In this blog post, I’m going to take you through the EXACT process I underwent that led me to become a TEDx speaker.
First of all, let’s discuss:
WHAT TED AND TEDx TALKS ARE:
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Ted – it’s a not-for-profit organization that leads with the idea of sharing ‘ideas worth spreading’.
It centers around a couple of day-long conferences at which an array of speakers (usually world-renowned amongst them) gather to give speeches about something worth sharing. In 18 minutes or less. Literally.
Here is what Google tells us:
To go to this article you can click here
So then the next question of course:
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A TED AND TEDX TALK:
TEDx is an outgrowth from what has become a very well respected platform – Ted. It became an opportunity to spread the Ted message by allowing (through very strict criteria) for local organizers to build Tedx events.
Based around the whole Ted concept they’ve in some ways gone on to become better known than Ted talks because of their volume in comparison to Ted. Speaking at TEDx is still coveted.
Again here is what Google tells us:
To go to this link you can head here
So ultimately there are many more Tedx speeches than there are Ted talks because they are independently organized rather than centrally.
Which is why ‘Joe Blogs’ such as you or I stand a better chance of actually becoming a Tedx speaker.
I actually managed to dig out an old Infographic on Flickr about Tedx:
You can access it directly here
WHAT IS THE ACTUAL BENEFIT?
Promotion; it’ll go on the TEDx YouTube channel which currently has 6.5 million subscribers
If you’re good you can do really well on their channel:
Notice that views appear to accrue over time – as only one speaker from the most popular list was within the last year.
Credibility; being a TEDx speaker is a badge of honor in many respects – there are posts on the matter across many major news outlets (Forbes, Huffington Post, Inc etc) and people as mega (I love that word) as Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking and more have blessed Ted stages
Networking; you pretty much now have a pathway for approaching anyone who has even been a TEDx speaker
Here is its Alexa rank:
And its Google Trends ranks over the last 2 years:
So the bottom line is: Ted talks aren’t what they were.
BUT Tedx talks have still grown steadily over the last 5 years:
So all in all – still extremely worthwhile speaking at a TEDx event – and a very competitive process given you’ve found your way to this blog.
How was it since helped me?
It’s probably played an active role in generating me around £20k+ revenue since it went live on YouTube.
I sh*t you not, it helps me close deals(instant credibility – like this blog post – most won’t complete reading it – but just seeing it will be enough),
Helped me build trust, landed me other speaking positions (private speaking functions and school one’s; both paid)
INSERT PICTORIAL EVIDENCE
I stand out amongst the crowd of ‘experts’.
As I have independently verifiable social proof
And this part is HUGE. i.e. it isn’t ‘because I say it is so’ but because you can see it. I can’t ultimately lie or exaggerate about that. This helps set me apart from lots of others who talk up their achievements (and then rely upon you to contact a private company to verify any claims)
With social proof – a Google search or screenshot will say it all.
So this is (at the time of writing and typically) how exactly I use it
This is LinkedIn
This is from my profile on People Per Hour
This is from Upwork
There’s a document I share with my marketing agency clients as well when asking for my credentials:
INSERT PICTORIAL EVIDENCE
Click here for that document
HOW I BECAME A TEDx SPEAKER:
Well on the 18th February 2015 I was approached by Summaiya Shaikh on LinkedIn – I still have the exact message history:
It starts like this:
At least this is the first message. This student of Aston University (at the time) was organizing a TEDx event and was on the hunt for speakers.
On the surface of it, one could imply that ‘you were asked on LinkedIn and that’s that’. But that isn’t that of course. It’s the tip of the iceberg, and I’d like to show you what you can’t see in my journey to becoming a TEDx speaker.
This was around the time I was carving a reputation out on LinkedIn as a careers specialist:
With that in mind – here are some of the messages I received over that period:
What you’ll notice from all of these messages that I received in the period between January and February 2015 is that there is a common consistency between them all.
It was my personal background that played a pivotal role in the decision for people to decide to professionally work with me
This has in fact always been the case. Due to the life I’ve lived personally, it has always helped with people wishing to learn more about why and how I’ve been able to live a relatively unorthodox life.
