The TEDx Technique
How to craft your talk in a way that can land you on a TEDx Stage
In this article, you’ll discover what goes into a successful TEDx Talk, and some tactics to help land you on the TEDx stage.
The TED Team puts it blankly: “TED is the place to give the talk of your life.”
Any speaker who dreams of making it in the world of public speaking has certainly dreamt of being on a TED stage.
As one of the most coveted titles to add to your speaker resume, the TED Team spends hundreds of hours researching and reviewing only the most inspiring, thought-provoking, and leading masterminds on the planet today for consideration when it comes to taking their stage.
At Speaker Nation, we’re in the business of helping prepare world-class speakers who are confident, prepared and knowledgeable when it comes to public speaking and the future of their careers.
This is why when we had the opportunity to speak with Taylor Conroy — a TEDx Speaker Alumni turned pro, whose impact went on to create over 500 schools, libraries and homes for underprivileged children and families all over the world — we knew we had to share his insider insights with you to help you grasp what it takes to step on a stage and create an impact just like Taylor did.
So here are what we’ve found to be the best methods you can use to land a TEDx Talk and make it stick with any audience (in person or virtually):
1. The TEDx Effect
Once your talk starts making the rounds online and you, in turn, start to receive messages from people saying, “Hey, I watched your TEDx Talk and…” this immediately confirms delivering your talk in the first place was an extremely efficient use of your time.
This tells you that your message impacted enough people to have them hear you, listen to you, and follow your call to action.
Why? Because by the end of your talk, they believed in you. They believed in what you had to say.
Getting on stage and delivering a beautiful presentation from a TEDx stage is one of the most efficient ways you can get your message in front of exactly the people you want to get it in front of.
The reason? TEDx has a massive audience — orders of magnitude larger than all but the world’s most famous speakers. TEDx videos frequently become some of the most watched talks in the world. Performing well at a TEDx event can get you noticed by people who might never have found out who you were before you stepped on that stage.
Performing well at a TEDx event can get you noticed by people who might never have found out who you were before you stepped on that stage
The reason we include this as a great tactic for getting a TEDx Talk is that one great performance on a TEDx stage can lead to invites to do many more TEDx Talks.
2. Leave People Wanting More
There’s only so much you can say in 18 minutes!
So it’s your responsibility to ensure that every single second of that 18 minutes you share is content that will intrigue your audience to the point where they have no choice but to follow your every word off that stage and to wherever your message might lead them.
It could mean leading them to your next big project, your upcoming book, your social channels, your coaching program — anything you have to offer that will keep them coming back for more.
All your audience has to do is invest 18 minutes of their time and it’ll leave them wanting more from you.
Your TEDx Talk is the delicious appetizer that certainly intrigues and satisfies your audience, but also gets them excited for what else they could learn from you. Think of your TEDx Talk like your first impression, making it your goal to get them to look you up afterwards.
3. Create Intrigue with Your Title
You want your title to open a loop in the potential viewer’s mind, a loop that can only be closed by watching your talk.
You’ve seen this happen. Go look at a list of the top TED Talks of all time and you’ll see just by reading the titles alone exactly why they’re the most popular talks.
The title is meant to make the viewers want to click on your talk and commit to watching 18 minutes of what you’re about to say.
The reason viewers even love TED Talks as much as they do is quite simply because human beings are naturally curious. So when your title alludes to something they’ll learn from watching your talk, it automatically makes them want to click on it to satisfy their curiosity and learn something new.
When something new is learned, it’s a reward to them. (Especially when it took a short amount of time to learn…less than 18 minutes, remember?)
Fun fact: Because TED Talks are always 18 minutes or under, viewers are aware of the amount of time they need to invest to watch it. They’re familiar with the time block, meaning they’re not scared away by the unknown of how much time they’ll be stuck glued to their device watching it. They’re comfortable and happy to sit down for something that’s short, sweet, and educational, all in one.
4. Ideas are Greater Than Your Skill
TEDx isn’t looking for the seasoned speaker, they’re looking for your unique, compelling and intriguing idea. So rather than listing your experience or your educational background, or the countless accomplishments piled on your resume, focus on your original idea that is worth spreading.
Your idea is the number 1 thing that needs to stand out on your application so the organizers pick up on it right away. That will give your application the best chance of being accepted for the next round of review.
Keep in mind that TEDx organizers work for free. They spend their time organizing these events out of the goodness of their hearts, because they’re passionate about discovering ideas to share with the world; ideas that might not otherwise be given a platform to be shared.
Remember: TED has a rule that you’re not allowed to get on stage and deliver a talk you’ve already done. Whatever you deliver needs to be original and the first time you’ve shared it with the public. They’re looking for the diamond in the rough who isn’t technically one of the pros, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be a great speaker, put the pressure on having a great idea worth spreading.
They’re looking for the diamond in the rough who isn’t technically one of the pros.
5. Impact on the Audience
On the topic of filling out your application, one thing you want to really focus on is clearly communicating how the audience will be directly impacted by your talk.
What will your audience walk away with? How will they feel once they’ve heard you speak? What will their lives look like after they implement your message? How is your talk different from any other on the topic?
