6 TED Talks That Will Help You Engage Your Audience (Even If It’s Tiny)

It’s frustrating, isn’t it?

Growing an online audience can feel like a shouting contest.

Even on one platform, like Medium, there are hundreds of writers churning out amazing content. So, how do you stand out in a sea of same?

Let’s take a look at one of the best sources for learning how to spread ideas: captivating TED Talks.

Don’t have hours to spare to finding the right TED talks? Keep reading. I’ve gone through a bunch of them to find those TED talks that make a real difference for you and your business.

Here’s how to engage your audience so they become raving, loyal fans:

Start with storytelling (and instantly connect with your audience)

Start with the basics: storytelling. Here you learn why storytelling is fundamental for engaging your audience.

1. This is your brain on communication — Uri Hasson

Uri Hasson begins this TED talk by asking his audience:

Imagine that you invented a device that can record my memories, my dreams, my ideas, and transmit them to your brain. That would be a game-changing technology, right?”

What if, indeed.

Turns out, we already have such a device.

And that technology is communication. More specifically, storytelling. In fact, storytelling is such an effective communication system that the storyteller’s and the listener’s brains sync when a story is shared.

It’s a bit like taking a wand, drawing out your ideas and memories, and placing them in the Pensieve, Harry Potter-style. There, people can see exactly what you see.

Cool, huh? Well, there’s more to it, of course. And that’s what we’ll look at below.

(Tip! Want to learn how to use storytelling to engage your audience? In my in-depth post “Storytelling in Business: The Complete Guide”, you get a step-by-step process.)

Grab your audience’s attention

Next up: You need to grab your audience’s attention to engage them. Here’s how:

2. What makes something go viral? — Dao Nguyen

This is, hands down, one of the best TED talks I’ve seen in a while. BuzzFeed Publisher Dao Nguyen talks about what actually makes something go viral.

And no — it’s not posting stuff about puppies, kittens, babies, or food. It’s not about content length or headline formulas. In other words, that “something” is not about the content itself.

What makes content go viral is all about what your audience is thinking. Want the full story to understand how to engage your audience? Watch the talk!

3. Why videos go viral — Kevin Allocca

Kevin Allocca is the Head of Culture and Trends at YouTube. So if anyone knows anything about viral videos, it’s him.

Of course, what Allocca talks about in this TED talk doesn’t just apply to videos. It also applies to other content, like your writing.

There are three things that make content go viral:

1. Tastemakers (a.k.a. influencers) who share the content with their audiences.

2. Participation. People get together to bond, connect, and share the content (think memes like Grumpy Cat).

3. Unexpectedness. What can you do that differentiates you from everyone else? (Note that to be “unexpected” and “surprising”, you don’t need to be “outrageous”.)

Now, you can get noticed by influencers, sure. But you only have so much control over what, how, and when people share your content.

The two last points (participation and unexpectedness) are in your total control. So ask yourself: How can you use them in your next piece of writing?

4. TED’s secret to great public speaking — Chris Anderson

If you’re a TED fan, you know TED talks are extremely engaging. Why is that?

TED Curator Chris Anderson reveals it all. This talk is about giving an engaging presentation… But the principles can just as well be used in your writing.

So what can you do to get your audience’s attention? Remember, this is the guy who took TED to the online phenomenon it is today. Let’s just say he knows what he’s talking about.

Here goes:

Use curiosity. (By the way, notice how this goes hand in hand with what Allocca says about unexpectedness?)

And to keep people engaged (something we’ll look at below), Anderson recommends focusing on a single idea, using familiar concepts, and including vivid explanations.

Keep your audience glued to your story

Now that you have your audience’s attention, it’s time for them to fall in love with your writing. Do these two things:

5. The clues to a great story — Andrew Stanton

Andrew Stanton is the guy behind movies like Toy Story and WALL-E. Yeah, he’s an expert with a big E. Now, what do you think he has to say about storytelling?

The fundamental point of it is:

Delight your audience.

And to do that, give people a problem or a mystery to solve. Stanton calls this the “Unifying Theory of 2+2”. Don’t give your audience 4 — let them work for it.

If you do this, if you give your audience suspense and excitement, they will stay glued to your story.

6. The power of vulnerability — Brené Brown

Storytelling is a communication tool that enables you to connect with your audience. And connection builds delight, trust, and loyalty.

But what should your stories be about?


Use your vulnerability.

In this talk, Brené Brown talks about her extensive research on the topic.

Turns out, vulnerability — to allow others to see who you really are — is key to connection. It’s about overcoming the shame of showing things about you that, in your mind, leave you exposed to attack.

Now: to truly understand vulnerability, watch the talk.

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