THE BLOG
01/21/2015 12:30 pm ET Updated Mar 21, 2015

Wanna Rock Your TEDx Talk? Follow Three Easy Rules

Giving a TEDx talk? Fantastic! You must be thrilled/terrified/nauseous/overwhelmed!

Certainly, there's a lot on your mind right now--your talk has a lot to live up to, and you're probably feeling the pressure. How are you going to get your message across? Is it going to be interesting? Where to start?

Fear not--keep a few simple rules in mind, and you'll have no problem wowing your audience.

1. Be provocative. The TED motto is "Ideas Worth Spreading." A lot of people have an app, gadget, idea, or program that can "change the world," but it's up to you to prove it.

Show how your idea is unique. Use evidence, statistics, and examples that show how you're different. Don't be afraid to make a big claim, but you have to be prepared to back that up.

One of the best ways to help you do this is to be relevant to your audience. Rather than get desperate about pushing your own ideas, start from commonality. What problem do you all share? What is your audience concerned about?

Think strategically about how you do this--no matter what you're talking about, ask yourself, "Does this matter to anyone? Why should my audience care?" It's a tough question, but it will help you make decisions about your talk that can take it from "me" to "we."

2. Celebrate failure. TEDx talks have a way of magically conferring credibility on someone. Most people assume that because you got to give a TEDx talk, you automatically must be something great and wonderful.

And it's easy to let that get to your head--after all, a lot of people want to give a TEDx talk. But keeping a lid on your ego is important for building a connection with your audience.

It's more than just self-deprecating humor, which can be very effective. Ken Robinson's talk was a great example of how taking a few pot shots at yourself can relax the audience and build rapport. More importantly, emphasizing your own failures and shortcomings can create empathy and make a more memorable presentation. Everyone in the audience assumes you're successful. But you need to show them that you're human, which is a far more empowering message than focusing on your accomplishments.

3. Build a strong structure. Oftentimes, a good TEDx talk sounds like a seamless story, or an easy conversation.

Believe me, it's not. The best TEDx talks are always--always--built around a good organizational structure. Getting this right is probably the most time consuming part of writing a good speech.

Good organization means being deliberate about how you control your audience's attention. Rather than just brain-dumping all your good ideas on paper, think strategically. Problem, cause, solution is always a go-to for organizing ideas. Or problem, failure, failure, solution. Or main idea, and then 1-2-3 reasons why. Really, structure depends on the what and why of your talk, but if you can organize your main points around a very general structure, all the better.

Even when you're storytelling, you need more structure than just beginning, middle, and end. Take a page from This American Life's playbook--pause every so often to point out a significant or interesting aside. Be very explicit about what is important and why. Remember, no good story can or should tell everything. When you're working within just twenty minutes, you're going to have to omit, summarize, and effectively transition to get to the end. Focus on the important points. Everything else is expendable.