A few times people have asked my advice on giving TED talks. And here it is, here is my advice in five seconds: cut out everything that isn’t suprising.
People watch TED talks in order to learn something. And if they’re not surprised, they’re not learning. If you’re just telling them, “Well, this, and I did this, and I grew up here…” You haven’t surprised them. You haven’t made their eyebrows go up. So they haven’t really learned anything.
Instead, look at whatever message you want to give, whatever story you want to tell, and then just erase every single line of it that isn’t surprising. And what you’re left with is a short, succint, surprising thing that someone can actually learn from.
That’s why my book is only 88 pages. It’s cause at every paragraph, I cut out everything that I felt other people say, that’s been heard before, that isn’t surprising… and I just focused only on the sentences, the paragraphs that were actually surprising.
Here’s a compositional secret.
It’s so obvious and simple, you’ll say to yourself, “This man is bullshitting me.” I am not. This is one of the most fundamental things in all theatrical movie composition and yet magicians know nothing of it. Ready?
If you do what people expect of you, you’re reinforcing the patterns they’ve already learned, so they won’t remember you. If people don’t remember you, they can’t refer anyone to you.
Expectations are always changing. Some of the things I did that violated expectations in the past would now be considered more commonplace. So you have to keep looking at what others are doing today — and then DON’T do what they’re doing! Do what others are unwilling or unable to do. If you wish to create work that stands out, you cannot attempt to fit in.