3 Lessons TED Talks Can Teach You About Writing Stories That Get Read

Oren Cohen

There is a structure to those talks that makes them enjoyable to watch. Here’s how you can incorporate that structure into your writing.

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Quarantine and the Pandemic are making us experience things we don’t usually do daily. For me, one of these things was watching TED Talks. I mean, they’re inspirational, knowledgeable, and generally great but I didn’t watch many of them as part of my day. I would usually encounter thumbnails of them on my Linkedin feed.

Then, one day, I realized that TED started publishing mini versions of their talks on Linkedin with a link to the full lecture for anyone interested. They reduced a 15-minute long talk to 3.5 minutes.

I started watching those as I was eating lunch in front of my computer at home (I know, it’s terrible). And I was enjoying the new knowledge my brain was digesting alongside my spaghetti. They teach you so much!

It made me think, what makes those TED talks so successful? I simmered that thought for a few days and started watching the longer talks for the full experience.

After watching a few dozens of those talks in topics about writing, creativity, finance, and more, things started to click. It dawned on me what made those talks so successful and addictive.

Here are three lessons I learned about writing articles that get read from watching TED Talks.

Start With a Personal Story

Starting your pieces with a personal story is one of the BEST ways to get people’s attention. We’re naturally drawn to other people’s experiences and lives. When they start the talk with something that happened to them, I’m usually glued in.

I was convinced long ago about the power of personal stories when I read UltraMetabolism by Dr. Mark Hyman.

It’s a great book that helped me deal with some health issues naturally. One of the things that I loved about it is that the author includes personal stories in each new section of the book.

I’d find myself reading only them and realize the health issues some people in the world were experiencing that the author solved in creative and untraditional ways.

I was sold on personal stories as I’m sure many people already are.

Here’s one TED Talk that starts with a personal story but evolves into teaching us about boredom.

Video: TED

Make it Conversational

Many TED talks are tailored to the general public. They do not use big words that people have a hard time understanding.

That works because when we don’t have to expend energy to understand what you’re telling us, we are more engaged in your story.

The first time I did the psychometrics test back when I was seventeen years old (fifteen years ago!), I had to read a short text that had a narrative in Hebrew and then answer some questions about it.

Although some of the sentences were familiar, the text was sprinkled with words I didn’t recognize, and I had trouble understanding what I was reading. I mean, I read some of the sentences here and there, but I didn’t know how to answer questions about this text because I didn’t know the purpose of it.

So, imagine how it feels when someone is talking to you, and you can’t connect the dots because some of their words are unfamiliar to you.

Aside from being an embarrassing experience, it’s genuinely confusing.

TED talks remain conversational and tailored for the general public, and that’s why they succeed.

Here’s a talk that was conversational, level-headed, and so funny and yet had an incredible lesson that I fully support!

Video: TED

Positive Tone and Humor

Humor is a great way to keep our readers engaged. I found that in my writing, I don’t usually use a humoristic tone, but I use a positive tone better.

That is also good. You can’t expect to write articles that make people laugh overnight. In my writing, I usually find that I write articles with a positive tone when I’m feeling positive at the moment.

It’s harder to write a positive piece when you’re feeling down for whatever reason.

One of the things I usually do to bring myself into that mood of positivity, humor, and fun, is merely engaging with fun content. My goto is CollegeHumor’s Dropout. They post so many funny videos that I immediately find something to make me laugh.

This one TED talk was so funny that I cried tears of laughter while watching it! Interestingly enough, it almost has 60 million views on TED’s website alone. Wild!

Video: TED

Use This Structure in Your Writing

TED Talks are journeys. The speaker takes you into their past and introduces you to a particular problem they had that might be of interest to you. That is the use of a personal story at the beginning of their talk.

They do it in a fun, light-hearted way, incorporating humor and a positive tone into the conversation to make the talk move smoothly while going through the more technical parts like explaining things you need to know.

They don’t use big words that people may not understand. Instead, they use a conversational tone that keeps readers engaged.

Sometimes, TED talks could also be sharing just experiences that don’t teach you a new skill but rather show you something you’re familiar with in a new light.

Try to incorporate these methods into your writing to make it more conversational, fun, and engaging.

Your readers will love you for it.

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I'm a geeky content creator. My content will usually be helpful articles for other content creators like me or some fun geeky articles about shows, video games, and literature. Recommend me a new fantasy book! Also, I'm working on my own fantasy story so stay tuned for that, too.

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