Artwork from the book - June Cohen Presents the Road Map to TED by Mel Rosenberg - מל רוזנברג -
I'm a writer, scientist, musician, inventor and lecturer. During the daytime I am advisor to the President of Shenkar College. In the evening I write children's books, satire, and "how to" manuals ("Mel's ten tips). I'm co-founder of Ourboox and married to Ourboox CEO Shuli Sapir-Nevo.
Oct 2013
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June Cohen Presents the Road Map to TED

by Mel Rosenberg - מל רוזנברג

About a dozen years ago, June Cohen persuaded the folks at TED to make their videos freely available for the world to see. That changed the world. Here is her very illuminating talk on what makes a great TED talk.



June admits early on that there is no ‘one size fits all’ advice for a winning TED talk. Instead she offers us some great insight by looking at TEDx talks that did make it or ‘almost’ made it to the esteemed TED channel. But there are factors that characterize successful TED talks.


Here, I’ve brought the examples of successes and ‘near misses’ that June talks about. The advice is invaluable for any TEDx organizer or speaker (I am both) who dreams of having a video on the TED channel. I hope I got it right. (If not let me know and I will amend!)


June talked about the importance of having the idea at the center. The talk needs a clear idea, not just a compelling ‘journey of self’ or biography. It has to be rounded by an idea.  You have to extract the meaning. She cites Ali Almarrany (couldn’t find the video). Here are some talks that did just this.


A TED talk is not just a lecture that delivers facts (unless they add up to an idea). June discussed Christopher Grave’s talk about Shakespeare. It remained a lecture because he didn’t completely articulate his idea. Over 200K people have seen his talk. Imagine if he had articulated the center, the framework!



This life lesson had a clear message – envy is the least understood human emotion. It can only be properly understood through literature.


“A TED talk is about an idea, not an issue.” According to June, there is a difference between an idea based talk (possibilities) and an issue based talk (exhausting). Just by changing the perspective from morality to curiosity it can work wonders. Julian Treasure flipped his “issue” talk into a challenge/proposal/solution, and it succeeded.


An exception: Lisa Kristine does not have a solution. It’s a beautiful inspiring challenge to find a solution.


Lorrie’s nature talk didn’t make it to the TED channel because she didn’t explain what her mission is, what is the idea at the center. It’s actually very difficult. This is a ‘near miss’ according to June.



But Munir did. He was super focused at the beginning of his talk. He knew the journey and takes you with him (even though you weren’t interested in vultures at the beginning, were you?).


Focus at the start is key. You get to share one idea at most! Kalev didn’t get straight to the point….



Nic Marks didn’t focus from the get go either…




But Scilla Ellworthy did…”How do we deal with extreme violence without using force in return?”


What I learned from June – Present a singular idea worth sharing, focus on it early on, articulate it clearly and build your talk around it. And that’s an idea worth sharing!


Finally great TED talks are truly authentic to the person, their pace, their idea. The talk is crafted from the bottom up.



So what do you say about this talk that was ‘upgraded’. An idea worth sharing?


So, to summarize:

  1. The idea is the center that should pull the talk around it.

  2. Not a lecture that just delivers facts or a life story

  3. An idea, not an issue.

  4. Clear articulation of the idea

  5. Focused – Time for only one idea (at most)

  6. Start strong and to the point

  7. Authenticity


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