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TED vs TEDx: Who Can Become a TEDx Speaker
Many people who want to become a TEDx speaker get confused between TEDx and TED events.
They search for how to become a TED speaker while they plan to give a talk to a local community.
However, not everyone knows that even if you give a TEDx talk it still can be published on a TED official website.
Let’s clarify those details from the very beginning.
What is a TED talk event?
TED event is the main conference that is held once a year in Vancouver, Canada. There are also a few extra events during a year TEDWomen, TEDSummit, and TEDGlobal.
TEDx events are local events that have license from TED so that they can be organized in the same style. They are smaller and are hosted and promoted by the local communities.
If you want to learn more about TED vs TEDx then read the article What’s the difference between TED and TEDx.
As there are many TEDx events around you have more chances to become a TEDx speaker rather than a TED speaker.
Moreover, some TEDx talks get uploaded to the official ted.com site and get even more exposure.
With the time, viewers don’t remember where a talk was presented on a TED or TEDx event.
If you look at some popular talks featured on the TED site, you may be surprised.Many people search on Google for Simon Sinek’s TED talk Start with Why. However, the talk was given at TEDxPuget Sound and was named How Great Leaders Inspire Action where he presented a concept of the Golden Circle.
Start with Why was the idea of his speech and the same year he published a book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.
His TEDx talk was later uploaded to the TED site, featured by the editors, and still is one of the most popular talks.
With all of these, a lot of people consider that Simon Sinek gave a TED talk, which is not.
Another example is Brené Brown and her TEDx talk The Power of Vulnerability.
She originally presented at TEDxHouston and then her talk was also uploaded to the TED site, featured by TED's editors, and went viral.
As it’s so popular many people think that she presented at a TED event.
Many great TEDx talks are not that popular, still, the TED brand itself gives a lot of credibility to a speaker and such talks are often mentioned as TED talks.
Now, you might be wondering:
Who can be a TED speaker?
Many TED speakers are well-known people and experts. TED event has high expectations of their presenters. The organizers look for those who can inspire, bring new ideas and delight the audience. However, as it's mentioned in the rules, emerging artists, scientists, and thinkers, also have a chance to be featured on a TED stage.
Although everyone can apply and get a chance to speak at TED it's much more difficult.
But what about TEDx?
Who can be a TEDx speaker?
To be a TEDx speaker you need to know what you talk about and have expertise or experience in that area. For many people becoming a TEDx speaker was that turning point when they got more exposure and people started looking at them as thought leaders.
It is much easier to get accepted as a speaker if you apply for a TEDx talk rather than TED.
As a result, more people participate in the TEDx event.
So, once you decide to become a TEDx speaker it’s time to apply for a TEDx Talk to share your idea worth spreading.
How to Apply for a TEDx Talk
If you’ve been thinking about giving a TEDx talk and you already have the idea that you want to share with the world, then just do it.
In this chapter, you’ll get a guide on how to apply for a TEDx talk with the tips that I wish someone told me before I gave my TEDx speech.
Let’s dive right into that.
When you become a TEDx speaker you will have a big authority boost for your personal brand that will show you as an expert in your industry.
Once you’ve done it, you will notice that mentioning it opens up many more new opportunities, and it will be easier to get any publicity.
There are many TEDx events around the world. Anybody can apply to host an event, get the license for one year, and organize it with the name they were approved for.
For you, to speak at a TEDx event you need to apply for a TEDx talk with your idea and a brief description of your talk.
How do you get selected for a TEDx talk?
To get selected for a TEDx talk you can fill the application to become a TEDx speaker on the event's website. If there is no website, then you can write to the organizers and ask how you can become a TEDx speaker at their event.
Or if you know the organizers, then ask them directly if they look for speakers or know about other upcoming TEDx events where they could recommend you as a speaker.
While talking to organizers is an easy option, the reality is that not many people are lucky to have such friends and they go with a traditional way.
If you prefer video instruction then I filmed the whole process for you on how to become a TEDx speaker that you can watch here.
