In 2015, I was invited to do a TEDx Talk for TEDx Boca Raton. This was very exciting, as I was a fan of TED Talks and TEDx Talks. I’d always wanted to do one. This was a great opportunity as well, because as the organizer told me, when a TEDx Talk is very successful it can impact your business and you could potentially be invited to the TED stage.
A TEDx Talk Versus a TED Talk
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. There’s a TED conference, which is a huge event and brings in some of the top speakers in the world. The cost to attend a TED event is thousands of dollars and it is very exclusive. It’s quite an honor to be invited onto the TED stage and not easy to accomplish.
TEDx on the other hand, is related to TED but they are independently organized events. Pretty much anyone can put together a TEDx event, and they range in quality. Some TEDx events are excellent, with some talks being just as good as some of the talks you would see on a TED stage.
I want to be clear that when looking at a TEDx talk versus a TED talk, they are not the same and I don’t want to mislead.
TEDx Talks on YouTube
For me, being invited to a TEDx event was very exciting – and specifically TEDx Boca Raton, which upon my research was a high-quality event. I planned very hard for this event, knowing it was a huge opportunity. The day of the event came and, at the risk of sounding immodest, it went incredibly well. The crowd loved it. I got a huge response and great feedback. Everything I wanted to get done got done. I thought I was on my way. This was going to lead to a flood of new business. However, that didn’t happen.
As of this writing, which is almost two years later, my TEDx Talk on YouTube has about 2,500 views. That may sound like a lot, but the most popular TEDx Talks get over a million. In fact, a couple of the other speakers from that event have had their talks viewed on YouTube over 100,000 times. They were excellent talks, but I certainly don’t think they were 40 times better than my talk.
As I analyze what happened, why my talk didn’t take off, I realized I was in trouble before I ever took the stage. That problem was with my title. The title of my TEDx Talk was “Why the World Needs Improv.” My entire talk was about how improv relates to business and life, which is the point of my entire speaking business. It was a fun title. I thought it made sense. To me, it was very appealing.
However, what I realized is, if you don’t know anything about me and you have a choice of videos to watch, “Why the World Needs Improv” isn’t all that appealing. It’s not clear what the topic really is. It’s not very clear about what’s going to happen in the talk. I share some key techniques to deal with an ever-changing world in a way that lets you get ahead instead of falling behind. “Why the World Needs Improv” did not clearly explain that at all.
The other talks at the same TEDx event, which really did grow very fast, had much clearer titles. (I don’t want to take anything away from those speakers because they also put in some effort afterwards to do an effective job of marketing their TEDx Talks.) However, a huge piece of it is the title.
This got me thinking about what a better title would have been that would have helped my video spread more. Instead of going for something clever, if my talk had simply been titled “How to Handle Change More Effectively,” that is super, super clear, even though it isn’t sexy or exciting. Anyone interested in change or surfing YouTube TED Talks would see that and immediately know what it’s about. Unfortunately for me, I don’t own the TEDx Talks YouTube Channel, so I can’t go back and change the title after the fact. Now I have to work much, much harder to try and get my TEDx video to that 100,000-view mark and above. Even with that effort, with my current title, I’m not entirely sure I’m going to get there.
This got me thinking a lot about clarity. Whether we’re talking about TEDx Talks YouTube views, marketing, adapting to change, being more innovative, performing improv comedy, or anything else, clarity is incredibly important. Clarity simply means being very clear in your communication and messaging so people understand exactly what you’re trying to communicate. I’m going to share three types of clarity that I learned from my TEDx Talk that you can use in your life, your business, or your profession.
1) Clarity of Objective: In my TEDx Talk, I had a clear objective in that I wanted this video to spread my message far and wide, to both get the message out there and have people learn about me as a funny motivational speaker. I was clear in my head, but I forgot about that objective when I was putting together the title. The title didn’t reflect my objective. In fact, if you look at the most popular TEDx Talks, they have a very simple, single point title which makes it very clear what the talk is about. These are the most popular TEDx Talks.In improv comedy, the clarity of objective is just as important. I’ve learned over the years that with improv, there is a battle between entertainment and art. Improv is an art form, and some performers fall in love with the art. That’s fine. The problem is, sometimes the artistic improv isn’t very entertaining for the audience to watch. I decided I wanted to do entertaining improv. That clarity of objective helped my decisions in how I train and how I put together shows.In business, it’s the same way. What is your objective as a professional or as an organization? By having this clarity of objective, decision making is much easier. It helps prioritize. It helps make you more productive. Because instead of getting caught up in the minor tasks that aren’t aligned to your objective, you can keep focused on the objective. That only happens if you have clarity of the objective.
2) Clarity of Core Elements: In any endeavor, there are a few key core elements that are going to determine success. In my TEDx Talk, I forgot that the title was a core element. I spent so much time crafting the talk that I forgot about one of the key core elements, which was getting people to see it. As a result, I blew a golden opportunity.In improv, there are also core elements. I discovered there are many, many things you could focus on that are fun and exciting in improv. If you adopt a few of those core elements (being creative, accessing your creativity, listening, saying “yes, and”, and having the proper mindset) everything else gets much easier and more successful.The same holds true in business. As a professional, there are probably thousands of things you have to do and focus on. But if you really look at it, there’s probably only a handful, maybe four or five core things that are the most important things you need to do to be successful. Even for a department or an entire organization, there’s probably only a handful of core things. Many people in many organizations get so caught up in all the things that have to do that they only give a small amount of time to those core elements. The more we focus on the core, the more successful we become.
3) Clarity of Communication: In my TEDx Talk, the title was my communication vehicle and it wasn’t clear. It didn’t have clarity. That’s why it’s not getting so many views.In improv comedy, when you are working together with a partner, you are making things up as you go along. My partner has no idea what I’m thinking or where I want to go in the exercise. If I am not very clear in my communication, then he will easily miss what I’m saying and we will be working against each other, or at the very least we won’t be aligned.In business, clarity of communication comes down to your marketing message when you’re trying to let clients and prospects know what you do. Clarity comes down to teamwork and communication. It comes down to customer service. The more clear we are, the more effective our communication. This even extends beyond business to personal life. In your personal relationships, clarity of communication is going to have a huge impact on how you relate to others.
In retrospect, my TEDx Talk, while I’m very proud of it and think it’s a great talk, languishes in terms of views simply because I lacked clarity. Don’t let this happen to you. Whether you are talking about a personal relationship, performing improv, wanting to do better in your profession, or putting together your own TED or TEDx Talk, make sure you have lots of clarity, because that is going to lead to your long-term success.