, you? What makes your brand a brand? Whether you are on a TEDx stage or creating an asset for your company, how will you bring authenticity into what you do?
13. Search Trends Play A Role In Viral Success
When you say the phrase search trend, most marketers and business executives turn their heads. That’s because the role search trends play in content success is widely recognized among entrepreneurs and organizations alike. TEDx talks prove this importance once again.
It’s no secret that TEDx titles have mini search engine optimization. Viral TEDx speakers have tapped into this SEO methodology and utilized popular phrases to optimize their talks.
For example, our client Cynthia Thurlow’s talk is titled: Intermediate Fasting: Transformational Technique. In comparison, she could have titled this around healthy living, healthy eating, dieting, etc. However, Cynthia knew intermediate fasting was a popular health search trend in 2019. So, she formatted her talk around that subject. As a result, her TEDx talk gained over 10 million views and landed her a feature spot on the TED platform.
14. People Rally Around Content That Offers A Clear Problem & Solution
All of the top 100 TEDx and TED talks have one thing in common. They offer an apparent problem and solution. From talks like, How to Get Over the End of A Relationship to How to Speak, So People Want to Listen, the speaker presents a problem and encourages you to watch along for a solution.
People love to learn answers to their biggest problems. We also appreciate learning as much as we can in as little time as possible. Thus, making a case for straightforward problem/solution content.
People love to learn answers to their biggest problems.
I wonder how many successful organizations would exist if more entrepreneurs and businesses understood this concept. After all, there’s a reason free whitepapers and webinars are some of the most popular calls to action across the internet. These pieces often have accompanying digital ads that present a problem, while the solution lies in the downloadable piece or video.
15. Effective Thought Leadership Has An ROI
According to a survey of over 1,200 U.S. businesses, only 18% of respondents say the thought leadership content they consume is excellent or good. The best TEDx speakers know this and offer unique perspectives, guidance, and innovative solutions for the world around them. Interestingly enough, unique perspectives do have an ROI.
When you create meaningful, helpful, and unique content, people can’t help but notice. Our client, Kevin Breel’s TEDx talk on ending teen depression, was new for its day and time. No one was talking about depression, let alone a male experiencing it.
Kevin probably didn’t expect his talk to lead to a 100k book deal with the world’s largest publisher or 1 million dollars worth of speaking gigs. Instead, Kevin just wanted to help others by sharing his knowledge and experience.
Moral of the story? Famous individuals and speakers aren’t the only people who can create compelling, unique thought leadership content and use it to generate a positive ROI. Businesses, coaches, and entrepreneurs can use the thought leadership approach to establish themselves in their respective industries.
What A TEDx Talk Can Do For You and Your Business
It’s no surprise that some of the best marketing tactics we’re seeing in 2021 and beyond are from TEDx talks. With millions of views, CEOs and business leaders are tapping into the world of TEDx to propel their branding forward.
TEDx speaker and CEO Brad Stevens is one such individual who understands this concept. His business Outsource Access is currently using his TEDx talk in an email marketing funnel to establish credibility and help gain 200 new clients each month. Because of his talk, Brad’s had opportunities to speak and network with businesses all over the globe.
The result? He’s doubled his staff in the last year to help keep up with all of the business he’s taking in.
But business authority isn’t the only thing you and Brad gain from a prestigious TEDx talk. The personal clarity, friendships built, and confidence in administering such a talk are invaluable assets that last a lifetime.