Do You Want To Be A Ted Speaker?

What does it take to become a TED speaker?
What does it take to become a TED speaker?

Image Credit: urban_data

Come on, admit it. I know that you’ve watched countless hours of those addictive TED talks. The people who take that stage seem to know so much about so many different topics, who wouldn’t want to watch them? Since you give speeches, I’m willing to bet that more than once the question has crossed your mind – could I give a TED talk? The answer is, of course you could. Now, could you do a good job of giving a TED talk? Well, that’s a different story.

What Is A TED Talk?

After the TED organization launched the independently organized TEDx events all around the world in 2009, speaking on the TED “red dot” and sharing the importance of public speaking has become the dream of many. Speakers, authors, and presenters see getting stage time at TEDx as a possibility to reach broader audiences; it’s both a distinction and a great opportunity for promotion. However, it takes more than just being a confident speaker to get to the TEDx stage. The people who organize these events have specific ideas in mind when they curate a TEDx event.

The motto of all TED events is “Ideas Worth Spreading.” When organizers begin to plan the event, they don’t start with speakers—they start with the ideas they want to spread in their local communities. Usually, TEDx events feature a diversity of speakers across several disciplines who address a variety of topics. If you want to get selected by TED organizer to give a speech, you need to know what you should (and should not) talk about. You should avoid telling the organizers that you are a professional speaker/trainer/coach. They don’t care. You should definitely not tell them that you have delivered this talk to a different audience and they loved it. TED talks are supposed to be unique. Don’t try the old “I can speak about anything!” You need to show up with an idea. What you should say is that you have an idea and tell them how it will add value to their event. Tell them why your idea is innovative. Tell them why you are the best person to talk about your idea. Finally, tell them why your idea is interesting and relevant to the local community.

If you find yourself in a position to present your idea to the organizers of a TED event, you will need to be very clear about the goal and main message you want to deliver, and how it benefits the local community. As a speaker, you need to understand that a TED Talk topic has three main criteria:

  1. It has to be a new idea, not previously shared with another audience.
  2. It has to be factual, based on evidence.
  3. It must be interesting to a broad audience.

One of the most important things to make sure that you understand is the TEDx event that you are applying for. A good thing to do is to familiarize yourself with the theme of the particular event you are applying to and the kind of talks given previously.

Dealing With Rejection

As a result of an overwhelming amount of applications, TEDx organizers have to choose among the best ideas. There is always the very real possibility that your proposal will get rejected. Don’t worry about this – it’s not the end of the world. Ask for feedback. Find out why it was not suitable for this specific event and ask if it would be reasonable to apply next year. It is always worth asking for the cause of rejection. Maybe your idea is not as worthy of spreading as you think it may be. And the organizers can help you to improve it.

So just exactly what does a TED speech look like? Well, first off they are between 3-18 minutes – no longer! This type of speech is designed to be a persuasive speech. When you are giving a TED speech, you want to get people to adopt the ideas that you are presenting. One of the key points that we need to realize about a TED speech is that we are not just delivering it to the people who are in the audience, TED speeches are recorded and our speech may end up being viewed by millions of people around the world. When we are delivering a TED speech, the organizers would prefer that we don’t move on stage – it makes it harder to capture us. In most TED talks, slides are used to make complex ideas easier to understand.

If you really want to be invited to give a TED speech, one way to boost your chances is to take the time to participate in organizing a TEDx event. This can provide you with a unique behind the scenes look at how an event like this is run. Organizing an event requires the work of several teams; typically these teams include: a team to choose speakers, organize workshops, assign speaker guides, organize rehearsals, and coordinate stage management. A team to handle everything connected with marketing and public relations of the event. Additionally there will be a team to look for sponsors and partners for the event.

What All Of This Means For You

Every speaker is aware of those TED talks. We’ve all seen the speakers standing on the stage as they circle their red dot and share unique insights and the benefits of public speaking with us. I’m sure that we’ve thought at one time or another that we could probably do a TED talk if only they would give us a chance. The big question is what does it take to get accepted by the people who are organizing a TED event?

There are many more opportunities to give TED talks than there used to be. With the launch of the TEDx events, there may be a TED event happening near to you. Speakers need to understand that a TED event is all about the ideas that the organizers want to spread – not the speakers. If you want to give a TED talk, then when you talk to the organizers you will have be very clear about the goal and main message you want to deliver. Your proposed speech may be rejected. If this happens, ask the organizers why it was rejected and if you can apply again next year. TED speeches are 18 minutes or less and they may end up being viewed by millions of people all over the world. If you want to have a chance to speak at a TED event, one thing that you can do is to volunteer to help out with the event so that you can see how it is run.

Giving a TED talk would be a big deal for all of us. Our speech would live online forever. However, getting accepted by the TED talk organizers can be very difficult to do. We need to understand what they are looking for in order to make sure that the ideas that we present to them are the ones that they will want to have presented on their stage. Create a unique idea for a speech and clearly communicate how it would be of interest to your community and you’ll have a good shot at becoming a TED speaker!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: If you get rejected by one TED event, do you think that you should apply to a different TED event?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

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