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How to Prepare A TED Talk: The Complete Guide for Stage Success

There’s more than one way to build an audience and market your services or industry within the public speaking, leadership, and entrepreneurial world. TED talks are some of the best channels to help you establish credibility and make your presence known.

At Thought-Leader, we’ve worked with hundreds of professionals across the globe. While they’ve all placed significant effort into building their businesses, they often find themselves confused and frustrated when hoping to land a spot on the TEDx stage. That’s because writing, memorizing, and delivering a stellar TED experience is different than any other speech or presentation you’ve ever given. Speech writing training is an essential part of this process.

In part one of our TED talk series, we discussed how you could get a TED talk and land a spot on the TEDx stage. We know that crafting a TED talk takes time, commitment, and lots of work, which is why part two of this series is going to teach you how to prepare a TED Talk.

How to Write A TED Talk

One of the common frustrations we hear from aspiring TED speakers is writing their talk. So often, these individuals feel overwhelmed by multiple thoughts and overshadowed by existing ideas. If left unchecked, these feelings of overwhelm can lead to self-doubt and keep you from hitting your TED talk goals.

TED talk preparation is less about creating the next biggest thing and more about overcoming the self-doubt that keeps you from reaching your goals. Therefore, one of the first steps you can take to write a TED talk is not to give up. You can also partner with TED-style speaker coaches to hold yourself accountable and reach your writing goals.

How To Write A TED Talk Script

Writing a TED talk script is often the dread of many aspiring speakers. After all, if writing doesn’t come naturally to you, a script might be the most significant hurdle you face in your speaking career. Yet, while many of our clients initially express this same fear to us, they often leave our talk-writing intensives satisfied with a written script in hand.

So, how do they do it? They follow a 3-step process we’ve created to help speakers reach their TEDx goals. Here’s a brief overview of what that process looks like:

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Identify Your Idea

Decide on the main point you’re trying to make by giving your talk.

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Select Your Stories

Select your stories that support or illustrate your main point and establish an emotional connection with the audience.

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Create A Call-To-Action

Leave the audience with something they can do to take action in their lives immediately.

How to Write A Ted Talk Speech

Once you have your script written, it’s time to focus on your speech. Now you might be asking yourself what’s the difference between a ted talk script and a ted talk speech. The main difference is that a script is written to be read by others, whereas a speech is written to be spoken to an audience.

For example, you write your TED talk script for the event organizer you submit it to. They need a scripted version of your talk to know the details you will speak on. There aren’t emotional cues or other personalized messages involved. Meanwhile, your TED talk speech is for you more than anything. It serves as a guide so you can speak to the audience.

When writing a TED talk speech, you might include places to pause for audience feedback or hand gestures to use. Consider the role breathing plays in giving a speech and make sure to write in pauses for breath. You can also add memorization notes to help you when practicing your speech.

Preparing A TED Presentation

When you’re prepping to talk at TED or a TEDx event, you must consider the various presentation elements involved in giving a stellar performance. Things like body language, slides, and other visual aids can make or break your connection with your audience. So, let’s dive into how you can utilize these elements to affect the inner workings of your presentation.

Ted Talk Body Language

Have you ever watched low-scoring films where the actor’s movements didn’t seem to align with their statements? Perhaps a baseball coach was too stiff while giving a pep talk, or a kid couldn’t convey fear, which made the entire scene awkward.

Now think about your favorite tv show or movie. Consider how the actors aligned with their character’s message. One that comes to mind is the #2 Worldwide Box Office hit Avengers End Game. Actor Robert Downy Jr. knew his role as Iron Man was important to the film’s integrity. His heavy breathing, stoic expression, and pause in between the words, “And I…….am …Iron Man,” set the scene for the film’s ending. Knowing his character was going to die using up its energy to defeat villain Thanos, Downy’s use of body language and vocal expression makes the entire ending battle of the film.

As you’re prepping for your talk, it’s essential to think about body language’s role in delivering a speech. Take time to pause in between critical points so your audience has time to resonate with your message. You can also change your voice’s pitch as you transition between emotional sections of your speech. To learn even more about the role body language plays in who you are, consider checking out this TED talk by Amy Cuddy.

TED talk body language example I am Iron Man

TED Talk Slides

Some of the most popular TED speakers use Powerpoint slides to deliver their messages. While the number of slides isn’t an indicator of success, the usage of slides in general is. Here are a few of the most viral TED talks that use slides along with their total number of 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

Source: 15 Things We Learned From Analyzing The Top 100 TEDx Talks

When you’re thinking about adding slides or graphics to your TED Talk, consider how they will enhance the critical points of your presentation. For example, our client and popular TEDx speaker Cynthia Thurlow uses a few slides to showcase her data. This data adds to the credibility of her speech and makes her message stand out that much more.

