Watching these TED Talks at work is not only fun – it’s research
Since opening its online doors in 2006, TED Talks have been championed as the ultimate content marketing machine. Publishing one video per day, TED boasts over one billion views of its content and counting.
The brief for each expert speaker is simple: give a short and powerful speech on your subject matter.
There’s much to learn for content marketers – not least the attention to user experience which means each video has closed captions and a transcript, some in up to 40 languages. The speakers themselves are known for their clarity and expertise, informing the viewer in simple terms without being patronising.
The best way to inform your content with the power of TED Talks is to watch them. So in the name of research here are three great ones for content marketers. You might want to put the kettle on first.
Big bad stats
Infographics are a well-worn method of relaying complicated, factual information in a visually interesting and memorable way.
But there’s a careful line to tread with statistics. Data journalist Mona Chaladi is someone all content marketers could take inspiration from. In her TED Talk 3 ways to spot a bad statistic, she explains that creating an engaging visual is only the tip of the iceberg.
“We need to learn the skills to be able to spot bad statistics,” she says. “Can you see uncertainty?” Chaladi specialises in hand-drawn infographics to highlight the imprecise nature of data collection. Plus they look great. “The point of these shaky lines is so that people remember these imprecisions, but also so they don’t necessarily walk away with a specific number – but they can remember important facts.”
Key takeaway: Don’t base your infographics on poor quality data and small survey sizes, no matter how pretty the diagrams are.
Have you slipped into talking about ‘harnessing user-centric web-readiness’? Sometimes it’s hard to notice you’re using jargon when you’re in the know. And in reality, we all use jargon everyday. Whether they’re slang words used by a generation or community – lit, funky, okey dokey – or words specific to sports – offside, knock-on, bowl-out.
But the risk of alienating your audience should make you think twice about how much jargon to use. As Alan Siegel, a champion for simplicity and clarity, argues in his TED Talk Let’s simplify legal jargon!, writing unintelligibly can come at a much higher price than just feeling alienated.
“If you’re a veteran coming back from Iraq or Vietnam you face a blizzard of paperwork to get your benefits,” says Siegel. “And what about terms like ‘over the limit’? Definite it in context. Tell people what it means. There is no way we should do business with companies that have agreements with stealth provisions that are unintelligible.”
Key takeaway: Use jargon as sparingly as possible or risk alienating and confusing your audience.
When to be boring
Anyone who has fallen down a TED wormhole before will know, even topics you wouldn’t normally consider watching a video about become strangely compelling when presented clearly and by an impassioned expert.
As television producer Thomas Hellum points out in his TED Talk, The world’s most boring television… and why it’s hilariously addictive, when content on any topic is well presented, accessible and knowledgeable, there really is no such thing as boring.
“A few years back, Norway’s public TV channel NRK decided to broadcast live coverage of a seven-hour train ride, and a new kind of reality TV was born – Slow TV,” explains Hellum. Following the success of the train journey, Hellum was part of the team that streamed 134 hours of the ship Hurtigruten as it travelled 3,000 kilometres along the coast of Norway. “3.2 million Norwegians watched part of this programme, and we are only five million here.”
Key takeaway: Content is only boring when it is poorly presented.