10 Copywriting Lessons I Learned From The Great TED Talks

Copywriting is a craft that uses words to persuade readers and inspire action, but it’s also an art form. Copywriters have to be skilled storytellers who understand how people think and feel. 

Many of the world’s most gifted copywriters are artists at heart, who can summarize a complicated issue or product in a way that appeals to our emotions without being overly manipulative. 

Many of them believe that writing effective copy is not about tricking people into buying something they don’t need or want it’s about helping them realize what they do need and want out of life and providing them with guidance on how to get there!

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1. Storytelling Impact: Apply storytelling techniques from TED Talks to your copywriting to create engaging narratives.
2. Clarity and Simplicity: Communicate complex ideas with clarity and simplicity, just like TED speakers do in their talks.
3. Hook Your Audience: Start your copy with a compelling hook that captures the audience’s attention right away.
4. Emotional Connection: Establish an emotional connection with your readers to make your copy more relatable and impactful.
5. Visual Language: Incorporate visual language in your writing to help readers visualize your message effectively.
6. Transitions and Flow: Use smooth transitions to guide readers through your copy, maintaining a natural flow.
7. Concrete Examples: Use concrete examples and real-world anecdotes to make your copy more relatable and persuasive.
8. Call to Action: Craft a clear and compelling call to action that motivates readers to take the desired action.
9. Authenticity: Infuse your copy with authenticity and personal stories to establish trust with your audience.
10. Practice and Refine: Just like TED speakers practice their talks, continually practice and refine your copywriting skills.

1. You Have 5 Seconds To Make An Impression

This is a great lesson for anyone who has ever had to pitch an idea, product, or service. You have 5 seconds to make an impression. According to research, the average time people spend on a website before deciding whether to stay or leave is only 5 seconds. So you’d better make it count!

It seems like common sense: if you want people’s attention, you need a powerful opening line in your copywriting efforts. But most of us don’t put enough thought into how we can grab our readers right off the bat. 

It’s all too easy for your content and its purpose to get lost in translation when you write without considering how audiences will interpret what they’re seeing on screen (or reading).

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2. A Story Is Never About The Thing, But About The Person Experiencing The Thing

In a story, the thing is not what it’s about. The thing is the vehicle for your audience’s experience. It is the trigger that sets off their reaction to that experience and propels them into action.

The lesson I learned from this principle of storytelling (and one I’ve seen over and over again in TED Talks) is this: In copywriting, you should never talk about the product or service you’re selling; instead, tell someone a story about how using it has made them feel.

3. Don’t Start With The Thing, Start With A Problem

The third point is don’t start with the thing, start with a problem.

If you’re writing an ad, let’s say for a new car, don’t tell me about how great it is and then show me a picture of the car. Start by showing me why I want it and what problems my life will be easier because of it. Then show me that car!

Let’s look at this TED Talk by Andrew Stanton:


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4. No One Cares About Your Product

For example, let’s take a look at a great TED Talk by Amy Cuddy, the social psychologist and author of Presence. Throughout her talk, she talks about how powerful body language can be for our success in life. 

She starts by talking about how everyone has two voices in their head: one that tells them they’re not good enough and another that says they are. In this way, we tend to spend more time focusing on what we don’t have or aren’t doing right than what we do have or are doing right but there is an easy way to change all that!

Cuddy suggests closing yourself off from your negative thoughts by taking up as much space as possible with your body while simultaneously making sure that your face looks friendly and open (it all sounds like magic). 

This works because when someone is close to us physically they feel closer mentally too so when you share physical space with others it makes them feel more connected emotionally which makes people trust each other more easily! 

The next time you’re feeling down about yourself just remember: Cuddy says if you want your brain chemistry changed then act BIGGER than normal so go ahead…turn those frowns upside down.”

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5. Never Leave In Doubt What Your Product Offers

With a TED Talk, the audience is already engaged and interested they’ve come to listen to what you have to say about a subject they care about. So you don’t have to do much convincing or explaining upfront. You’re starting from a place of trust.

In copywriting, however, you’re usually starting from scratch with someone who doesn’t know who you are or why they should read anything that comes from you (yet). 

So it’s important for the first sentence or paragraph of your copy to clearly state what problem your product will solve for them and what kind of value it offers them and not just once but several times throughout the body content! 

This helps readers understand how their lives will be better if they use whatever product/service/idea/etc it is that we’re trying to sell them on as soon as possible so they don’t get confused later on when they reach one of our calls-to-action!

6. Emotional Words Can Sell The Same Product Twice As Well As Rational Words Can

Emotional words are more persuasive than rational words.

When you’re writing a sales letter or ad, it’s important to use emotional words to make the product seem more attractive, credible, and urgent. This is especially true if you’re trying to sell something that people might not want like insurance or dental floss. 

But even if you’re selling something that people want like a new car or lipstick emotional words can still make your pitch more effective.

7. For Every Feature You Give, Add A Benefit That Speaks To Customers’ Needs And Emotions

Benefits are what make the difference between a good product and a great one. They’re often emotional and/or physical, but they have to speak to your customer’s needs and emotions for you to reach them on an emotional level.