The part that the ‘unique things’ and ‘interesting career history’ actually refers to is THIS element of my LinkedIn profile, but more accurately speaking; my life:
This is a critical element that relates to being approached to be a TEDx speaker. There are one of three ways to become a speaker in general:
Being recommended by a friend
PREPARATION FOR THE EVENT:
I was asked to be a speaker
One informal Skype call (30 minutes)
‘The first one will just be so I can introduce myself to you, as formally as I can over Skype (!), and just have a general chat about the event and answer any questions you may have.’
A remit was given for the event:
‘Having spoken with the rest of the team, they are quite keen, given your story, for you to talk about developing unique ways of self-motivation and perseverance, especially along the lines of graduate employability, if possible
I also just wanted to make you aware that to keep in line with Tedx regulations, your speech cannot be purely motivational. We do however want to capitalize on your expertise as a speaker and your ability to draw the audience in’
A second formal Skype call with the event organizers (45 minutes)
The second Skype chat will be with myself, and the two head organizers, Reham and Alexandra. For this one, we’d like to hear the speech you will be making at the event.
Some admin to send:
And an outline for the speech.
You can see the ACTUAL one I did a couple of years ago (unchanged) here
MY ADVICE TO YOU ON BECOMING A TEDx SPEAKER:
Watch a couple of Tedx talks
10.5 hours of time needed
It starts in the manner which you’re probably already thinking. Why not watch a series of Tedx talks. Better yet why not watch Ted talks instead.
Don’t see it as a burden – see it as a benefit. You’ll probably learn a sh*ton from watching these videos. Moreso than any singular blog post might tell you – about life, success and much more besides:
This is a good place to start:
25 talks might SEEM like a lot. But it isn’t really.
With each talk being a maximum of 18 minutes we can assume (liberally) that the average speech is around 15 minutes on this list. I say this because the longest video is no more than 22 minutes (so Ted lied. Sue them)
However some videos are as short as 9 minutes 30 seconds:
So if we round up and assume you’ll need a 10-minute break per video that’s 25 minutes time to watch each video.
25 x 25 in 625 minutes of time required to watch 25 videos. That’s 10 hours 25 minutes. So basically in 2 comfortable days, you could watch the 25 most popular Ted Talks of all time.
It could actually read like a cheap (but accurate) infomercial:
Enrich your life; learn from the 25 best Ted Talks of all time and become a new you in less than 2 days.
So yes start there. You’ll learn about form, different presentation styles, subject matter, use of slides, pauses, stage presence, props, rhetoric, humor and 101 other things besides.
See these speeches as your reference point. Of the minimum operating standard of any speech, you might give
Research upcoming TEDx events
So once you’ve got through watching these speeches it’s time to actually work out how you will go and speak at a specific Tedx event.
There is no central way to apply for a Tedx talk itself as they are independently organized – so going to the central application form for ‘Ted’ will be of no use to you.
The next step then is to research upcoming events – and in this respect, Ted DOES provide:
Link to this page is here
I’ll talk you through the steps:
Have a go running a few searches based upon where and even when you would like to speak. Depending upon your country and location you may be limited somewhat of course
The filters that I chose to search by are country (London doesn’t seem to be an option unfortunately whilst New York is and Seattle (randomly picked city) isn’t:
Then 3 & 4 from the picture just refer to the area and upcoming events.
I’d say look for events that are at least 2 months away – simply because the closer the event the smaller chance you have of being picked as a speaker – most of the organization will have been done.
Once you’ve hit upon a location that looks like it makes sense for you – check the availability:
In the case of the event I’ve chosen in red for this example – ‘TedxLondon’, it’s on June 4th; which fits well within my 2 months+ time frame
Furthermore according to the color code, it’s been allocated it still has spaces available for people to buy tickets to attend. This means hopefully that there are still some slots for potential speakers.
If we take the example of Tedx City University – it appears that this event only 3 days before the ‘London’ event is sold out. Meaning I won’t bother applying there then – it’s a surer bet that they have already filled their slots.
