How to land a Ted Talk

How to land a Ted Talk

Let’s face it, I have always loved to tell stories.

If you are thinking about ‘how to land a Ted talk’ then start here.

Ever since I was small, I have really enjoyed the sensation of entertaining and educating others. From my first magic show as a 5-year-old, to stand up and improv in my 30’s to my first TED talk, it’s all been about how to hold attention through delivering good value.

A lot of folks have asked how I managed to land not one, ladies and gentlemen, but two TEDx talks in a month. This is a great question, with a long backstory, so I thought I would share it here with you so that the good idea that you have, that’s worth spreading, could reach a TED stage near you.

Don’t expect the moon too soon

The first time I applied for a TED was in 2010 at Brighton. The theme was heroes. Perfect! I’ve written a book about how to be the hero in the story of your life, this is my schtick.

I didn’t even get a reply. Or a rejection.

The tumbleweed rolled.

The first lesson, you might not get what you dream of straight away. It might actually take a little more work.


Know Your Shizzle

TED’s are succinct, practical and inspiring talks that share ideas worth spreading.

TEDx is the Fringe spin-off initiative from the central organization, that enables anyone, anywhere to host a TEDx get together. These are themed. That is, they have a focus on which the TED talks hang. This might be ‘play’ or ‘heroes’ or ‘disruptors’ or ‘exile’.

To be successful in pitching a TED talk you need to both forget this and remember it.

You need to forget it because, fundamentally, you need to talk about something you really know about, care about or have lived experience of. If you watch some of the most popular talks on TED you will find that the speakers all share this very personal and very expert approach to their topic. See How To Defend The World From Asteroids or My Magic Moves

These folks didn’t get to be experts by just knocking up a set of slides, they spent years getting to know their subject. And you should too.

Give time to thinking about what it is that you truly care about, that you could share and add real value to the total sum of human knowledge. You have to focus on the idea, not on yourself. The purpose of TED is to share valuable innovation and insight, not to “big up the (ERICA SOSNA) massive.”

This stage might take a few years.

Once you have cracked this…. Then you need to find a TEDx event that fits with your subject matter.

Here’s how to land a Ted Talk …in 2 little steps

1. Do Your Research

TEDx and TED both have their own websites. On TED itself you can submit a request to speak or have someone submit something about you and recommend you as a speaker. I think it’s probably a good thing to start with a little TEDx before graduating to a TED and its pretty tough to get on their roster – better to be approached by them.

However, it is much easier to get onto a TEDx. It still takes persistence, but this can totally pay off.

Go to the TEDx site. You will be able to search by geography for the TEDx’s taking place in your city, country or continent. Find the list of TEDx in your country or even in your geographical region.

TEDx’s have a theme or subject, like ‘change; or ‘the future’. Make a note of the websites for each of the TEDx’s that have a subject that suits your talk.

When you click through to their sites, each one will have a slightly different application process. This generally includes a biography for you, some context about you as a person and an expert and the subject of your talk. You will also be asked to submit some video of you speaking to an audience so that the organisers can get a feel for you and your style.

You also need to be super clear about why the theme of the event and your unique talk are a match. The organisers want talks that match and fit with their theme, they won’t be moulding the event just so that you can give your unique ‘types of toe fungus and how they grow’ speech :). Make sure you are explicit about how your talk and their topic line up nicely.

And if they don’t, don’t apply!


If you aren’t ready to give responses to these questions or have no video to share, that’s your opportunity for growth. Set a goal to be able to answer the question of:

“What is the subject of your talk?” or to be able to have some video to share in the next 3 months. There is no hurry. It is way, way better to be well prepared than to get an opportunity and blow it. Remember, TED is basically a live video monologue, delivered in front of an audience. This is quite different to a speaking gig – you need to be compelling on screen. If you aren’t ready to be, because of your content or your experience in presenting need a little love, then don’t panic, just give them a little love!

2. Be Persistent

TEDx’s organized by volunteers. Volunteers are busy people, juggling a whole bunch of stuff, just like you. So TEDx is their passion project. You might need to gently follow up and check in if you haven’t heard anything two weeks from the submission of your talk. Be kind, be helpful and be gracious. And then, if they say no, be ok about that. Ask for feedback and rinse and repeat. It took me several goes and several ‘no’s’ before someone said yes. If I let my ego dictate my response I might not have persistent enough to have these 2 TEDs under my belt.


If you were going to do a TED or TEDx – what would your subject be? Post below and I will coach you on how to refine your idea.

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