3 Rules to Giving a TEDx Talk that Gets Over 1 Million Views (My Fave Case Studies, Interviews & Tools Included)

3 Rules to Giving a TEDx Talk that Gets Over 1 Million Views (My Fave Case Studies, Interviews & Tools Included)


Rule #3: Get a little crazy on stage. But maybe not as crazy as I got…

-Scott in reference to the TEDx pic

Guidance on Making This Really Useful: This post is meant to serve as a working guide for giving a talk that can change lives. I’ve included videos and interviews to serve as case studies and models as well as some amazing free tools from around the web to be sure this stuff sticks. So save this post and pull it up any time you’re thinking of taking the stage!

Now let’s have some fun…

How Do You Inspire Possibility in an Audience?

It’s a question I’ve gotten wrong a lot. And one I’m constantly working on.

I realize we’ve talked a lot about connecting in the past few weeks, but the conversation has been missing something big. So today I want to round it out with a little chat about connecting on a much bigger level … the main stage.

Under the right conditions, I don’t believe there’s any more powerful way to spread an idea, build a revolution or inspire people towards positive change than being live on stage in the flesh and blood. Just ask Steve Jobs or Martin Luther King Jr.

I had a similar experience a little over a year ago, albeit on a much smaller level compared to those guys, but still huge by my standards.

In 2012, I was asked to speak at TEDxGoldenGatePark. It was a major dream goal, and I was the very late-stage addition after two speakers canceled at the last minute. I had 6 days to prepare (the others had 6-9 months). I can’t describe the whirlwind that ensued. I wrote about all the details in this post: How to Get Invited to Speak at TEDx (and get 40,147 views in 5 days).

Somehow that talk I gave to a room of 150 people at the de Young Museum in San Francisco has now been viewed 1,207,198 times and is currently ranked #17 of 38,561 TEDx talks on YouTube. This is still hard for me to believe. My initial goal was to get over 15,000 views. No joke.

Now more people view the talk every day than visit all of Live Your Legend. It’s by far the most impactful thing I’ve ever done for my career and this Revolution. In fact, if I had to list the top five most game-changing events of my business life, it would probably be all five.

I am far from an expert on public speaking, but over the past year, a ton of you have asked about how this all came to be, so I thought it’s about time I share what I think made some of the difference – based on a lot of personal research. Plus, I’ve been asked to give a lot more talks this year and have some serious preparing to do, so this will be a nice personal review!

I also realize there is surely an enormous amount of luck that went into all this happening, and no one really knows how things get popular on the Internet or in the real world.

But I do know that I studied every one of the most inspiring, popular and successful talks I could get my hands on before I stepped on that stage in 2012. I wanted to do everything in my power to give it a shot at deeply connecting with the audience, and hopefully on a global scale. Wise words about chance from Thomas Jefferson are etched into a mug on my desk…

“I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

I noticed three things that I believe make all the difference and that every powerful orator seems to have in common. And as it turns out, every less-than-inspiring talk I’ve seen is usually lacking all of them.


The 3 Rules to Giving a TEDx Talk that Gets Over 1,000,000 Views

#1. Tell a Story the World Can Get Behind & Make It Resonate

Without a story, a talk is nothing. Everyone has a story to tell and it’s on you to discover and tell yours in the most compelling way possible. If you don’t think you have one, then keep digging and ask others close to you. Then refine like crazy.

Next realize it’s not about you. It’s about everyone else. Your audience is the main character, and in order to connect, you absolutely must tell your story in a way that makes the journey their own. I spoke of my meaningless job, my desire to have an impact and the world I believe is possible if we all started to do the work that mattered to us. Sadly, this is a script that the great majority of the planet shares. I tell my story and they hear their own.

I have Nancy Duarte to thank for showing me the light on storytelling (and really everything in this post). Nancy’s work changed everything I thought I knew about communicating and connecting on stage. She’s an ex-presidential speech writer who has started a firm that now coaches some of the biggest names and companies in the world in giving talks that inspire action. She discovered a framework that every inspiring talk in history seemed to follow – from Martin Luther King Jr. to Steve Jobs … and even Jesus.

She wrote the entire framework up into a gorgeously visually designed book called Resonate. And the most brilliant part is she turned it into an interactive multi-touch electronic book for the iPad. And it’s 100% free! That’s how deeply she believes in sharing her ideas. Download Resonate for free here. I’ve recently dug back into it for some talks I have coming up this year and continue to be blown away.

I believe Nancy’s work is responsible for at least 80% of any success I have on stage or in any story-telling setting. I owe her a lot. (And hat tip to Corbett Barr for introducing me to Nancy’s work.)

I’ve embedded Nancy’s TEDx talk, The Secret Structure of Great Talks, below. It describes the full Resonate framework:

Click here to watch the talk on LYL.

Next, Start with Why…

The second boatload of credit goes to Simon Sinek and his TEDx talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action. It’s been one of the top talks on all of TED for years. I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about him by now, so I won’t get too deep here.

His simple mantra is, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” And we’re not just talking buying as in spending money. It’s really about buying into an idea or belief. You simply cannot fully influence behavior if you don’t tell a resonant story that starts with Why. That’s what allows a community to take your ideas on as their own. Every revolution starts with enough people who believe in the same thing. I see Simon and Nancy’s work as joined at the hip.

Watch Simon’s TED Talk below. I’ve watched it over 15 times. He’s also a lights-out presenter and storyteller. No surprise…

To dig deeper, below is an interview I did with Simon a while back. I actually built the whole Live Your Legend community and brand based on starting with why. Thanks, Simon!

