Delivering an impactful TED talk takes practice, purpose, and the best storytelling skills.

TED talks have garnered billions of views, launched social movements, and changed lives. So what actually makes the best TEDsters (TED-Talkers) the best? Here are the five key elements to any successful TED Talk:

1. Clarity

The amount of information that we process on a daily basis, both consciously and unconsciously, is staggering. Our mental capacity is finite, so only the most important data we consume actually gets digested — the rest simply goes in one ear and out the other. To ensure your talk leaves a lasting impression and sticks in your audience’s minds, simple and clear messaging is vital. Your audience should be able to recite your primary idea word for word; otherwise, it will be forgotten the moment you walk off stage.

2. Sincerity and Authenticity

Equally important is that your talk aligns with your personal beliefs and be evident when you present. In other words, is your message yours and genuine? Does it sound like you? This may seem obvious, but the importance of honesty and authenticity cannot be overstated — audiences are skilled at sniffing out the trite and insincere. It can be tempting to turn to rhetorical devices or other techniques that do not align with your sense of self, but resist! What makes a TED talk a TED talk is the unique voice behind it. So stay sincere, cultivate your voice, and live out your idea through the power of story up on the stage.

3. Relevance

A talk that doesn’t include relevant information will fall flat, no matter how sincere the message appears. This means citing research that is both recent and compelling, and data that drives home the ingenuity and novelty of your idea. It can also be useful to frame your talk not as a speech, but as a conversation, in the shape of a story. And in many ways, you are providing a service to your audience –if you’re convinced that people will love to hear what you have to say because it’s relevant, that belief will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

4. Storytelling

The most successful TED Talks are 65% story, mixed with a combination of 35% data and background info, as explained by TED expert Carmine Gallo. The ratio of story to content/data skews this way largely because stories connect you with your audience on an emotional level, in a way that cold facts and stats simply cannot. In fact, when we begin hearing a story, we anticipate a story, our brain’s reward center is activated — in other words, enjoying stories is in our biology. A well-conveyed narrative makes your talk relatable, relevant, and, perhaps most importantly, memorable.

5. Practice

As the old adage goes, practice makes perfect — and that certainly applies to TED talks. Practice, practice, practice to iron out all the kinks and develop a rhythm to your talk, and since the literal time limit is a strict one, you’ll need to know exactly how long to spend on each talking point. Nerves can cause a speaker to rush through a talk, and audiences are less likely to trust and understand a presenter who’s moving a mile a minute. Speaking slowly and intentionally, however, even if you convey the exact same information, has precisely the opposite effect.

Speaking of time, the shorter you can keep your talk, the better. Recent studies suggest that our attention spans may actually be shorter than that of a goldfish, which — no matter how you feel about goldfish — means the quicker you can get to your point, the more people your message is likely to stick with.

[image credit: Steve Jurvetson/Flickr]