For example: Let’s say you’re selling an app that helps people lose weight by tracking their eating habits. The features of this app are that it tracks calories and allows users to log their food intake each day. 

Those features aren’t enough; they need benefits. So we add “helps me stay on track with my diet” as a benefit, which becomes something like: “Helps me stay on track with my diet by allowing me to easily log my daily food intake.” 

That’s when we get into the benefits they give us specific information about how our product works, and how it can help solve a problem or improve someone’s life (in this case: losing weight).

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8. The Most Powerful Motivators To Buy Are Fomo

The most powerful motivators to buy our FOMO (fear of missing out), the feeling that you have to have something because someone else has it. The TED Talk speaker in this video, Jane McGonigal talks about how she used FOMO to motivate herself and her team at Superbetter.

A game she made where people could play against mental health problems like depression and anxiety. She also explains how we can all use FOMO to motivate ourselves in our everyday lives:

  • We feel less lonely when we’re part of a group – so join an online community or find one locally!
  • People want what they can’t have – so stop comparing yourself with others! You’ll be happier finding your path instead of mimicking theirs.

9. If You Want Someone To Want Something, Show Them What They’re Missing In Their Life Without It; Show Them Their Pain Points

  • If you want someone to want something, show them what they’re missing in their life without it; show them their pain points.

You’ve probably heard that the best salespeople are great storytellers. They have a knack for telling stories that elicit an emotional response from their audience, causing them to buy whatever product or service is being sold.

The same principle applies when writing copy for your landing pages, ads, and emails: if you want people to take action on your call-to-action button, it helps if you show them what’s missing in their life without this thing you’re selling.

Think of all the products that sell successfully by showing potential customers how much better their lives will be once they have this thing (in many cases such as mattresses it’s not even a tangible thing). 

For example: “you’ll never wake up with back pain after sleeping on our mattress” “you’ll lose weight faster with our diet plan” or “you’ll be more productive at work when using our software package.”

10. There Are No Selfless Acts; Everything We Do Is For The Benefit Of Ourselves Or Others (Or Both)

The last of the 10 lessons, and one that is perhaps the most important: there are no selfless acts. This may seem like an odd lesson to learn when we’re talking about persuasive writing, but it’s a powerful takeaway because every time you try to persuade someone, they know it. They know what you want from them and they’ll likely resist if they feel like their best interests aren’t being served by your message or argument.

If you want to be truly persuasive, use their language. Don’t just say “we need more money for education,” say “we need more money for early childhood education.” 

That first statement tells me nothing; the second tells me exactly what kind of education is at stake here (and gives me clues as to why). And so on with all other issues: using words that evoke specific language will help get your point across much faster than using general terms like “the environment” or “the economy.”

Use values instead of facts when trying to persuade someone (but don’t use both!). Values appeal to our sense of right and wrong while facts appeal only to logic. 

For example: “There need to be stricter environmental regulations because environmental damage has been proven harmful not just today but in future generations,” will carry much more weight than saying something like “The air quality in Arapahoe County has decreased since 2005 due to our increased reliance on fossil fuels…”

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I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading this article, and found it useful.

I think one of the best ways to improve your writing is to read great examples of it. I’m sure you can find plenty online, or even in books (like this one!), but it can be hard knowing where to start if you don’t even know what “good writing” looks like. 

That’s why I wanted to share my favorite lessons from some of the best TED Talks out there they show how powerful a few carefully chosen words can be when they come together in just the right way!

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources to enhance your knowledge and skills in related areas:

9 Public Speaking Lessons from the World’s Greatest TED Talks Learn valuable public speaking techniques from the world’s most renowned TED Talks to improve your communication and presentation skills.

10 Lessons I’ve Learned from 3 Years of Copywriting Gain insights from a seasoned copywriter’s journey and discover 10 important lessons to apply in your own copywriting endeavors.

YouTube Copywriting for Beginners and Pros: Free Course with Exercises Dive into a comprehensive free course that focuses on copywriting for YouTube, suitable for both beginners and experienced professionals.


Here are answers to some commonly asked questions related to the topics covered in this article:

What are the key public speaking lessons from TED Talks?

TED Talks emphasize concise storytelling, visual aids, and connecting emotionally with the audience. They also stress the importance of practicing and refining your delivery.

What are some essential lessons from experienced copywriters?

Experienced copywriters often emphasize the significance of understanding your target audience, creating compelling headlines, and testing different approaches to find what resonates best.

How can copywriting skills be applied to YouTube content?

Copywriting skills are crucial for crafting compelling video titles, descriptions, and call-to-actions on YouTube. They help in capturing viewers’ attention and encouraging engagement.

What does the course “YouTube Copywriting for Beginners and Pros” cover?

This course provides insights into creating effective copy for YouTube videos. It covers writing engaging video descriptions, titles, and optimizing content for better reach and impact.

How can I improve my copywriting skills over time?

Improving copywriting skills involves continuous learning, analyzing successful campaigns, seeking feedback, and practicing different writing styles to adapt to various audiences and platforms.