And below you’ll find the written guide on it.
How to Apply for a TEDx Talk Step by Step
Step 1. Attend Any Live TEDx Events
Before you apply for a TEDx talk I recommend you to attend any of the TEDx events live to see how it looks like and get the feeling of how it is organized.
Although each event is different, it will give you a better perspective from the inside rather than watching TEDx talks online.
Simply search for the TEDx events in your area.
For example, here are some events in California.
Also, if you have a chance, get to know the organizer.
You may ask about the details of their next event or maybe they can recommend you to another one.
Once in a while, TED hosts regional workshops for event organizers so they could connect and learn from each other.
So, if you know one organizer, he or she may possibly introduce you to others.
Step 2. Plan a Potential Topic for Your TEDx Talk
When you think about a potential topic for your TEDx talk consider it as a long-term investment.
So, when you pick the topic, is that the one area of expertise that you want to be known for years?
Be thoughtful about it.
At this point, decide on the main concept so you could fill it in when you will apply for a TEDx talk.
Some TEDx events provide special coaching to help you polish your speech and rehearse. But many of them won’t do that.
Double-check that with the event and be ready that you might do all the preparation by yourself.
If you need help with getting accepted for a TEDx event and preparing your speech, then feel free to contact me.
Step 3. Search for the Events Where You Could Become a TEDx Speaker
Once you’re ready with your idea find the suitable events where you could be a TEDx speaker.
How to find a TEDx event nearby:
1. Go to ted.com.
2. At the top menu select Attend and then TEDx Events.
Then, you will see a map and a list below with all scheduled TEDx events around the world.
3. Filter events by your location (city, region, country).
You can also filter by the name and type of the events, year, month, and those that have available space for the attendants.
4. Search for the TEDx events nearby.
5. Select those types of events that your idea will fit.
There are several types of events to apply for a TEDx talk that will benefit you the most if you want to boost your personal brand and public speaking career.
TEDx Standard events are the “main” TEDx events. They are usually named after the location-based community they serve, something like TEDxNewYork or TEDxSeattle. They represent a diverse selection of talks.
TEDx University events are held at universities and organized and attended by students. If your message is relevant to students, you can apply there.
TEDx Youth events are often organized in schools and have a mix of students and adults.
TEDx Women events are TEDx events focused on women. They mostly have women as speakers or talks on the topics that are related to women. They may only be organized around the official TEDWomen conference which happens at the end of the year.
So, if you have a message for women, then you can look for the TEDx Women events in spring to see if there is already some information online.
You can also check the TEDx Salon events to get to know the community and organizers.
TEDx Salon events are usually small weekly or monthly events that keep a local TEDx community involved between regular TEDx Standard events. During the TEDx salon events, attendees can watch TED Talks, sometimes organizers host a few speakers and have informal discussions about the talks they watched.
These events are run by the same team as the Standard event.
These talks may not be recorded. Also, TEDx Salon talks aren’t uploaded online.
So, if you are invited to speak at those events make sure that they will record it so you get the video for your own usage.
Still, if you want to become a TEDx speaker with the videos from the stage that are featured on TED YouTube channel and hopefully on ted.com site then apply to TEDx Standard, TEDx University, TEDx Youth, or TEDx Women events.
When you plan to apply for a TEDx talk, look through the events around your area and check their details.
You’ll have more chances to find the available spot for the events that are planned half of the year ahead or more.
If you apply for a TEDx talk at the last moment more likely the application will be closed already.
The list of the upcoming TEDx events that you see on the TED site may be incomplete.
Some organizers could get the license for a TEDx event already, but they didn’t submit the event details yet as they might plan it only in a few months.
Or someone can be in the process of getting the license for the next year.
Thus, check the event’s page in a month or so again to see if new events would come up nearby so you could apply for a TEDx talk.
Step 4. Check if the Selected TEDx Event Meet Your Standards
Before you apply for a TEDx talk watch the recordings of the previous years from the selected event.
Just go to ted.com or their YouTube channel, type the name of the TEDx event and you’ll get all the TEDx talks from there.
