Ten years ago, a post on how to book a TEDx talk would have been very short, because TEDx didn’t even exist until 2009!
Since then, there’ve been 15,000 TEDx (local TED-style) events, and the number of Internet views of TED speeches recently hit the billion mark.
Obviously, the word is out! And since many people want to share their ideas from a TEDx stage, it’s gotten harder to make that happen.
Hard, but not impossible. If you have a passion to perform at TED, these tips will help you book a TEDx talk:
1. Find an Appropriate TEDx Event
No two TEDx events are alike, and before you can apply to speak, you’ll need to find one that’s right for you.
- TEDxSingSing is for inmates;
- TEDxYouth is for youth; and
- TEDxAdelaide (Australia) is probably too far to travel, even if they want outlanders.
You need to find an event that’s geared to an audience that includes you — and, very possibly, one that’s also local.
Unfortunately, the list of events at TEDx.com is not much help. It’s organized by month and year, and then by geography (sort of). You’ll have to wade through lots of irrelevant listings (and some listings that look like duplicates but can actually contain different content).
This is worth doing, but it can be discouraging. So don’t neglect other ways to get information; for example:
- Search for “TEDx events near me” (yes, your search engine knows where you are!) or “TEDx [your state, your city, or region].” Try a number of different searches and search engines, and see which approach gives the best returns.
- See if there’s a TEDx Meetup near you (their locations range from Western Massachusetts to Dubai) and if you find one, go to it. The event will be attended by others who share your interest in TEDx speaking and may be willing to share what they know.
- Create a google alert for “TEDx” in your geography. I specified news feeds only, within the U.S., and while that casts a wide net, it gives me a daily round-up of stories that might include the announcement of an upcoming event.
- Follow the event or organizer on Twitter. Most TEDx events have a Twitter handle. If you follow them, you’ll be notified when they announce that they’re are looking for submissions.
2. Continually Refine Your Big TEDx Idea
With TEDx, as with TED, it’s all about your idea, and while you’re looking for a place to speak, keep refining yours.
Chris Anderson, Head of TED, has a book on this subject that’s helpful, and so is my post, How to Create Your TED Talk, which has an eight-step process.
One caution, though: As you think and gather material, don’t write a script, and don’t commit to one view of your speech. The TEDx organizers who invite you to join their program will probably want some input into your talk — and you’ll probably want to submit variations of your ideas to TEDx programs with different themes — so keep your thinking flexible.
3. When You Apply to Book a TEDx Talk, Lead with Your Passion, Not Your Resume
If you’re part of the professional world, you’re probably used to talking up your credentials. But in the TED and TEDx world, credentials are viewed differently. So instead of,
What qualifies you to talk about this idea?” (Answer: My PhD on the topic),
your TEDx application is more likely to ask you,
What makes you the right person to talk about this idea?” (Answer: I’ve been obsessed with this idea since I was 12 and started an organization based on it.)
That difference sets the tone for your entire application: Remember that TEDx organizers are unlikely to be impressed with the types of resume zingers that might dazzle a search committee (X years of experience, Y publications, Z certifications, etc.). What they want to know is are you deeply connected to this idea? and can you bring it to life for our audience?
Your application will therefore be personal — but don’t assume that this makes it easy! Coming up with authentic and powerful descriptions of your idea and why it will matter to their audience can be time consuming — to say nothing of the time you’ll need to craft and practice a brief video statement, if one is requested. (Again, don’t assume that “brief” means “easy”; it’s harder than just talking at length.)
While TEDx applications can be demanding, they will help you think through some important aspects of your talk, such as,
- Why am I really doing this?
- What’s the impact I hope to have? and
- Is my idea truly “worth spreading”? (or am I just looking for a place to speak?)
If your answer to the last question is no, there are many other organizations that will happily invite you to give a talk.
But if your sites are set on TEDx stage, learning to book a TEDx talk is an important and necessary part of the process!
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Thanks to my colleague, coach, and friend Anne Loehr whose insights and support form the basis of this post.