Here’s what we see when we click on our event of choice:
Link to this page is here
So from this page, we’ve got some key and actionable information now.
We know the theme, the organizing team, and we can also check out some of the other TedxLondon events.
Using this information we can map out an appropriate pitch for the event, and we also know who it is we need to contact.
Tom O’Leary and Jessica Bradford.
We won’t just stop there, however. We can’t know whether the event has been filled in terms of speakers regardless of our research until we actually ‘make contact’.
So I’d say repeat this process for 4 to 5 different events so you have several chances to get it right. You may feel this is more work – but ultimately it’s quicker this way as opposed to trying it one at a time.
Tips on how to find them
In the instance of Tom O’Leary Ted make it incredibly easy to reach out to the organizer:
You can just click through on his name and be taken to his own page with lots of information about him here
In the case of his colleague, however, Jessica Bradford – Tedx want us to work a little harder:
No clickable link or contact details are written – so we need to find her information ourselves – which can be achieved via a simple google search:
Let’s quickly run through it:
So just using the keyword search as listed above brings up lots of links to Jessica – the primary one of interest is her LinkedIn profile:
Hello Jessica! There is also the case of her email address that we need to collect. You’ll notice that my LinkedIn profile looks slightly different – that’s because I use the app Hunter to lookup email addresses on websites and in this case via LinkedIn:
As you can see we get her work email address which Hunter lists with 97% accuracy. Enough for us to work with.
This method is something you can rinse and repeat for any Tedx speaker (or individual you want to contact more broadly)
One important point before you go ahead and just email Tom and/ore Jessica is this though:
I happened to click open a couple of those other links to other Tedx events Jessica is involved with, and here is an example of what I found:
This is ANOTHER Tedx event that Tom and Jessica are organizing just 13 days after the one which we mentioned earlier.
Evidently Tom and Jessica are deeply involved (or rather more broadly the Science Museum) in organizing multiple Tedx events – which would directly impact how we approach them.
They’re probably very busy – and showing you’ve done your research is important.
Now that you have the contact details of some of the organizers than you can contact – you should have that warm and fuzzy feeling inside.
You may well have already approached them in a half-cocked fashion.
I’m hoping you haven’t – because now we get to the element of how to actually prepare an ‘application’.
Understand the nature of TEDx
The motto of Tedx is ‘ideas worth spreading’. Keep that in mind. What I mean by that is – you may well online courses of mine walking you through Instagram.
However you’ll never see me grace the stage of a public speaking event walking anyone through Instagram.
Think about how this applies to Tedx and the possible themes for you to consider.
Now if I was to discuss how Instagram is changing our understand of happiness or understanding of beauty – and call it something along the line of ‘Beauty: Death by filter’.
That could work. So check the theme out (if there is one) – and in absence of that consider a subject that IS worth sharing.
Moving forward with the idea that I just mentioned I’d then take such an idea (which I just made up) and check the research against it:
Definitely enough there:
Do I have social proof that makes me any kind of expert on Instagram?
Yes, I do:
Ok great – but how has it then affected me?
Well what that screenshot doesn’t reveal….
How hard I’ve worked to build an Instagram profile without much success
The $1000+ I’ve spent to try and understand Instagram
The hangover (going from left to right) from picture one. Leaving to get on a plane after hanging out with my lady (picture two) and days I’ve spent alone with just my cat and I (picture three – but that one does make me laugh).
Perfect – so using all of this I can probably build out something of a powerful speech if I think long and hard about it.
Disclaimer: Now I’d never speak about something like this – I just used this process more to demonstrate how you could build your ideas out for a ‘ideas worth spreading’.
However remember – that ultimately any speech has to ultimately inspire/educate the audience. So there needs to be an answer I give:
‘Well this is unstoppable anyway – technology is changing everything. Instagram is just a singular example. We have Snapchat, Whatsapp, Facebook and others affecting us’
‘So I urge you too…’ etc.
Prepare an approach
Now I’ve given you an example above of how I might plan a speech out – be sure to double up and think of two WELL THOUGHT through examples.
