The process to land a TED Talk is ripe with confusion. Here are the most common misconceptions speakers have about how to land a TED Talk.
They think they have to be discovered or “invited”, rather than realizing they can apply proactively
It’s ok to try to grow your online influence and hope that you’ll get noticed one day (some TEDx speakers are “found”), but you can also apply to any event. Many have open speaker applications on their websites, and I can show you how to find them before they lock down their speaker list!
They work on having a great talk rather than a great pitch
When you decide to buy a book, you don’t read the whole book first – you look at the title and description. When you decide whether to click on an article, you don’t read the article first – you decide based on the title, picture, and sometimes a summary.
Many speakers work hard on getting feedback on their entire talk and making sure it’s amazing. TEDx events sometimes get over 200 submissions, so aren’t able to review everyone’s entire talk (and most speakers don’t have their talk written first). Instead, TEDx events will often make a decision whether to move on with a speaker based on a brief concept, so it makes sense to test and refine this so you have a rejection-proof pitch.
They focus on their speaking ability rather than their idea
Although you need to be a good communicator for people to understand your idea, good speaking only helps if you have an idea TEDx organizers are interested in. People don’t read books because the author is great at typing and using grammar correctly – they want the message that the author communicates. Many TEDx speakers are inexperienced speakers, but they have great ideas (after all, the tagline for TED is “Ideas Worth Spreading” not “people that are great speakers”).
They rely on word of mouth to find TEDx opportunities, so only learn about events after speakers have been finalized
TED maintains a directory of TEDx events happening in the next year, and there are several techniques I teach to find each and every TEDx speaking opportunity. Most people don’t know this technique and only learn about a TEDx event happening locally because of the event’s marketing. This marketing ramps up as they want to sell tickets, and by then, speakers have already been finalized.
They think all TEDx events are run by TED employees (or expect them to all be the same)
The truth is, TEDx events all have different organizers that are all volunteers, and none of them are employees of TED. This means applying to one doesn’t harm (or help) your chances at any other event, and applying on the TED.com website will not allow you to be considered for any TEDx event. Further, each TEDx event will have different videography teams and the quality of the production varies drastically.
They don’t realize the difference between TED and TEDx
The truth is, most people think of “TED Talks” as a talk given at either a TED or TEDx event. TED gets about 25,000 speaker applicants every year (for about 100 spots to speak). TEDx events get about 50-100, and TED reserves many speaking spots for past TEDx speakers. So, if most of the general public doesn’t know the difference and it’s a lot easier, TEDx is an untapped opportunity (it certainly helped people like Simon Sinek and Brene Brown spread their messages worldwide!).