How to get a TEDx talk – Part 1/2

Ok – so you want to do a TEDx talk but don’t know where or how to go about it?

In short, there are two ways to bag yourself a TEDx talk: either you get invited or you apply.

But HOW do you get invited or apply, you may ask?  Well, in this first article (of two), I’m going to share with you how to get invited to speak. 

But to answer this question of how to get invited, it helps to first give you some background on how TEDx talks, and more specifically TEDx events, work.

Each TEDx event is independently organised, but all under the same format and rules from TED.  I run TEDxFolkestone so the insight I’m sharing here is based on my experience and knowledge of running this event only.  Other organisers and events may do things slightly differently; however, we’re all doing things based on the same guidelines from TED.

So, let’s start by looking at what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ for organisers, and therefore how they look to invite speakers for their TEDx events.

TED encourages event organisers to invite speakers.  They encourage organisers to curate a list of important issues and topics relevant to both the event’s location/immediate community and the wider global community.  These topics must cover a broad range of sectors, disciplines and industries.  As organisers, we will then find and invite speakers who are actively doing work to address the issues, topics and challenges they identified. 

Of course, it can also work the other way; we/organisers may come across the great work someone is doing to address an issue or challenge in a certain sector, which we may not previously have considered but we believe is important and we would like to showcase within our event.  

The topics and issues and, subsequently, the types of talk that any one organiser chooses will be unique to each event, because each event is independent and each event curator will have different values around what they believe to be the most important ideas and topics to showcase.  Therefore, it’s worth bearing in mind that your talk topic might not be suitable for every TEDx event.

From what I’ve seen, the bigger and longer established events tend to invite their speakers, as it tends to be more likely that they’ll have a clearer idea of the style of event they want to run and will have more experience in the idea/talk curation process. 

So how do you get invited to speak?  Well, for us at TEDxFolkestone, we need to see you are actively putting your ‘idea’ into action to address whatever important challenge or issue it is your work aims to explore or resolve.  We’re looking for proven solutions, not just ‘nice ideas’ but with no evidence to back them up.  If you’re doing something genuinely unique and valuable, and putting it out into the world, then it’s more likely we/organisers will find you.  

However, there are of course only so many organisers and speaking slots; so, assuming you have a genuinely unique and valuable idea, how do you increase your chance of being spotted and invited?  Well, when I say you need to be actively putting your work out there, this does not mean you are a self-promotion junkie, but, rather, that you are actively putting your idea into action because you want to help people solve a problem.  If there is value in what you’re doing, over time you’ll get the organic exposure and engagement, and increase your chances of getting spotted by us or another event curator.  If you are passionate about the benefit and value of your idea – for others, as opposed to just for yourself – then this will probably be something you’re naturally doing anyway. 

Some events may allow you to submit your ideas, and this can of course be a good way to make them aware of what you’re doing; however, unless your talk idea is really unique, or happens to align with a topic they are looking to address, then you may not hear back from them, especially if they’ve not actively asked you to send them your idea, and they more than likely receive lots of unsolicited talk ideas all the time!  At TEDxFolkestone we allow people to submit ideas, but only at certain times of year, as part of a specific application process.   I will be sharing more information about this process in part 2 of this article. 

So, what can you do to increase your chances of getting seen by a TEDx curator?

Firstly, my advice would be to find out more about the specific TEDx event(s) you’d like to speak at.  Do your research, read their website and find out how they do things; if they don’t mention anything about speaker applications then, chances are, they invite speakers.  Watch their previous talks, attend the event and find out if your talk idea would fit with the sort of topics and themes they’ve previously curated.  If you think your idea is relevant and their site allows, you could get in touch – but don’t take it personally if they don’t reply; bear in mind they may not be currently looking for speakers or they may already have a speaker addressing a similar topic to yours.  

You could try attempting to connect with curators on social media, but don’t spam them with your idea; if it’s a good idea – you’re being proactive about getting it out there, and people are engaging with it because it adds value – then they will see it.  Then, if and when it’s relevant to their event, they will come to you!

I know ‘waiting to be invited’ may sound like a frustrating and very passive approach, however, this is where it’s worth asking yourself: why do you want to do this talk so much anyway?  If your answer is simply ‘because you want to do a TEDx talk’, then this is unlikely to get your idea selected!   

But if your answer is ‘because you believe you have a genuinely unique idea that can benefit others and make a difference to the world’, then the actions you need to take to get your idea out there and seen won’t be a chore, because you’ll probably already be doing them – because you want to make a difference to the world with your idea!  Right?!

You getting a TEDx talk will be as a result of you making a difference with your idea – it is not the way you make a difference with your idea!  

So, what are you waiting for?!  Get out there and start putting your idea into action!

UP NEXT, in Part 2 of this article – I’ll be sharing insights on the other way to get a TEDx talk: by applying to speak.