It doesn’t need to take too long in the initial planning stages – a couple of Google searches and a high level <150 word piece explaining each pitch is fine.
But do offer an alternative in the instance that the first doesn’t sit well with the Tedx organiser. Do make them in the same area though – remember you are relating yourself as a subject matter in one area – so offering speeches based upon ‘Jujitsu’ and another being ‘poetry’ is going to undermine your application.
Discussing ‘Jujitsu’ and then perhaps ‘Combat sports stop aggression’ as an alternative could work however. They are in the same area (contact sports) and don’t contradict each other.
So if you fought Mixed Martial Arts (which is combined of a number of disciplines) I still wouldn’t offer up ‘Jujitsu’ and then ‘Boxing’ (even if you’re an expert in both) – because in the eyes of the recipient of your proposal(s) – I see you as being a ‘jack of all trades’ rather than an expert.
Keep all this in mind during the planning stage. Both give a clear rationale as well as EVIDENCE for why you’re perfect for that.
Make it subject, resident (i.e the place you’d be speaking at) and locally (the surrounding area) relevant
For extra brownie points – go one step further than others will perhaps – consider the audience and surrounding area.
Practically let me give you some examples of what I mean.
So in the instance of Instagram; and if the speech was to be given at Sadler’s Wells in London with the theme being ‘Confidence’ there are multiple opportunities here to make it relevant (hint: this example is from the event highlighted above)
You could look at a news report related to a London based Instagram influencer
You could find out from Sadler’s Wells directly the kind of audience that attends events
What about looking at a former speaker for inspiration?
Here are just three examples would make the title ‘Beauty: death by filter’ extremely relevant
Here is what I actually sent over to Tedx Aston in 2015 and in hindsight – I could have without much more effort have done a damn sight better job of it:
Be honest about how you found them
Develop or define your credentials
If the Tedx speaker event subject is already defined – how can you frame that event in context of your expertise?
I don’t mean you should completely rebrand everything you stand for (in the case your credentials aren’t immediately obvious) – as I know realistically that’s never going to happen.
But a simple makeover or framing would be great with this in mind.
E.g. if you’re discussing Instagram – do you even have one? Etc etc. Much of this will be about framing your credentials.
Perhaps you can use the fact that you are in the target market for a primary Instagram user but you don’t use it for the reasons discussed in the speech ‘Beauty: death by filter’.
The important thing would be that if you’re pitching to speak if the organiser is interested in you – there are ultimately four things they’re going to look at:
If you’re discussing a particular area (e.g. Instagram) – they’ll check to see that you’re actually active in that area
If your personal brand is strong a google search as I did for Jessica will bring up your website and that will be looked at
LinkedIn is probably the best place to assess someone’s credibility overall as well as their history
For advice about how to build out your LinkedIn, you can head here for advice on that.
Finally they’ll want to see some examples of your public speaking. We’ll discuss that now:
Other speaking gigs
Have you got any public speaking examples online?
This is really going to help you secure a place as a Tedx speaker. Organizer’s will want to see primarily that you have experience as a speaker (unless you’re very well recognized in your field or you have been approached to be a speaker), alongside your ability to hold an audience’s attention and more
If you have examples great. If you don’t – let’s discuss that.
Here are some ideas of how you can quickly line up some public speeches (which will help you with many other things you do in terms of your career development as well)
I’m actually working on some of the above right now:
How to become a Ted Speaker
So. If you do all of the above you should stand a pretty good chance of becoming a Tedx speaker.
Or at the least have an extremely good application.
Now I can let you in on something else you might not know.
You may not know that even though a lot of the time both Ted and TedX speakers are asked. You can also directly apply to become a Ted speaker – on the actual Ted platform which is even more prestigious.
Here is the form.
You can nominate yourself – and once you’ve prepared all of the above it’s a great platform to then apply to become a Ted speaker.
This I’ve never done but I would assume all of the same principles as above apply. And hey. Don’t ask don’t get :p.
If you’re interested in building your online brand you can email me directly here. I’d love to hear from you.