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What Makes A Good Idea, Great?

- Dr. Steven Hayward

We work with a wide variety of clients, each of whom comes in with their own energy, as well as unique goals and approach. We get them to the TEDx stage of course, but some are also looking to craft a signature talk or maybe they’re just looking to give a speech at their daughter’s wedding that absolutely kills. We haven’t yet been called on to help with the christening of a boat, but we’re open.

Regardless of what the end product is going to be, our work always begins in the same place, with what we call an “Ideation Session.” It’s exactly what it sounds like--the moment when we work with you to find the idea that is going to be at the heart of your talk. Each Ideation session begins with the same, seemingly simple, question.

“So,” we say, “tell us about your idea.”

There’s usually a pause, as they hesitate, take a breath, maybe she scratches her head, and all at once it becomes what feels like a high stakes moment.

That’s because it is.

As great as your idea might be, as fully as you may have envisaged its transformational possibilities and the change it will bring about, unless you can find a way to put it into language, it’s going to stay in your head, not make it out into the world where it belongs, where it can do the work it was meant to do.

The mistake people make when it comes to ideas is to think they exist apart from the shape they take in language. That’s why people hesitate just before they begin to tell us their ideas--because they’re worried they’re going to mess it up. That it won’t be as perfect when they say it as it is in their heads. And we get it. It can sometimes feel as if the last thing you should do for your great idea is to say it out loud because it’ll never have the perfection it has in your mind.

Ideation Sessions are a way to get you past that feeling and to ease the passage of your idea into language, ultimately seeing it as a process that expands it, opens it up, improves it, brings that idea to life in ways you never thought possible.

It can feel like magic, but it’s not easy. So without further ado, here are few things to keep in mind as you begin the process of moving your idea out of your head and onto the page:


  1. Your Topic Is Not Your Idea

    This is probably the most common misconception we run across. Most people know what they want to talk about and why it’s important to them, but neither of these necessarily equals an idea that can be shared. Instead of what and why, look for a question you answered for yourself and can for others, a problem that needs solving. Then solve it. That’s your idea.   
  2. Don't Listen To The Echo Chamber

    There’s a strong tendency to craft ideas in terms of what you think that people want to hear, or to frame them in relation to what’s hot right now, trying to make them resemble other ideas that have been well-received. Our advice is to do the opposite. Instead of listening to the echo chamber, center your own experience and insights, perhaps even something that is disruptive to the status quo. The result will be a more authentic talk that has impact because it has a real idea at its core.
  3. Open It Up To Everyone

    Experience is highly individual; ideas are for everyone. Ask yourself what it is about what you have experienced, or learned, that can be shared widely. The work of coming up with an idea involves distilling a unique experience into an essence that can be lifted out of the specifics of the situation, that transcends itself and can transform situations beyond itself. Start with something niche, but leave us with something universal. 

Of course there’s a lot that comes after you’ve hit on your idea, including writing the talk, finding your way through the maze of how to deliver it, which jokes to tell and how to tell them, when to slow things down and how to get people to really hear you. It’s all important but it all starts with the idea, and with getting it across the bridge of language and into the world.

So, the only thing left to ask is... what's your idea? If you're ready to share and start your journey to the TEDx stage or to create your keynote speech, schedule a brainstorming call with us here.


- Dr. Steven Hayward is our head speechwriter, an English Professor at Colorado College, bestselling author, speaker, renowned filmmaker and has a great head of hair. 


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