Cynthia Thurlow Graphics

Virtual TED Talks

Virtual TED or TEDx talks have risen in popularity since the 2020 pandemic, and we don’t think they’re going anywhere anytime soon. If you’re chosen to give a virtual TED Talk, it’s your lucky day. Unlike the pressure associated with giving a TED talk or TEDx presentation in front of a live audience, a virtual TED talk is pre-filmed in front of a green screen.

When preparing for a virtual talk, it’s vital to get an idea of the type of green screen you’ll be standing in front of ahead of time. In addition, knowing the theme of the screen background helps you coordinate your outfit so you don’t clash or blend in with your surroundings.

Since you’ll be on video, it also might be helpful for you to hire a videographer to film you ahead of time so you can practice in front of a camera ahead of time. You can review your recordings for areas of improvement and find ways to add more body language or facial expressions while remaining focused on the camera.

TED Talk Coaching Webinar

TED Talk: How to Practice

Once your talk is written, and your presentation is ready to go, it’s time to practice your talk until you’re blue in the face. Okay, we don’t recommend you turn blue. Layering breathing in your speech is an integral part of practicing your talk. But, we do want you to practice effectively. So here are some tips we’ve outlined that can help you do just that.

1. Use Muscle Memory

Often individuals look at memorization and practice as the repetition of words. If this is you, you might get hyperfocused on memorizing a line word for word. As a result, you don’t often move around or incorporate your body into memorization.

When preparing for a TED talk, you want to work towards muscle memorization. As opposed to mental memorization, muscle memorization involves using your body language to help you memorize. For example, combine speaking words out loud while moving around. This repetition of an action helps you remember where you were when you memorized a sentence. So, when it comes time to give your speech, you can picture yourself in the place and movement you had when you memorized a particular section.


  • Do you mainly blog?
  • Write nonfiction?
  • Write fiction?
  • How public do you plan to be as an author?

2. Focus On A Central Thought

Another important way to practice giving a TED talk is to zoom out the words you’re memorizing and focus on a central thought. It’s not a sequence of words that allows you to memorize something, but rather the flow of thoughts that make things click. Therefore, you need to define a section of your speech based on the topic or central thought and focus on that concept when saying words.

When you memorize ten clear thoughts with a pattern, you can pull out the words based on their connection to the central idea. This working of our brains becomes easier and more retainable than word for word focus.

3. Condition Your Body Using Playful Expression

When preparing for a speech, it’s easy to focus exclusively in your headspace, with little regard for your heart space. However, when you wrote your TED script, you didn’t write it to be read. Instead, you wrote it to be heard. Therefore, To deliver your talk successfully, you need to activate a relationship between body, breath, and voice.

If you’re a champion sprinter, you’re not going to get on the track until you’ve warmed up your legs and body. Similarly, a TED talk is 15 to18 minutes long, which takes stamina. Therefore, you have to condition your body so that your body is prepped to rise to the occasion when you deliver the talk.

To condition, your body for a TED talk presentation, get out of the habit of rigid movements. Instead, practice your talk with uncontrolled, dynamic movements and vocals. This playful physical expression gets the body active and works in unison. When you practice outside of your comfort zone, you can easily talk in front of an audience.


Focus On One Major Idea:

Note: For more information on effective practicing, consider watching this TED-Ed video by Annie Bosler and Don Greene.

Planning A TED Talk

Your planning process can begin now that you know what it takes to prepare for a TED talk. Consider the various suggestions we’ve listed above before preparing for your talk and let them guide you in your presentation creation process. Our TED coaching services can guide you in the right direction.

Think about the role self-doubt may have in keeping you from your goals, and give it a kick in the butt. Remind yourself of why you want to get on the TED stage and use that passion to drive your writing process forward. Anticipate what event organizers want in a script vs. what you need to deliver in a speech.

Once you’ve got a speech in hand, layer body language into your and other visual elements into your deliverables. Move and memorize your speech in various places so when it comes time to give your talk, you can paint a picture of the setting in which you memorized each element. Practice giving your talk in sections with a central thought or a story in mind. Then, when you get out of your headspace and into the right heart space, you’re sure to prepare a talk that leaves your audience feeling empowered.


Joelle Cullimore
Marketing Content Manager

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