See what people shared about, who were the speakers, pay attention to the audio and video quality. More likely you’ll have the same video production as the event had the previous years which is not always good.
Step 5. Know the Theme of the TEDx Event
Many TEDx events have a theme. You may find it on the event's page like for TEDxDelrayBeach:
Some organizers post it on their websites:
Or mention in the application form like at TEDxBocaRaton:
Some TEDx events may be without a theme. For example, TEDxCambridge:
When I applied for a TEDx talk I knew nothing about the themes. As I found out later, I submitted my idea related to social media for the event that focused on AI that year.
Pretty awkward, isn’t it?
As you can guess I wasn’t accepted at that time.
The theme of the TEDx event can be anything that the organizer picked and confirmed with the official TED for that year.
They are often very abstract to encourage a variety of ideas. It may be let's say about AI, social media, health, the environment in the country. Anything.
At this stage when you just submit the application the suggested title of your talk represents the idea you want to cover.
More likely, you can rephrase it later a little bit before the official event, but the whole concept should be the same.
If you can’t find the theme of the event, you can email the organizer and ask about it so when you apply for a TEDx talk you could better adjust your idea and have a higher chance to become a TEDx speaker.
What comes up right away is:
How do I Contact TEDx Event Organizers?
Look for the organizer’s information on the TEDx event’s page. To find who organizes the TEDx event scroll down the event page and at the bottom you'll see one or two organizers.
Click on their photo or name to open the organizer’s profile.
Some of them mention email, website, or social media.
If you can’t find anything there, Google the event or organizer’s name and see if they have any contact details online.
Step 6. Apply for a TEDx Talk
After you pick the events where you'd like to speak go to the event's website and look for the TEDx application guidance notes or TEDx submission form.
If you don’t see a site linked to the event then simply Google the name of the event.
If you can’t find where to apply for a TEDx talk or the event doesn’t have a site at all, look for the organizer's info. Then, write to him or her asking about the details and how you can apply.
Some TEDx events have a specific form to fill if you want to apply to give a TEDx talk.
The questions are defined by each event, but many of them will be similar.
Let’s look at the TEDx application form for TEDxDavenport as it has the main fields that you may find in the applications for other events.
How to fill out a TEDx Talk application step by step:
1. Fill in your name
A TEDx application will start with your name.
2. Pick the type of a TEDx talk you will perform
At TEDxDavenport they ask what type of TEDx talk you would like to present. You can deliver your idea in seven ways (we’ll talk about them later), but they can fit into two general categories – the regular speech or performance with the demonstration.
3. Chose the event where you want to give a TEDx talk
There are two kinds of TEDx events are hosted under TEDxDavenport license TEDxDavenport (the Standard event) and TEDxYouth@Davenport that focuses on teenagers and young adults.
If you have this choice in your TEDx application then select the one where you’d like to speak.
4. Write the idea and outline of your talk
Then, they have a list of suggestions and requirements (that come from the official TEDx rules) for you to check followed by the field where you need to describe your idea.
Some TEDx events put recommendations at the beginning of the TEDx application, some add them as the required checkboxes that you read and checkmark if you accept them.
Their purpose is to clarify what is expected in your TEDx talk.
This application mentions describing your talk using a maximum of 500 characters. Outline your talk with the main idea that you'd like to share.
Some TEDx applications will have an outline section asking to just briefly describe your talk. Keep it within 200-300 words unless they ask for something else.
Make it clear how your idea fits the theme, and specify the major points you are going to talk about.
5. Add a link to a video where you talk about your idea
Next, they ask you to include a link to a 1 to 3-minute video sharing your TEDx talk idea.
Some events won’t mention how long the video should be.
Anyway, if you need to film a video introduction, record your brief 2-3 minutes intro focusing more on the idea you want to talk about and why it is important for others.
Some TEDx events can give you guidance on what they look for in a video.
For example, TEDxBroadway mentions what to consider when you submit your video:
You can upload your video to YouTube or Vimeo with a status Unlisted. That means that it will be available only for people who have a link to a video.
