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About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.

Written by: Vickie Sullivan  |  May 11, 2017

How TED Conference Speakers Stand Out

Ya know, it’s easy to stand out when you surrounded by folks with less experience or achievements. Not so when you’re in a room filled with smart people who have done cool things. Yet these five TED2017 speakers did just that. Let’s drill down and see what we can emulate.

1. Best objective analysis: Cyberspace analyst Laura Galante gave a blow-by-blow commentary on Russia’s information attack. She focused on the tools of the trade, the not politics. Then she closed with a simple recommendation redefinition: Look at the “why” behind the dissemination, as well as the truth. Her presentation was a great example of how to use a different standard to redefine an issue.

2. Best distinction: There were a lot of cool artificial intelligence (AI) experts at the conference, but Noriko Arai stood out with a one-two punch. First, she clearly defined her territory (education.) Then, she identified the weakness and the opportunity. (AI does not read or understand; it only knows how to search and optimize.) Her path forward was specific yet not easy: AI will take over the process of learning by rote, so focus on meaning via reading comprehension. Her presentation was a great example of focusing your perspective.


Listen: What the best TED speakers do to explain their ideas


3. Best tool: In a room full of big ideas, Tim Ferriss went granular with a specific yet easy-to-do system for making big decisions. It’s a great tool for exploring the dark side. His story created the emotional context for the tool, so it wasn’t center stage but still a key player.

4. Best trip to the dark side: Math blogger Cathy O’Neil stood out by lifting the veil of the hidden world of algorithms. Yes, she might be biased (she audits algorithms for bias and inequality), but you can’t argue with the role these equations have in our society. Her call to action was simple: Blind faith in big data must end. She also used memorable labels (e.g., data laundering, weapons of math destruction) that the audience can tie to her.

5. Best platform: Neuroscientist Lisa Genova uses the science of neurological disease to springboard into a focus of the misunderstood. Her empathic exploration into the lives of those with neurological diseases increases intrigue. Her focus on their journeys gives her thought leadership wide berth. Her body of work is focused, yet still broad. Great example of what the best brand platforms do.

The marketplace is filled with brilliant talented people. How we package our ideas will separate the haves and the have-nots in the attention economy.


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About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.