“Speech fluff and statistics” – Richard Aitkins

If you go on to the TED website, you can currently find there over a full week of TEDTalk videos and millions of user ratings. That is a huge amount of data, and it got me wondering… If you took all this data and put it through some sought of statistical analysis, could you reverse engineer a TEDTalk? Could you create the ultimate TEDTalk? And also, could you create the worst possible TEDTalk that you could get away with?

To find this out, I looked at three things, the choice of topic, the method of delivery and the onstage visuals. Now, with the topic… There is a whole range of topics you can choose, but you should choose wisely, because your topic strongly correlates with how users will react to your talk. Now, to make this more concrete, let’s look at the list of top 10 words that statistically stick out in the most favourite TEDTalks and in the least favourite TEDTalks. So if you came here to talk about how French coffee will spread happiness in our brains, now that’s a go. Whereas, if you wanted to talk about your project involving oxygen, girls, aircraft… I would like to hear that talk… but statistics say it’s not so good. Oh, well… If you generalise this, the most favourite TEDTalks are those that feature topics we can connect with, both easily and deeply, such as happiness, our own body, food, emotions, etc. And the more technical topics, such as architecture, materials, and, strangely enough, men, those are not good topics to talk about.

So, how should you deliver your talk? TED is famous for keeping a very sharp eye on the clock, so they’re going to hate me for revealing this, because you should talk as long as they will let you. The most favourite TEDTalks are on average, over 50 percent longer than the least favourite ones. And this holds true for all ranking lists on TED.com except if you want to have a talk that’s beautiful, inspiring or funny. Then, you should be brief. But other than that, talk until they drag you off the stage.

Now, while you’re pushing the clock, there are a few rules to obey. I found these rules out by comparing the statistics of four-word phrases that appear more often in the most favourite TEDTalks as opposed to the least favourite TEDTalks. I’ll give you three examples. First, I must, as a speaker, provide a service to the audience and talk about what I will give you, instead of saying what I can’t have. Secondly, it’s imperative that you do not cite The New York Times or other major news source. And finally, it’s okay for the speaker — that’s the good news — to fake intellectual capacity. If I don’t understand something, I can just say, “etc. etc.” You’ll all stay with me. It’s perfectly fine…

Now, let’s get to the visuals. The most obvious visual thing on stage is the speaker. And analysis shows if you want to be among the most favourite TED speakers, you should let your hair grow a little bit longer than average, make sure you wear your glasses and be slightly more dressed-up than the average TED speaker. Slides are okay, though you might consider going for props. And now the most important thing, that is the mood onstage. Colour plays a very important role. Colour closely correlates with the ratings that talks get on the website. For example, fascinating talks contain a statistically high amount of blue colour, much more than the average TEDTalk. Ingenious TEDTalks, much more of green, etc. etc. Now, personally, I think I’m not the first one who has done this analysis, but I’ll leave this to your good judgment.

So, now it’s time to put it all together and design the ultimate talks or speech. And since this is my witty view of TEDTalks, I should actually give you something… I do not wish to impose the ultimate or award winning speech on you, but rather give you a tool to create your own. And I call this tool the GifGab. The GifGab is a matrix of 100 specifically selected, highly curated sentences that you can easily piece together to get your own speech. You only have to make one decision, and that is… Are you going to use the white version for very good speeches, about creativity, human genius, etc. etc.? Or are you going to go with a black version, which will allow you to create really average speeches, mostly about blogs, politics and stuff, etc. etc.? So, download it and have fun with it.
Now I hope you enjoyed this blog. And I hope you enjoy designing your own ultimate or possible award winning speeches. And I hope some of you will be inspired during the years to create this, which I really want to see and hear. Thanks!

Richard Aitkins

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