Consider the following multiple-choice question.

The reason why the most-viewed TED talks have been seen so many millions of times is because:

  1. they are the most jaw-dropping talks
  2. they are the most fascinating talks
  3. they are the most ingenious talks
  4. they are the most inspiring talks
  5. they are the funniest talks

What do you think? It has to be one of these, doesn’t it? Why else would a talk be viewed so many times? We’ve all seen a TED talk that is described as one of these qualities, and surely one of this is what makes them so popular, right?

Actually, wrong.

The correct answer to this question is “none of the above.”

The most-viewed TED talks have been seen millions of times for a different reason. In fact, 46 of the 50 most-viewed talks all have something in common.

These talks all feature a silver bullet.

Not only that, but this silver bullet is an ingredient that is entirely possible to include in not just TEDx talks produced locally but in any sort of keynote speech or other talk given in the pursuit of thought leadership. I recently worked with a TEDx event in which it was my job to help three of the speakers to figure out what they were going to say. I recommended they use this ingredient, but only one of the three speakers followed my advice and included it in their talk.

And that talk earned four times as many views as the other two.

Most of us have probably seen the absolute most popular talks – and probably more than once. And while these talks could very well be considered “jaw-dropping” or “inspiring,” they also all feature something that is absolutely crucial to their talks taking off as they have.

In his talk “How great leaders inspire action,” Simon Sinek famously states how “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Jill Bolte Taylor finishes her talk “My stroke of insight” with the statement that “the more time we spend choosing to run the deep inner-peace circuitry of our right hemispheres…the more peaceful our planet will be.” Amy Cuddy’s talk is titled, “Your body language shapes who you are.” And 43 of the other most-viewed talks have a similar kind of sentence.

Those sentences are the silver bullet.

The question then becomes, what is the significance of these sentences? Why have I taken the time to cite all of them?

Any one of these famous talks provides plenty of information: Simon Sinek provides the various components of his golden circle construct, Jill Bolte Taylor provides a whole bunch of facts about the difference between the right and left side of the brains, and Amy Cuddy provides a number of different positions in which we can shape our body language to live more effectively. But all of this information, while valuable, is what the talk is about.

But those sentences? They explain why that information has taken shape as it has.

Those sentences define the speaker’s entire idea: if they shared nothing more, their audience would be empowered all the same.

When I was in a planning meeting for that TEDx event, I explained this concept to the other people there. I made an example of Amy Cuddy’s talk by citing the title of “Your body language shapes who you are.” And then, the funniest thing happened. Everyone adjusted their posture! If I had made another one-sentence comment instead, such as “hold this position” and imitated one of the positions that she shares in her talk, they might have done it or not – but they wouldn’t have known why I was having them do it. But when I stated the main idea – that body language can shape who we are in a positive way – they volunteered to adjust their posture themselves.

People watch TED talks to be inspired, motivated, informed, amazed, and any number of other productive feelings. But above everything else, they want to live their life in a more enriched way than they had prior to having seen it – they want to be empowered. And when we shape our talk not just around a bunch of information but the underlying idea behind that information, we can trigger the listener to have ideas of their own.

Every TED talk has a lot of information in it. Of course it does. But knowledge isn’t the key ingredient to a successful talk, because people are empowered not by that which they know is true but rather that which they believe is possible.

And when people see a new possibility through the talk you’ve just given – even in as little as a single sentence – they will engage.

And then you will get many, many views.

How do we go about constructing this sentence? And what do these sentences look like in the other 43 talks? Click here to learn more about that very thing.



Most speakers assume they must provide lots of good information. This is not what the stars of the TED stage do. Enter your best name and email below to find out the KEY ingredient that changes everything today...

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