I’VE just delivered my third TEDx talk. Next year, I’ve been asked to compere another one so, technically, that will make it four.

Not only am I a seasoned TEDx speaker, but I’ve also coached TEDx teams, so you might say I have inside information when it comes to what goes into organising the events AND selecting the speakers.

Let me say, ahead of anything else, that the competition for TEDx speaker spots is great. There are ALWAYS scores more applications than there’s space in the schedule for, and they start flowing in long before a call for entries has gone out.

Successful TED talks have been known to launch careers, skyrocket an individual’s following and lead to everything from book deals to TV appearances.

On the other hand, there will be thousands upon thousands of TEDx talks out there with only a handful of views, so they’re not a guaranteed golden ticket to a guest spot on the Ellen show by any stretch.

Love them or hate them, there’s no denying that TED has taken the world by storm and created a platform that millions of people want to be part of.

Love them or hate them, there’s no denying that TED has taken the world by storm and created a platform that millions of people want to be part of.

At the time of writing, the TEDx Youtube channel had something like 22 million subscribers, with a further 15.7 million on the TED channel.

Incidentally, if you’re wondering about the difference, TED is the big, global platform, whereas TEDx events are more local and independently organised under the TED banner. Make no mistake though — there’s a really stringent set of rules to adhere to with the local events, and that’s where most of the speaker applications fall down.

And that leads me to the real heart and soul of this article. Here are my top tips to ensure your application fails. If you want a chance to speak in front of those giant, red letters, you’d better not be making any of these faux pas!

1. IGNORE THE RULES

It doesn’t matter how wonderful your story may be, how amazing your transformation or how arduous your journey, if it doesn’t tick TED’s boxes, it’s not getting through the selection process.

This is where I see so many speakers falling down. You all desperately want to stand on that red dot, yet you haven’t put the tiniest bit of research into the criteria for a talk.

Sure, your story might be hugely inspiring, but remember that TED stands for Technology Education and Design. You can find guidelines HERE. Furthermore, remember that if you’re citing something as fact, you’ll need to back it up with proper evidence, and if you’re citing something as an opinion, well, go back to those guidelines and make sure your big idea is watertight!

2. GO BIG ON SPIRITUALITY

No. Stop right there. TED doesn’t really do spirituality. This is a major stumbling block as a huge swathe of speakers want to talk about their path to enlightenment, finding ‘god’, energy work, light healing or some major spiritual breakthrough they’re compelled to tell the world about.

Look, if you follow me regularly, you’ll know spiritually floats my boat big time, but we need to keep it away from TEDx applications if we want any hope of success.

TED’s guidelines include:

  • No religious proselytizing (including new age beliefs).
  • Only good science.

I promise you, these are taken seriously. And don’t even think about trying for quantum physics to get around things… that’ll likely fall foul of the ‘good science’ rule.

3) SELL FROM THE STAGE

The last thing any TEDx organiser will want you doing is harping on about your new book or talking about how successful you are as a coach/author/archaeologist/accountant/insert your career here. I’ve seen people successfully get their talks through and then squeeze little business plugs in when they get to the live event.

TED has a strict approval process when it comes to those videos. They can — and do — kick videos out, as well as changing talk titles and adding disclaimers if they don’t like your content.

Keep it clean, people. Don’t use the TED platform to sell. In fact, don’t treat it like any other platform speaking event. Don’t introduce yourself at the start, or at the end. Don’t tell people how they can contact you. Don’t do ANYTHING to openly promote your business.

4) GET YOUR PA/VA/PR TO APPLY ON YOUR BEHALF

Climb down off your ego pole and put some effort in.

When it comes to TEDx talks, it doesn’t matter how famous or important you think you are, the application needs to come from YOU.

When there are hundreds of other people all competing for that one talk spot, do you really think the organisers will have the time, or inclination, to go to and fro between you and your staff? It’s like somebody’s mum sending in a job application for them. And it’s a time waster.

They want to hear YOUR pitch — ideally with a 3–5 minute video — from YOU.

5) BIG UP YOUR CREDENTIALS WITHOUT GIVING A TALK OUTLINE

“Dear TEDx organiser,

“I am an award-winning entrepreneur, with a successful business and a track record of…” *DELETE*

Give your talk outline first. Show how it ties in with the theme of the event. THEN explain why you have the credentials to supply that content.

6) CHANGE YOUR TALK ON THE DAY

I’ve actually known people who’ve done this. Maybe they really are determined to push a spirituality-based talk or go all new age, or perhaps they’re determined to plug that book or training programme. Whatever the reason, please, please DO NOT be tempted to do this.

As I’ve already explained, TED may well reject your video or, at the very least, stick a big, fat disclaimer on it, AND you’ll be earning the organising team a black mark as well as potentially discounting yourself from any future selection processes.

It’s not big. It’s not clever. It impacts negatively on other people. Just don’t.

Still want to step onto that TEDx stage?

If you’ve read all this and you still have your heart set on delivering a TED talk, your best bet is to head on over to the TED website and find the events coming up. You can even search geographically right HERE.

When you’ve found the events that interest you, check to see if applications are being accepted and see what the theme of the event is; can you tick all those TED tick boxes AND tie into the theme? Excellent!

Bear in mind that the organiser will probably already be inundated with applications.

In my experience, networking can be well worth your efforts. Find the team members on LinkedIn and connect with them, perhaps. Build a relationship. Play the long game — aim to get in there ONE DAY instead of STRAIGHT AWAY. Find out what they’re looking for. Be a help and not a hindrance.

One more quick tip on that note, please DO NOT be a sulky cry baby if you don’t get in straight away.

I’ve heard people coming up with all kinds of bitter, sore loser remarks when their talks haven’t been accepted. That’s another sure fire way to scupper your chances for the future. TEDx teams DO talk to one another. They’re non-profit events run by volunteers and they’re pretty stressful to pull together. The last thing any of those TEDx curators want is mardy speakers.

If you don’t get in, feel free to ask for feedback after the dust has settled — politely and kindly. Ask what they’re looking for in future and how you can best deliver the kind of content they most need.

Be kind. Be considerate. Be a grown up.

Play by the rules. Be prepared for the long game. Keep going.

Wishing you every success in your adventures.

Until next time,

#UnleashYourAwesome,

Taz

x


Taz Thornton is the author of Awesome Sauce — a free, weekly positive life and business round-up, with good news stories, positivity tips and visibility hacks for your brand. In a few minutes each week, you get a dose of optimism and some awesome advice to get seen and stay happy.

Taz is a best-selling author, inspirational business speaker and multiple TEDx speaker, consultant on confidence, personal brand and visibility, and an award-winning coach (UK’s Best Female Coach 2018 — Best Business Woman Awards). She is also the creator of the #UnleashYourAwesome and #BrandMastery personal and business development programmes, as well as #UNLEASHED — an affordable confidence, content and cashflow building programme for coaches, healers and therapists.

Taz has been featured on BBC, ITV, in HuffPost, Diva, The Daily Mail and countless other newspapers, magazines and podcasts. Taz is also a regular columnist for the America Out Loud talkshow network. In 2019, she was named as one of the most inspirational businesswomen in the UK.

Find her on FacebookLinkedInTwitter and Insta.