Why and When to Give a TED-Style Talk at Work

Peter Khoury

Why and When to Give a TED-Style Talk at Work

Imagine you were asked to give a TED-style talk to your company tomorrow. Would you be nervous? I know I would – and I’ve been working on speaking for years! 

In this article, you’re going to learn what a TED-style talk is, how it’s different from business presentations, and why and when you should deliver this kind of presentation at work. 

At the end, I’ll give you ways to start creating a TED-style talk today so you can gain visibility for yourself and your team. 

What is a TED-style talk? 

First, let’s define a TED-style talk. 

A TED-style talk brings a different approach to normal business presentations. It also brings a new level of engagement that a normal business presentation does not. 

For example, they can take a case study presentation and make it sound like a story. It can take a normal concept we’ve known for years and flip it on its head. 

Here’s a quote from Simon Sinek’s TED talk: “If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.”

It’s not about just sharing numbers or about what you did, but instead about a new perspective that resonates with the audience.

Why and when to give one

Keep in mind that TED-style talks aren’t just for executives in your company. You can and should push yourself to create one so that you can bring in a personal topic or something you are well-versed in. This will help elevate you beyond your job role and expose you to other teams within the company. I still remember the talks that employees gave during “Lunch and Learn” sessions at one of my previous companies because they were unique, personal, and relatable. 

As to when to give the talk, if you’re giving team presentation updates on a weekly basis, then creating a TED-style talk for them wouldn’t be worth your time invested. For a team update, maybe just a basic presentation is okay.

However, if you have a big presentation coming up that may be worth making it a TED-style talk. 

Here are some examples of presentations that may be worth investing the time to make it a TED-style talk:

  • Presenting a project you’ve been working on for months
  • Pitching a new idea to leadership
  • Speaking to the entire department
  • Giving an update to the whole company
  • Being a speaker at an in-person or virtual event
  • Giving a presentation to earn a new client’s business
  • Pitching your company to investors
  • Tips on productivity and time management 

In those situations, it may be worth putting in that extra effort to make that presentation stand out with a TED-style talk.

What gives a TED-style talk a “wow” factor?


There have been dozens, hundreds if you include TEDx, of TED talks now and even among the best, there are those that stand out. But why? How?

If you try to make a TED-style talk be viral you may likely fail. This is because all you can do is your very best. You can’t create a TED-style talk at work, for public, personal, or any other reason with the purpose of it having a “wow” factor because that’s not up to you to decide, it’s up to the audience. 

However, we can look at how some TED-style talks have a “wow” factor and try to emulate them.

One common theme that comes up with popular TED talks is the speaker has a level of understanding of the subject matter that’s unparalleled. They have deep subject knowledge and have been working on it for years or decades. 

Another theme is a story they might tell that takes humanity on a different journey that most people have never thought about. Or about their philosophy that’s so different it shatters belief systems. 

An example is Sam Berns’ TEDx talk he gave which has 43 million views on YouTube. He was diagnosed with Progeria, a rare rapidly aging disease, but that didn’t stop him from living the most full life he could, and then sharing that with us. 

A final theme I’ll leave you with that gives TED-style talks a “wow” factor is they are authentic and share reflections, feelings, and thoughts of that individual that isn’t normally conveyed in most day to day conversations. 

How to create your TED-style talk

To create your TED-style talk, I recommend taking the topic and breaking it down into 2-4 subtopics or “buckets”. This is part of the “Bucket system” we teach in the Messaging Bootcamp to make a presentation and preparation a breeze. 

For example, if you were doing a talk on why your company’s products mean so much to your customers, you could break it down into 1) Your company’s story 2) Powerful customer success stories and 3) why you care about the company’s products. This would be informative, personal, and compelling. 

Now before jumping into your first bucket, I would create an “Introduction” bucket as well. This is where you answer why you’re there, why your topic is important, and what you’re going to cover (more in the Messaging Bootcamp). If you want to make it more like a TED-style talk, you could add a story in the beginning as a “hook” to grab your audience’s attention. 

And last, make sure to create a “Closing” bucket, where you repeat why you were there, why it was important, and how the audience can move forward. A clear call to action, if possible, will differentiate you from the hundreds of talks the audience has probably heard. 

Remember, a TED-style talk is not just for executives or known thought leaders. You can start creating a TED-style talk today and create opportunities to deliver it at work. It’ll give you real-world experience sharing something you are passionate about and help you be known as a confident speaker within your organization. 

If you’d like help building your TED-style talk, work with one of our coaches with 1-on-1 coaching. Book a free consultation today.

Peter Khoury

Peter Khoury: Founder @ MagneticSpeaking X-Pharmaceutical Engineer, turned author, national speaker and executive presentation coach.

In addition to Public Speaking training, Peter is a regular speaker on the topics of Negotiations, Conflict Management and Leadership. He is the author of the book “Self-Leadership Guide.