The Ikigai of Your TED Presentation

by Pierre Morsa —

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” Ikigai is the intersection between what you love, what you are good at, what you can be paid for and what the world needs.

If you ever want to speak at TED or TEDx event, you should find the ikigai of your presentation. It should be at the intersection of:

  • What you love, or in the context of a presentation, what you really care about.
  • What you are good at, so that you are legitimate to speak on stage.
  • What you can be paid for, or in the case of TEDx, what you can be invited for.
  • What the world needs, so that the topic reaches a wide audience.

It is fairly close, yet different, to the three stakes that you should have in any presentation (what matters to you, what matters to the audience, what matters to people outside). By looking for the ikigai, you can avoid potential pitfalls such as

  • Focusing only on your personal anecdotes or being too self-centered.
  • Speaking about topics that are beyond your area of expertise. I once had a well-known speaker who spoke about the vagus nerve. When I asked what it was, she told me with great aplomb that she didn’t know and didn’t care. I was not impressed.
  • Choosing a topic that no TEDx organizer will want to invite you for. Some topics are too sensitive, too unacceptable or downright forbidden.
  • Speaking about stuff that no one cares about. Some topics may be of great interest to you, but not to a larger audience.

So, is your goal to be invited to speak at a TED event? Then ask yourself, “what is the ikigai of my presentation?”

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