This is how the option looks like on YouTube when you upload your video:
6. Include your credibility
Some TEDx applications may ask you to write why you are the right person to give this speech and add your credibility related to your TEDx talk.
That can be your experience, your research, awards, everything that shows why you’re qualified to speak about that topic.
Don’t be afraid of this field. You don’t know what level of experience the organizers look for.
Its purpose is to support your TEDx application and show that you know what you talk about, and why the organizers should choose YOU to speak about this idea and not someone else.
When you apply for a TEDx talk try to emphasize how useful and practical your topic is for the audience rather than just focusing on how passionate you are about your idea.
7. Share the link(s) where organizers can learn more about you
This part allows you to show more about who you are and why you might be considered as the right speaker for this TEDx event.
As you’ve noticed each part of the TEDx talk application builds up your profile from the idea for a TEDx talk to why they need to pick you.
8. Mention where you’re located
Some TEDx applications will ask you about your location.
9. Share other details required in the TEDx application
Depending on the event, the organizers may ask for some general details about you.
Here they ask you about your age. That’s probably because they have two events one for adults and another one focused on young people.
10. Double-check your contact information
You’ll also need to include the contact information. Usually, it’s your email.
Double-check the spelling as it's the way the organizers will contact you to inform you about the next steps, ask for more details, etc.
Step 7. Follow the Selected TEDx Event Updates
When you apply for a TEDx talk see if the event has social media accounts or email subscriptions.
Follow them and subscribe as they may share useful information about the event and how to fill out a TEDx application.
Also, look for other TEDx events, not only one where you applied to. As you saw, there were many of them around New York and you will find many more around the country.
Apply to those that are also a good match with your idea.
If you applied for a TEDx event and weren't selected, write them an email and ask why and what you can improve next time.
When I applied for a TEDx talk one of the organizers replied that they already selected all the speakers for that year. However, he suggested to follow up the next year. I did that and had an opportunity to become a TEDx speaker.
And if you were selected, then congratulations!
Start preparing to give a TEDx talk.
How to Give a TEDx Talk
Here is a step by step process of how to give a TEDx talk:
- Pick the type of talk you want to give
- Write a TEDx talk script
- Make sure that your talk is up to 18 minutes
- Narrow down the main idea that you want to share
- Edit your speech so it would sound natural
- Present in front of your friends
- Correct where it’s necessary
- Finalize the slides
- Practice a lot, everywhere, out loud
- Practice at least once on the stage where you will perform
- Give a TEDx talk on the TEDx event
Now, let’s get into more details.
Step 1. Pick the type of talk you want to give
Once you got selected to give a TEDx talk start preparing your script.
You probably already thought what you may talk about or how you’re going to express your idea.
On the ted.com website, they give a list of the types of talks of how you can perform.
It can be a regular speech, demonstration, performance, etc.
What are the seven types of TED talks?
You may give a TEDx talk in many different ways. Below are seven types of TED talks with examples from the last few years.
When you see something similar to how you want your talk to be go to TED and TEDx YouTube channels or look at ted.com for other performances with a similar style to get a sense of how people deliver their talk and what you can apply for yours.
The Big Idea
The Big Idea talks reveal one or two important, very strong points. An example is Lori Gottlieb's TED talk How Changing Your Story Can Change Your Life where she took one situation and showed you versions of the same story from the perspective of two people.
The Small Idea
The Small Idea talks bring an engaging opinion on an interesting topic which is not necessarily covers a groundbreaking idea or global problems. Something narrower that brings up a thought-provoking message.
Eva Galperin brilliantly expressed that in her TED talk What You Need to Know About Stalkerware.
Because of the story that happened with her friend, Eva little by little got involved with research on stalkerware programs.
She explained how they work and set the future goal to educate people about these programs and bring more awareness on how to protect yourself.
The “Issue” talk
The “Issue” talks create awareness about an issue that many people may not know much about.
