Four Lessons from TED Masterclass

Theo Kapodistrias
4 min readFeb 2, 2021
Photo by Bogomil Mihaylov on Unsplash

Something I am really passionate about is public speaking because it provides me with the opportunity to share my thoughts, ideas, and life lessons with an audience. For those readers who know me, I launched my keynote speaking business (my side hustle) in early 2020 to give me the opportunity to work with people, to speak at events, and share valuable information.

With that, I’ve always loved the concept of TED; the grand stage with someone standing on a red circle, sharing an idea worth spreading. Being able to one day do my own TED Talk would be pretty incredible.

In June 2020, I was given the opportunity to undertake the TED MasterClass program — an online public speaking course that “will teach you how to identify, develop and share your best ideas with the world.” I was provided this opportunity through a pilot program available through the Association of Corporate Counsel supported by Saul, Ewing, Arnstein, and Lehr.

Here are my top four takeaway lessons from the masterclass:

The Concept of an ‘idea’

The central theme of TED is being able to take an idea and share it with the audience, or as TED put it — ideas worth spreading. An ‘idea’ is being able to take what matters deeply and turn it into a talk. It is the mental construct that can change people.

The MasterClass does a great job at helping participants to help nail down ideas that can conjure up images in people's minds and essentially providing them with a gift. When thinking about developing a talk, think about the concept you are trying to educate others about. An idea is like a journey — imagine if you are a tour guide, and through your words, you take the audience on an adventure to the final destination. Ultimately, it’s about taking your audience to a place they’ve never been.

The ‘throughline’

Having a plan for a presentation is really important. When you’re developing a talk, there should be a key theme which ties everything together. The ‘throughline’ is the connecting theme that connects each narrative together. It is important to note that a throughline is a tool and not a title — it’s the idea statement that helps to bring the talk into existence.

TED suggests that a throughline shouldn’t be more than 15 words. It is the ability to capture the central theme of your talk and how it connects the stories, metaphors, and learnings together.

Building connection

Your audience, whether you are speaking to them on a real stage or virtual stage, it is critical to build a strong connection between you and the audience. The MasterClass provides five ways to build connection but there is one in particular that I’d like to hone in on and that is showing vulnerability.

Authentic vulnerability is incredibly powerful. If you can open up and be your authentic self, people will be able to connect with what you are trying to say. However, oversharing is not considered authentic. There needs to be a balance between sharing enough information for people to understand your perspective but not sharing too much so that it feels like reality TV.

A way to be authentic is to tell stories, but the structure and way you tell the story needs to be considered. You don’t want to sound boastful — instead, it should be a story that you would tell your friends to illustrate your concept.


Stories and storytelling is an excellent tool to be used in giving a presentation. The human mind co-evolved with storytelling where our stories helped people imagine and dream. Stories have helped shape how we share and receive information.

When on stage, sharing a story can help set the narrative arch. However, there is some mastery in deciding which stories to share. Some personal stories may fail to provide the audience with something they can walk away with. It is important that your story has a character(s) that the audience can empathize with and offers the right level of detail.

Final thoughts

The TED Masterclass truly assisted me to think about my presentations differently. Although the skills taught are specifically aimed at what you’d expect to see on the TED stage, I believe the course has provided me with a new framework for giving a presentation. If you get the opportunity to undertake the Masterclass, I’d highly recommend it!

About the author:

Theo Kapodistrias is a multi-national award-winning lawyer and keynote speaker. He holds leadership positions in the not-for-profit sector and is considered a thought-leader in the legal environment. He is passionate about being involved in the community and holds several voluntary positions. He recently launched his keynote speaker business helping individuals to be seen, be heard, and make an impact



Theo Kapodistrias

Award-winning Lawyer | Speaker, MC, Trainer, Coach — assisting individuals to speak up, show up, and make an impact —