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6 TED Talks for Podcasters: Change Your View, Improve Your Show

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Watching TED Talks for podcasters might not be your immediate go-to method for inspiration. Yes, they can be a bit formulaic at times, but there’s no denying that when you find a good TED Talk, it’s good.

There are a few TED Talks about podcasting that are worth checking out. But for me, it’s the content that’s not specifically about podcasting that’s most useful to podcasters. The speakers who share their expertise on topics like nurturing creativity, engaging listeners and tackling procrastination – that’s where podcasters can pull real value.

So here are a few of my favourites…

P.S. if you’re a devout audio-only content consumer, don’t worry. There’s a TED Podcast too.

1. How to Speak So That People Want to Listen 

Helpful for: Working on your tone of voice to engage listeners. 

Have you ever given up listening to a podcast because the host wasn’t engaging, even when you were really interested in the content? I have.

It’s a pretty crucial skill to have when running a podcast: speaking in a way that people want to listen.

In this talk, sound expert Julian Treasure provides some excellent tips not just on improving your vocals with exercises but also on how to speak with empathy – which is key to engaging an audience. Practice H.A.I.L (Honesty, Integrity, Authenticity and Love), he says, and you will win over audiences. This is very much in line with how podcasters operate.

2. 10 Ways to Have Better Conversations

Helpful for: Developing a strong and engaging interview style.

I’m not exaggerating when I say this is probably the most useful TED talk I’ve ever watched. You might think you don’t need any help with having good conversations, but by the end of this talk, you’ll realise you probably do.

Celeste Headlee is a former radio host, so she really knows her stuff when it comes to developing and improving your interview style. In this session, she highlights the difference between knowing how to talk and how to listen. We are more polarised than ever before, she says, and this is partly due to the fact we don’t know how to listen properly.

Every one of the tips she gives is excellent and still gets me thinking every time I watch it (and I’ve watched this video a lot). Headlee will help you give great podcast interviews without wasting time, getting bored or offending anyone. Essentially, if you’re having great conversations on your podcast, your listeners will have a great time too.

3. The Real Reason You Procrastinate

Helpful for: Overcoming any procrastination and productivity challenges you might have with your podcast. 

This one’s not a TED video as such – it’s an audio piece. But it’s great TED talk material, and as podcasters, we don’t need video to appreciate great content, do we? 

This is a great TED talk for those among us who always miraculously find five other really important tasks we need to do before we can record that new episode. The presenter, Adam Grant, speaks with multi-award-winning author Margaret Atwood and Psychologist Fuschia Sirois. They run through the reasons why we put the important tasks off and what we can do to fix that. What I like most about this talk is that it doesn’t just provide actionable procrastination-busting tips, but encourages us to think of procrastination as a result of a state of mind.

They talk about how procrastination comes not from being lazy, but from a fear of feeling negative emotions. These negative emotions tend to be feelings of incompetency and fear of failure. So if you struggle with things like impostor syndrome, focusing on overcoming these negative thoughts will also have a big impact on the content you produce.

4. The Secret to Great Public Speaking

Helpful for: Thinking bigger about your podcast episode topics.

Chris Anderson is the curator of TED Talks, so if there’s one thing he knows, it’s what makes a good talk. This session isn’t about providing public speaking tips and tricks, though – it’s about taking a step back and thinking about the bigger picture of what makes a ‘good’ talk (or, in our case, a good podcast topic). 

Great talks, he says, are able to transfer an idea into your audience’s brains. This happens when a pattern of neurons in your brain is repeated in the brains of those listening. It’s a really nice way of thinking about the impact you can have on your podcaster listeners.

Strong ideas have the potential to really change how others think about the world. This is really prevalent in podcasting: ‘bringing about change in culture and the world’ is consistently one of the top reasons people start podcasts, according to data we gather through our Podcast Planner tool.

Anderson gives some great tips on making your ideas stick with your audience, including limiting to one idea per episode, giving listeners a reason to care and building your ideas around things you know your audience will already understand.

5. Want to Be More Creative? Go For a Walk

Helpful for: Overcoming podcaster’s creative block.

This TED talk is a short one, but it really packs a punch. You’ve probably heard people say that walking is good for your creativity, but is there really science behind it? Turns out, there is. 

The video is only 5 minutes long, but the TL;DW is that you should:

  • Choose a podcast idea or a topic you want to brainstorm before you go for a walk 
  • Go for a walk (at a speed that is comfortable enough that you don’t notice you’re walking)
  • Come up with as many ideas as you can. Record your ideas as a voice note on your phone or a recording device – don’t write them down, as this can disrupt the flow of your idea.

This formula, Marily Oppezzo claims, has now been scientifically proven to help you overcome creator’s block. And you can’t argue with science!

6. The Danger of Silence

I want to finish with this goosebump-inducing talk from Clint Smith on the dangers of not using your voice. It’s a strong reminder that our voice is our most powerful tool, and of the impact you can make as a podcaster by using your platform for good.

Consuming motivational content like these TED Talks, which aren’t specifically about podcasting, is important for two reasons. The first is that there’s always so much to learn from other industries and areas of expertise, and a vast proportion of it is easily transferrable to podcasting. And secondly, if we’re all just constantly consuming content about podcasting, where will the innovation come from? It’s easy to get tunnel vision. Talks like these pull us out to look at the bigger picture of why we create podcasts in the first place and how to make them better.

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