Jochen Wegner in his TED talk What Happened When We Paired Up Thousands of Strangers to Talk Politics touched the problem that political discussions amongst people with different opinions had become really difficult.
As a result, families are splitting, friends no longer talk to each other as people stay in their bubbles.
Though a simple way to get a new perspective could be a one-on-one conversation with someone who doesn't have your opinion which allows you to see another perspective through someone else's eyes.
So, he shared about his project called "Europe Talks" and the surprising results they'd got.
The Tech Demo
The Tech Demo talks showcase some clever new innovations that the speaker was a part of creating, as Marc Raibert did in his TED talk Meet Spot, the Robot Dog that Can Run, Hop and Open Doors.
He shared the idea that robots can do what people and animals do and demonstrated his robot right on the stage.
The Performances TED talks may include music, dance, magic, puppetry, or some other performance. Those can be a full performance or a combination of performance and a talk.
Steven Sharp Nelson started his TEDx talk How Music Can Help You Find Peace After Loss with a beautiful music performance and then he shared a deep, personal story.
He brought the idea that the power of music can act as a guide in the journey to reconnect and to reunite with our loved ones.
And he ended with another incredible music piece encouraging people to reconnect at that moment with someone they love.
The Artist’s Statement
The artist's statement talks feature the artists showing their art, sharing the process of creating the pieces and the meaning behind them. Nirupa Rao, a botanical artist who paints plants with watercolor shared in her TEDx talk how she wanted to show the stories and complexity of the plants.
The “Dazzle with Wonder”
The “Dazzle with Wonder” talks are usually about the wonder of science and discovery. For example, David R. Liu shared his lab's development of base editors that can rewrite DNA.
His talk is grounded on his research, discoveries, and the results of years of work.
Here is a quick summary of those seven types of TED talks in the infographic.
After you decide on the type of your talk start planning your performance.
Step 2. Write a TEDx talk script
At this point many people wonder if they should write the whole TEDx talk script, just to outline the talk, or, as they have a lot of speaking experience, just go and give a talk on the stage.
You don’t have to write the whole talk, but…
I've heard many stories and seen people who said that they are ready to give a talk and don't need much preparation however their performances weren't good at all compared to other TEDx speakers.
Some of them spoke longer than 18-minutes and the talk wasn’t published online, some were rumbling around without a clear point, some promoted their business too much, some were motivational, but that’s all they’ve got – they missed that IDEA that worth spreading.
TEDx events are not looking for motivational speeches or an elevator pitch about your business.
Even more, it’s actually forbidden to promote anything on the stage. If you do so your speech may not be published online.
So, when you write a TEDx talk script you can go through the context of your script many times to make sure that it clearly shows your big idea and you can easily edit different parts of it to create an outstanding speech.
Step 3. Make sure that your TEDx talk is up to 18 minutes
One of the common question is:
How long does a TED talk last?
The TED talks are required to be up to 18 minutes long to keep people’s attention. The same rule applies if you give a TEDx talk. Tomer Eldor analyzed 2550 ted talks and found out that the most popular talks were between 8–18 minutes.
Furthermore, it's written in the rules that TEDx talks should be less than 18 minutes long.
If you go over 18 minutes then your talk may not be published on the TEDx YouTube channel.
There were exceptions usually for well-known people that gave long talks. Also, you can find a few talks that go over 18 minutes.
But they are just exceptions rather than regular practice.
Don't risk hours or preparation and a lot of effort by trying to fit a lot in your speech and talking for more than 18 minutes.
Step 4. Narrow down the main idea that you want to share
When you get ready to give a TEDx talk think about what you want people to do, understand, learn, change as a result of your talk. You may think about why do you want to do this talk in the first place.
How do you want your speech to impact the people who will listen to it?
Narrow down your idea.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when they give a TEDx talk is they try to fit a lot of ideas, techniques, and other information in those 18 minutes.
As a result, listeners get lost and miss the whole point of what you try to say.
You can add some more details to express your idea but the key factor of a great TEDx talk is to have one major idea or concept for one talk.