This is something you have to nail down before you step on stage. Put yourself in the audience’s shoes: when you attend a talk, what do you want to get out of it?
The audience is the TEDx organizer’s real client, so put them first and show the organizers that you are committed to wowing them.
TEDx organizers are dedicated to ensuring their audience members receive the most insightful and unique experience possible by attending TEDx events. What makes you stand out from the rest and really speak to their audience?
6. You Must Be Coachable
If you go out and try to put all of your accomplishments and accreditations from every aspect of your life onto your application to try and prove yourself, that will typically have the opposite effect you are looking for. Sure, there will be a spot for you to share your experiences and why you’re the right person to give this talk, but this is meant for you to share why you’re there to be of service.
You want to make it clear that you’re ready to be coached, you’re humbled by the opportunity to even be considered and you’re there to serve the audience with your message in whatever way suits them best.
So to be coachable is key, because sometimes the organizers will make suggestions for you to tweak your talk in a way that best suits their specific event and audience. Be willing to accept these suggestions because, after all, the organizers know their audience best.
By being open to these suggestions and making yourself and your talk flexible, you’re more likely to come across as coachable and easy to work with! Don’t be afraid to show humility, it will truly bode well for you in the end.
7. Quality Counts on your Application
Your TEDx application needs to be completed in an extremely high-quality way. Getting someone within TEDx to review your application and confirm it’s clear and succinct is one of the best ways to ensure your application has the best chance to get accepted.
Even if it’s not the feedback you had hoped for, receive it, process it, and implement it rather than closing your eyes and hoping for the best.
By having a second set of professional eyes on your application, you’re doing everything in your power to help things go the way you hope.
As a bonus result, your energy will be mellowed because you can rest easy knowing that you went to the extent of having the right people in the right places review your application.
You’re then confident in the quality, you know you did the best you could humanly do, and now all you can do is wait.
Once you’re told it’s high quality, you’re set.
8. Apply in Large Quantities
Just like high quality, you want to ensure you focus on high quantity as well. What does this mean?
Well, at any given moment, there are typically a minimum of at least 30 TEDx events looking for speakers.
They’re seeking out people who are ready to impact audiences in a big, beautiful way.
Sure, you could apply to one specific one you had your eye on.
But why wouldn’t you apply to all 30?
Apply in a high-quality way to a high quantity of TEDx events. This will greatly increase your chances of landing one.
It doesn’t matter how many TEDx events you apply to, as long as you’re doing it with high-quality applications, each one gets you closer to landing yourself on that dream stage.
Remember: there isn’t a scientific rhyme or reason for why some speakers land a talk with 2 applications and some land a talk with 88. It all comes back to the event organizers. Each TEDx event has a different theme, so they’re looking for talks that are aligned with the theme.
9. Let the Audience Feel Things
People often go to talks because they want to feel. They listen for the whole 18 minutes because they want to ignite some sort of feeling from within — whether it’s their head, their heart, or their soul.
To help spark their emotions, you need to feel the feelings yourself while you’re on stage so they’re translated through.
How? Internalize your talk at such a deep level that you have no choice but to feel the feelings and step out of your head for that moment in time.
If you want the audience to feel, you have to feel. The deeper you take the audience into the emotion of your talk, the better chance there is that they will get lost in your words and have a great experience listening to your talk.
If you want the audience to feel, you have to feel.
Think about this: when you click “share” on a video to post it to your social media channel, you don’t do that just for the sake of doing it. You share it because you want your social circle to feel the way you felt after watching it.
So as a speaker, if you just blabber on throughout your whole talk, stone-cold face not showing one single speck of realness, you’re not going to create the feeling an audience is so desperately seeking (and sharing).
The same way people are attracted to Romantic Comedy movies for the good feels and the heartstring pulling along the way, everyone is waiting for a feel-good moment or something that puts the emotion back into their mundane day behind a desk. (It’s okay, we’ve all watched a TED Talk or two while at work…during lunch, of course.)
At the end of the day, your goal is to put out a talk that works while you’re sleeping. This means that whatever message you share, you want it to have the power to stand on its own and for the video of it to be circulated and viewed for years to come.
Your presentation will become an evergreen piece of content that continues to give, give, and give, for all the years it will live on the internet.
Remember: what you’re delivering isn’t just for the 300 people in the room, or whoever is watching on the Zoom line, it’s for all of the millions of people at home who might get to see the recording.
On that same point, you’ll likely receive requests to deliver that same talk (or at least something on that theme) for years to come as well! So you absolutely have to be so in love with your topic that you want to be speaking about it for as long as the requests continue to roll in.
At the end of the day, you want your talk to literally be just as the TED Team describes: The talk of your life.
This is exactly why every pause, every word and every body language movement you include matter.
One of the best ways to help your TEDx Talk perform well is to leverage what we call The Stage Effect.
Speaker Nation has put together a guide that will walk you through exactly what The Stage Effect is and how you can use it to your advantage in your future TEDx Talk so you engage the audience, create that momentum and keep people talking about you and your talk for years to come.