How I made the world first TED Talk without any talking

Literally without saying a single word.

Hi! My name is Alex and I am an entrepreneur and a consumer behavior advisor. I’ve been making public talks for a while now and I got tired of it. In winter, 2017 I was invited to be a speaker at a local TED event but I had absolutely no desire to do that. Yet I’ve challenged myself to do something that no one else in the world had done before. So here’s what happened.

I’ve been watching Ted Talks for a long time and I have to admit they are very helpful in real life. However, I know some Talks are more entertaining and really unique. So I’ve decided to focus on this niche.

The first thing I came up with was not going on stage in the beginning, so I made 17 slides.

first 3 slides

The classic beginning I use is putting a phrase or a picture that should make people laugh on the first slide. So I used the same approach here, but I added a few more jokes. When I got my first 17 slides, I showed them to my friend who is a movie director and asked his opinion. He said, “Cool! I wonder what’s next!”

I decided to proceed and added 10 more slides. I showed them to two people and got a positive feedback.

So I started thinking about the subject of my talk.
We agreed with the organizers that we’d keep my Talk a secret, so only a few people knew about it.

Then I thought, “Ok, I won’t be on stage during the first 30 slides, but how can I make this Talk really unique?” Hell, yeah! Bingo! What if I won’t be talking at all? I will show that not only people with good public speaking skills can make a cool speech, but it will be an example for people who feel embarrassed or physically unable to utter a word on stage. And that will be my “idea worth spreading”!

What topic to choose? It shouldn’t be complicated. Less information, plenty of easy short messages.

I remembered my note that I didn’t get around to for a long time, the note about my dream and 7 steps to achieving it…

…and I used that as a material for my Talk.

But steps themselves were too long and sometimes there was too much text on the slides. I often had to cut it, sometimes to just one word. Also, dreams themselves were not funny, so I had to add rules for my talk to be more filled with humor.

First, I generated 100 slides. It was a ready made concept.

Next problem was to connect the Talk with the TED’s main topic “Think globally act local”. I had no doubt here, the decision popped up in a minute. Another serious problem was 100 slides on a white background. I decided to add some color. It came out looking cool.

Then I started analyzing how it was going to look on stage. I realized there was no dynamics. I decided to add music. 3–4 hours later I found a free soundtrack on YouTube and looped it. Dynamics and heat emerged.

The next identified problem was the lack of color code to divide rules and steps and also the lack of emphasis during the Talk.

At some point, a person had to look elsewhere to give their brain a break from reading.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I should do to make the right emphasis and bring the attention back. So by trial and error, we made it to balloons that I was going to pop when the important slide showed up.

At this moment I figured out the quote by Confucius. This is how I came up with the most curious joke in the presentation.

The last thing to do was pictures.

After all, 100+ slides with color code but without pictures would be too hard. I decided to mix up the presentation with pictures equally.

The final trial was the day before the Talk. After I heard from backstage team, “Dude, this is some really cool sh*t!”, I thought everything would work out great:)

I spent about 30 hours working to make the presentation.

Getting to the TED Talk’s location and back took 16 hours.

The training time was about 6 hours.

The Talk itself was 8 minutes.

The energy spent on it is priceless.

That was the story of the first TEDx Talk without a single word. It shows that even with enormous stage fright or not being able to speak in public at all, you still can be on stage!

Enjoy watching!