Getting invited to do a TEDx talk is a dream for many, and in my last article I shared insight into my experience as a TEDx organiser of how we go about curating talks and selecting/inviting speakers.
However, the challenge with this approach is that we live in a time which is heavily saturated with ideas, and no matter how much great impact you’re making and exposure your idea may be getting, the reality is not all ideas will get ‘spotted’ by TEDx event curators like myself.
This is where the second approach to getting a TEDx talk comes in; applying to speak.
As I mentioned in the first article, it’s important to bear in mind that all TEDx events are independently organised; and it’s therefore at the discretion of each individual organiser as to whether they choose to run open applications for speakers, and not all do. The information I’m sharing below is based on my experience, and what we do at TEDxFolkestone.
For our event we accept open speaker applications from anyone, however this is only within a specific time period and with a clear deadline date. This is to allow enough time for the lengthy process of reviewing and selecting speakers, while also factoring in enough time for the selected speakers to prepare their talks before the event date. Therefore, it is worth checking our (or other events’) website and/or asking when the next application window will be. Bear in mind speakers typically get selected anything from three to nine months ahead of the event date.
From what I’ve seen from other events, some may accept ad hoc or rolling applications from speakers; however, they will still be working with specific event dates in mind, and with a consideration of how long they are like to give selected speakers to prepare their talks. One thing is certain, though: don’t expect to get anything if you ask an organiser for a slot a week before their event!
To find out which TEDx events are in your area, their next event date, and links to their website, TED have a map detailing all upcoming licensed TEDx events. This you can find via ‘Attend’ > ‘TEDx Events’ tab on the TED.com website or via https://www.ted.com/tedx/events
The application process and criteria will vary between events, but ours includes a combined written and video application. We try to include as many guidelines as we can on our website as part of the process; other organisers may or may not be this detailed as part of the process, however all organisers will be following the same TED rules and guidelines for organisers. All the guidelines are publicly available via the TED.com website under the ‘Participate’ > ‘Organise a local TEDx event’ tab, and the specific guidelines for organisers to select speakers and topics can be found HERE. https://www.ted.com/participate/organize-a-local-tedx-event/tedx-organizer-guide/speakers-program I’d definitely recommend reviewing this before applying as there are certain topics/criteria which TED/TEDx do not accept.
When it comes to organisers reviewing and selecting speakers, again, each event will do it in their own way. At TEDxFolkestone we have a large selection team, all of whom will democratically review, discuss and shortlist. There is no single person making the decision, and therefore even if a team member encourages an individual to apply because they believe they have a strong talk idea (whether they approach the speaker or the speaker approaches them), the idea will still need to be reviewed by the whole team.
It is also worth remembering that when our team is reviewing applications, we are not only assessing the quality of individual application ideas, we are also considering the flow and dynamic of how all the talks work together as part of a whole event. All TEDx events must be multidisciplinary and showcase a broad range of topics; therefore, if two great applications address very similar topics, only one is likely to be selected.
What we are looking for in the contents of the speaker applications is the same as we will be looking for if we are inviting speakers – as detailed in part 1 of this article. We are looking for speakers who are actively putting their ideas into action and making a difference to solve a problem or benefit others. If you have no evidence or experience to support your idea, it’s unlikely to give us enough confidence to take your idea forward. However, that being said, you don’t have to be the world’s expert in your industry, but what you do need is to be an expert in your specific idea.
When inviting open applications, we frequently receive and review huge numbers of applications, so it is important to make sure your application* is clear, concise, and focused on exactly what your idea is and why it’s of value. Too vague, broad or unsupported and it’s unlikely to stand out. (*if you’d like more info on what makes a good application, please let me know in the comments below)
Applying to do a TEDx talk might seem like the quicker and easier route compared with waiting to be invited, however bear in mind it still requires the same, if not more, work to make sure your idea is genuinely unique and offers value. That said, I do appreciate it can be hard to know if your idea is unique and of value, but the only way to find out is to apply.
Even if you don’t get selected, the process of writing your application will help you get one step further to clarifying and better understanding your idea. And remember, just because an idea doesn’t get accepted doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea – it might just be not as clear or as refined as another similar topic … yet!
So just keep doing the work, and putting your idea out there in ways that benefits and bring value to others, and when it’s ready is when you’ll get accepted.