TED Talks, short lectures and presentations, exploded into the online zeitgeist over a decade ago. They’ve captivated the world with talks by famous people like Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking, and catapulted speakers like Brené Brown and Amy Cuddy into the spotlight.
In under 18 minutes, researchers and visionaries share their expertise on technology, education, and design (hence the acronym “TED”) to bring to light ideas and unique stories.
Numerous TED Talk videos have gone viral, being shared by millions of people around the world. Getting onto the stage at a TED conference is your ticket to countless viewers -- but it’s an exclusive club sometimes, and very difficult for the “regular” person to join.
That’s why TED created TEDx.
What is TEDx?
TEDx is specifically designed to “give a platform to those who don’t often have one.” They follow the format of TED but are organized and run by the local community, universities or individuals. They require carefully prepared talks on diverse, unbiased topics that affect the community in which they take place.
So a TEDx presentation in a busy city could talk about new ideas on traffic patterns or food deserts in certain neighborhoods. A rural TEDx talk could focus on health access issues or local crop issues. Whatever the topics, they must "spark conversation, connection, and community", per the TED organization rules.
How TEDx can Help You as a Lawyer
The accessibility of TEDx means that you, as an attorney, have the potential of delivering a short talk on your area of expertise to people in your community -- and potentially around the world.
TEDx is not advertising, so you’re not up there to tell people to hire you as their divorce lawyer or probate attorney. However, if you can produce a talk about, say, how technology is affecting divorce rates or how difficult tracking down heirs to a small fortune can be, then you’ve got a platform to show the world how learned and passionate you are about your area of expertise. You can’t say, “hire me”, but you can show them why they should if they ever need your services.
There’s also something magical that happens when you step onto a TEDx stage: you immediately establish credibility to an audience full of potential clients. Your mere presence immediately puts you in the frame of being an expert. Simply being a licensed professional and having a time slot are the first big steps to getting eyeballs and eventually business for your law practice.
Good for the Community
Not only are TEDx talks a good way to be seen by the world, but they’re a great way to give back to your community. Perhaps you’re an immigration lawyer and want to bring attention to the increased ICE enforcement in your community. Or maybe you’re in education and want to see schools use better funding. A TEDx talk is an excellent platform to bring attention to issues you find worthy and to propose solutions.
Improving your Public Speaking
TEDx has very strict rules on length: talks may only be 18 minutes in length maximum. That kind of limit may sound restrictive, but it’s actually an opportunity to hone your speaking skills.
The point of a TEDx talk is to introduce a subject that you have relevant experience with, explain why it’s important to you, and then show the viewers why they should care. It’s a hook, not an hour-long lecture. There’s no room for diversions or tangents.
You’re going to have to figure out that one kernel of knowledge that you want to share and sell it to them. This is important too to make sure you’re expanding or positioning your niche area of law to topics that the general public
Which means this good news for your audience. Long lectures are great for the law school classroom full of future attorneys or a CLE course, but they’re terrible for the general public.
They don’t necessarily want to know the intricacies of legal points; they want to know why you care and why they should care, too. Is there lead in their drinking water? Are traffic laws not being properly enforced, endangering their children? Are they at financial risk because they’re not consulting an attorney? You have to go for the emotional appeal -- backed up with facts, of course -- and make them care.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Fortunately, this is a skill that can be useful everywhere. When you get into the flow of a good talk/speech, you can convince almost anyone that what you’re saying matters, and that you’re the person who should be sending the message. A TEDx talk is the perfect opportunity to hone that skill.
TEDx talks can be streamed live online. And most are published on the TED website and YouTube channels, meaning your pet project or worthy cause could be amplified well past the walls of the venue you’re speaking in. Sometimes local issues can catch the eye of viewers in other areas where the same thing is happening. By going viral, your TEDx talk, however small, could trigger a larger movement on a state or national scale. You could become the face of a larger movement as your TEDx talk is shared from person to person.
Not only this, but you can get a copy of your presentation to publish on your own legal website. When visitors are searching for an attorney and have a choice between you and a competitor, they’ll be instantly drawn to your TEDx talk. A video of you sharing your passion with the world crushes any polished, sterile advertising video your competition may pay to produce.
So with just one 18-minute TEDx talk, you can bring to light your pet project or a serious issue that matters to your community. You can show the audience how passionate and knowledgeable you are as an attorney. And all of it can be captured on video to be shared the world over!
Stay tuned for tips on how to get invited to a TEDx talk, how to organize your own, and many more tips on how to leverage this platform to get your message out. Also, check out our other article on 8 useful TED Talks for young lawyers.