Build Your Website Like A TED Talk

By Gil Gerretsen

There's a new trend emerging in the way websites are designed and structured. You may have even seen them without giving the style much thought. What's new is a movement away from bland and impersonal informational websites towards "storyteller" websites structured increasingly like TED Talks.

Why is this such an important tactical shift? It's because there's an emerging realization that, in a world overwhelmed with information, people are looking for a deeper sense of connection with the companies and brands they patronize. In addition, many marketing professionals are realizing the limits of search engine optimization. Although SEO tactics work well for commodities or solutions that people are specifically looking for, it is not as useful or productive for the larger majority of non-commodity offers. Such companies must now use websites in a different way.

The vast majority of business websites get little traffic, even from SEO, because their target audience generally isn't in the process of looking for them. They are not commonplace commodities. Rather, their websites must be designed for people who arrive there based on an offline referral or interaction. The trip to the website serves to validate the potential relationship rather than initiate it.

Which leads to the emergence of "storyteller websites" that are built using processes very similar to the construction of world-class TED Talks. Let's take a look at how it's done.

1) What’s The Key Idea You Want To Get Across?

The first step in building a storyteller website is the same as what’s needed for building a great TED Talk. You must always begin with a singular idea. It must be a noteworthy proposition that helps people understand what unique thing or skill you bring to the table. It must challenge an assumption or traditional way of looking at things. It must cause the person's eyebrows to go up a little. Your storyteller website must quickly generate a sense of curiosity and a reason to care.

2) Develop An Unexpected Or Catchy Way To State Your Idea

You must think of your website as a gift to your audience. Your headline must be clear and compelling because people will "click off" if it does not seem relevant to them. It must also be current. Old news is no news! You've got to show people that you are giving them something nobody else can do. It's is no longer acceptable to be the best at what you do. You must be perceived as the only one who does what you do!

3) Collect Relevant Information

Put yourself in the prospect's shoes. Collect all the information you can find on your subject matter and then build it into collections of useful resources. Build a reference library with vivid examples, illustrations, facts, common questions, and customer stories. These can be written articles or videos. Different audiences will have different preferences.

4) Consider Your Call To Action

The purpose of any website, like any TED Talk, is to drive people to consider a new reality. You want them to take action on the idea presented. You want them to begin an exploration or conversation and take the next logical step. That means you must build a hopeful picture of the future. You must give them something specific they can do to as a result of what they have just learned or heard. People naturally want a sense of closure, and it's up to you to provide it.

5) Create A Wireframe

Now is the time to put your story into motion. Take them on a journey from beginning to end. Build a flowchart showing how all the pieces move from one to the next. I like using the "Triad Principle" during this phase. This principle recognizes that people gravitate towards ideas presented in groups of three. So start with your three biggest pieces. Then build three pieces under each of those, and so on.

One of my favorite tricks during this phase is to use sticky notes so I can arrange and rearrange key elements easily. If necessary, you can deviate from the Triad Principle later, but it often proves to be the most efficient and effective communication method. Keep in mind that business is ultimately about relationships. You want people to feel like they know you. Graphics, pictures, and videos help with that. Your goal is to help them build a sense of who you are and what you stand for.

During this process, keep your language on their terms. Talk like they talk, not how you talk. Avoid lingo they don't use. Use metaphors and examples they would understand. Build an emotional bond, because the mind eventually follows the heart.

6) Trim It

One of the great benefits of TED Talks is that the presenters are forced to keep it short. It's also one of the greatest advantages of Twitter. You must be disciplined in your content creation. Take at least three passes with the specific goal of eliminating unnecessary paragraphs, sentences, and words. Trim, trim, and trim some more. Where possible, replace your words with graphic images.

7) Test It

When I first started my speaking career, I was encouraged to give my speeches over and over again in front of a mirror. When you have to say things out loud, they often sound very different than they sound in your brain. You stumble over things. Change them. If you accidentally say things a little differently, consider them as improvements. After you've heard yourself often enough, it's time to go find another listener or two. Talk them through it. See how they react. Watch where their focus goes fuzzy or where they stumble. Ask them what's missing or confusing? Then, and only then, are you ready to go live.

Once you have taken these seven steps, you'll find that your storyteller website does the job you were hoping for. And, it is here that I can take a quote from the movie Field of Dreams. "If you build it, they will come!"