Click here to watch both of Simon’s talks on LYL.

Telling a story that resonates and is packed with enough Why is what requires the serious heavy lifting and thinking. Then comes the easier stuff…

#2. Be Contagious & Make Your Audience Feel Your Emotion

If you’re not passionate about what you’re talking about, then don’t even think about stepping on the stage. You’ll waste everyone’s time. If you don’t care, how the hell do you expect anyone else to?

And when you do bring the passion, then make damn sure the audience can feel it! Step #1 is what makes this possible. People want to be inspired and be around excited, passionate and inspiring people and ideas. If you become that person for others, you build immediate rapport and have the chance for lifetime connection.

I remember Dale Carnegie saying that you can turn anyone into a great public speaker if you get them talking about what makes them really angry. Or at the least, lessons learned…

“Speakers who talk about what life has taught them never fail to keep the attention of their listeners.” ~ Dale Carnegie

Carnegie also found with his public speaking students that speaking about angry topics (i.e. the things they really couldn’t stand or wanted to change about the world), often removed their fear of being in front of a crowd. Not a bad trick.

Sometimes, I can’t even bring up the topic of doing work you love in social settings because Chelsea gets embarrassed with how worked up and intense I can get. But that’s because I believe so strongly in what’s possible if people make the changes I know they’re capable of.

Your goal is to leave the audience pumped with the same emotion and passion you feel from the stage. Leave them with a newfound belief in possibility, and most importantly, in themselves.

Jamie Oliver won the TED Prize in 2010, and he gets so worked up in his talk that he nearly goes to tears. I get chills even thinking about it.

In fact, here’s a box to check: Give your audience chills. Simple.

Here’s Jamie’s talk – Teach Every Child about Food. I watch this talk and Simon’s before I step on any stage:

Click here to watch the talk on LYL.

#3. Move Around and Get a Little Crazy!

This one is so simple, yet so huge. And I’m convinced that if you nail your story and bring the passion (and maybe do a few pushups and burpees in the green room), you won’t be able to contain yourself. I bet there is a direct correlation between the success of a talk and the amount the speaker moves around, gestures and does memorable crazy things.

Sure, you can overdo this, but I much prefer to err on that side. I was flailing around so much at one point that my mic flew off my ear halfway through. I was so into my story that I didn’t even notice until I left the stage. My mic was just hanging off my shoulder like a crazy man. But I was telling a story about the boy in the wheelchair who swam from Alcatraz with me, and I just couldn’t help myself.

It’s okay to be a little crazy. Plus, the more senses and dimensions on which you can engage with your audience, the more memorable you become.

You want to be sure no one remembers your talk? Get on stage, sit in a chair, don’t move and talk monotone. Easy.

Benjamin Zander’s TED Talk on the Transformative Power of Classic Music hits all this stuff so well. Here’s his talk…

Click here to watch the talk on LYL.

Tony Robbins’ TED Talk on Why We Do What We Do also kills it with crazy movement and storytelling.

And here’s a link to my talk on How to Find and Do Work You Love so you can see me flail a little bit and watch my mic fly off my head…

Check out around 10:02. And yeah, I know I walk around way too quickly and too often. That’s a nervous habit I’m constantly working on. Like I said, I’m an example of overdoing it. 🙂

Also I recently did an interview on Bryan Kelly’s web show, What The Speak, about my TEDx experience. He did a great job interviewing. Here it is:

Click here to watch the interview and talk on LYL.

And don’t forget to get yourself in the right state!

Remember, no one does this stuff alone. Make watching a TED Talk a part of your daily routine. Learn and borrow from others who have gone before you and keep a few of your favorite talks on hand and watch them repeatedly leading up to your event and the week and day before you go on stage. Some of my all time favorites (other than the ones listed in this post) can be found here: The 14 Most Powerful TED Talks for Disruptive Career Change & Making a Difference.

And I wasn’t joking about doing some burpees and pushups a few minutes before you hit the stage. I love putting on my “inspire me” mix on my iPhone and getting a little crazy in private before it’s time to roll. 🙂

The Right Talk Has the Potential to Influence the World

That’s the beauty of this. The right stage combined with the proper audience, idea and delivery has the chance to ripple across the whole damn world, especially with today’s technology. That’s the crazy and amazing thing about all this. It’s actually possible to give a talk to 150 people and have a million see it. Or 10 or 100 million.

And so much of how we communicate our message is in our control.

This list doesn’t guarantee your idea will go viral. Not even close. But I hope it shows you the 80/20 of what can give your talk a legitimate chance at changing the world.

And the beauty of these three pillars is that they don’t just apply to talks. They can be used in some way in every form of communication, and when done in the right way, they’ll transform your ability to connect and build rapport with the people you care about helping. And that’s all we’re really out to do, anyway.

I believe that everyone has an idea that, if communicated in the right way, has the potential to move mountains.

A vision, that under ideal circumstances, can become its own revolution.

Creating that environment is more in your hands than you probably realize.

So all this begs the question…

What’s yours?

Here’s to taking a stage by storm and becoming contagious,


Going Deeper:

1. To learn more about my full experience with how my TEDx Talk came to be and the ridiculous amount of work that went into preparing and then getting the word out, read this: How to Get Invited to Speak at TEDx (and get 40,147 views in 5 days).

2. For a list of a few more moving talks, check this post out: The 14 Most Powerful TED Talks for Disruptive Career Change & Making a Difference.

3. Be sure to Download Nancy Duarte’s Resonate book for free here! It’s pure gold.

Do you have a talk you’re proud of or a question or idea to share on giving a talk that resonates? Please share the link to you talk or post your question as a comment below.