Three minute talk at TED@PalmSprings

Thanks to the launch of a Way Group-initiated project based on one of my ideas (much more on that later) I am going to talk at TED@PalmSprings. At TED all main talks are 18 minutes, but there are small talks of 3 minutes in-between the 18 minute talks. I’ve gotten a 3 minute talk. But how do you prepare for a 3 minute talk?

Like most people that has been up on stage a couple of times I’m used to talking for somewhere between 30 and 90 minutes. The longest session I’ve held was at Linköping University where I talked for 3 hours… Now I’m going to talk for 3 minutes, and to quote the people at TED:

“The 3-minute time limit will be strictly enforced — it’s a limit, not a goal.”

And they are not kidding! They literally have a clock ticking down and they literally cut you off if you go over. And I have 3 minutes.

So, how do you prepare? Well, meticulous, of course. But how much time do you need to prepare it? Hard to say, but there are actually some hints here and there about that. Among the most interesting I found this:

“Woodrow Wilson was once asked how long it would take him to prepare for a 10 minute speech. He replied “Two weeks”. He was then asked how long it would take for a 1 hour speech. “One week”, he replied. 2 hour speech? “I’m ready right now,” he replied.”

This gives us something to aim for:
* It takes 0 days to prepare a 120 minutes speech
* It takes 7 days to prepare a 60 minute speech
* It takes 14 days to prepare a 10 minute speech.

Now we can plot this on a curve like this:
screen-capture-7

As you might see this is not a linear dependency, meaning that we have to play around a bit. After a minute of that we get this:
screen-capture-8

This curve is a pretty decent approximation of Woodrows need for speech preparation. It says that in one week he actually could present for 64 minutes, but Woodrow was probably simplifying things when he said one hour in one week. These findings are of course objective and universal. The length of the talk has an deceleration that increases by 2.1% for each day of preparation needed. The last mark is the 10 minute speech. When go beyond that and zoom in we’ll see the following:
screen-capture-9

The questions in the beginning of this post was how to prepare for a 3 minute talk. Based on the chart above we now know that the answer: meticulously, for 17 days!

(On a side note we also know that it takes 21 days to prepare a 21 second speech, and about 25 day for a hefty 1,5 second speech.)

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