Step 5. Edit your TEDx speech so it would sound natural
After you wrote your TEDx talk go through it again with a purpose to make it sound natural and easy to listen to and understand.
Here are eight tricks on how to write a TEDx talk:
Write a TEDx talk in a conversational style.
Write as you would usually talk. Later, when you will practice your talk out loud correct the necessary parts to sound more natural.
Connect with your audience.
Use words and stories that people can relate to so your TEDx talk will have a lasting effect on those who will watch it.
Use short sentences.
Edit long sentences changing them to short ones. It will be easier to memorize. Also, shorter sentences are often received better by people, rather than long ones which are used in writing.
Simplify the context.
Remove all the complicated words and sentences that are difficult to pronounce.
Make sure that each story or example you share in a TEDx talk is there for a purpose to expand the main idea that you want to express.
Summarize the point you try to make.
When you share the stories or studies summarize the point you wanted people to notice.
Adjust slides and demonstrations to your TEDx talk.
You can use visuals, add performance, or demonstrate something to fully express your idea.
End your TEDx talk with a key takeaway.
What do you want people to leave with after your talk?
Then, you’re ready to give a TEDx talk in front of your first audience.
Step 6. Give a TEDx talk in front of your friends
One thing is to practice alone and another is to perform in front of people. You don’t need a big crowd. Get together a few friends and share your TEDx talk with them.
It's ok if you won't remember the whole script yet. Get a feeling of how your talk sounds, and how it feels to present it, or do some demonstrations and see people's reactions.
Step 7. Correct where it’s necessary
Once you get feedback, finalize your TEDx talk script, modify the slides where it's necessary (if you have them), and start memorizing it.
Step 8. Finalize your slides
You can give a TEDx talk with or without the slides. It’s up to you how to present it.
If you plan to have the slides, then complete them along with your script so you will rehearse your speech together with the slides.
That way you will know after what phrases to click the presentation clicker to switch the slides.
Step 9. Practice a lot, everywhere, out loud
The more you practice, the better you will look and the more natural you will sound on stage when you give a TEDx talk.
Every time you get a free minute use it to rehearse some part of your talk or even all of it.
Step 10. Practice at least once on the stage where you will perform
If you have a chance practice at least once on the stage where the event will be hosted. You’ll get familiar with the place.
It would be great if organizers would turn on all the lights and set up the stage as it would already be a performance. Ask someone to film you so you could analyze your performance and improve.
When you give a TEDx talk on stage you will see that:
YOUR PERFORMANCE LOOKS GREAT
YOUR TALK SOUNDS NATURAL
EVERYTHING LOOKS GOOD ON VIDEO
Or you’ll also notice what you might need to change.
For example, if there is a screen behind you then sometimes the light of the screen might be so bright that your face will look dark.
In that case, you might want to change the brightness of the slides, modify the light in the auditorium or add demonstration to your performance instead of the slides.
If you want to leverage your TEDx talk for building your personal brand later, then you need to get a good video when you give a TEDx talk.
With all of these:
Step 11. Give a TEDx talk on the TEDx event
When the time comes do your best to give a TEDx talk.
If you prepared before then you have everything you need to deliver a great performance and touch people with your talk.
It's the time when you officially become a TEDx speaker. Enjoy that moment and treat yourself with something after the event as you deserve a reward for the hard work you've done!
When your TEDx talk will be published online share it with everyone to give it more exposure and then be proactive to leverage it for growing your personal brand.
If you want to get a roadmap of how to become a TEDx speaker and what to prepare to apply for a TEDx talk then get this free TEDx speaker guide.
Now It’s Your Turn
So that’s how to become a TEDx speaker in 2023.
Now I want to turn it over to you: Which tip from this guide was the most helpful to you?
Let me know by leaving a quick comment below.
Marina Barayeva is an international speaker and coach who helps women entrepreneurs become recognized experts and confidently sell their services. She is also a TEDx speaker, has presented to audiences in Asia and North America, and has been featured in such media as ArtPeople, CCTV, China Radio International, and others.