Home » How to Get A TED Talk: Our 9 Step Guide for Success

How to Get A TED Talk: Our 9 Step Guide for Success

Maybe you’re an established business professional who’s looking to get a TED talk to further your career. Or, perhaps you’re new to the game and looking for a way to build your brand. Whichever the case, at some point, you might have wondered the following:

bullet icon

How to become a TEDx speaker

bullet icon

How to join TED talks

bullet icon

How to apply for a TED talk

bullet icon

How to land a TED talk

We’ve heard all of these questions and more from individuals wanting to build their marketing presence through TED. Like you, several people we’ve worked with have wanted to give a TED talk to propel their success forward. It’s an innovative marketing tool often underutilized by businesses and individuals alike.

However, even though TED talks are incredible marketing assets,  they’re underutilized because of self-doubt or confusion. Here are the most common questions we’ve seen hold people back from reaching their TED speaking dreams:

question mark icon

Do you need to have an established public speaking career before giving a TED talk?

question mark icon

Should you have a large following on social media?

question mark icon

How do you even find and get a TED talk?

We want to help you reach your TED talk goals. So, we decided to address the above concerns head-on with a 3-part series that discusses the ins and outs of getting, prepping, and giving a TED talk. This particular article focuses on the steps involved in getting a TED talk. Once you’ve finished reading, you can have a better understanding of the TED talk application process as well as what it takes to land your signature talk.

1. Start With Your Message

Getting a TED talk is a lot less about the kind of speaker you are and more about the message you want to convey. At the beginning of this new journey, you might find yourself searching for all of the ways you can become a better presenter. After all, starting something new is exciting, and you want to make sure you’re prepared for the task that lies ahead.

However, jumping the gun separates aspiring TED speakers from established ones. Right now, the most important thing you can do is hone in on what kind of topic and message you want your TED talk to portray. Think about what you want your audience to remember, as well as the purpose behind giving your talk.

Aside from speaker credibility and marketing assets, your talk needs to resonate with others. TED’s goal is to create ideas worth spreading. Therefore, your purpose should be to develop a unique message that speaks to your life experience and helps others in the process.

To learn more about how you can solidify your message and get clear on the talk you want to give, check out the tips we list in part one of this article.

2. Research Other TED Talks

How can you get selected by TED if you don’t know what’s already on the internet? Researching other TED talks helps you hone in on your idea or change it. Since TED focuses on sharing new insights, this is a great way to determine whether your idea is unique or not.

Watching other presentations can also help you when it comes time to craft a performance yourself. Pay attention to how the speakers deliver their talk. Do they pause for audience feedback? Note any key points or call to actions they make. Are a majority of presenters using PowerPoint slides? Is this helping you as a viewer visualize their message better?

Since most TED talks follow a specific format, the more talks you watch, the easier it will be to adapt your message to the TED stage. Your knowledge can ultimately help you get a spot as a TED talk speaker.

3. Join A Toastmasters-Styled Group

Once you’ve considered the message you’re going to talk about, it’s time to practice it. Even though there are several avenues and ways you can rehearse your great ideas, for the sake of this article, we’re going to focus on one style: Toastmasters. Toastmasters is a public speaking club where individuals can meet and practice their talks.

If you want to speak at TED, you need to be comfortable presenting in front of others. There are few better ways to get comfortable than joining Toastmasters-styled groups. For example, here at Thought-Leader, we have a virtual speaking group called Talk Practice Club. Our clients practice giving their speeches and receive peer-to-peer and coach-to-member feedback.

When you aren’t practicing in your club or group, we suggest rehearsing your talk in sections or keyphrases that evoke the most emotions from your audience. To do this, you’ll first need to map out your audience’s emotional journey. We discuss the concept of emotional-based mapping and rehearsing more here.

4. Partner With A TED Talk Coaching Company

The next step to eventually landing a TED talk is to partner with a company that knows how to get them. If you’re anything like our clients, you’ve probably scoured the internet looking for TED events and other details on how to attend them. However, you’ve probably found mixed amounts of information.

The process of getting on the TED stage can be confusing if you don’t already know the ins and outs of how TED conferences work. Confusion can cause you to want to give up. That’s where a coaching company can help. Not only do these organizations hold you accountable to your goals, but they also have event lists and understand conference features. Some also have connections with TEDx organizers and train and coach you on the application process.

Some of these organizations even offer their version of Toastmaters, where you can work with other community members to practice your talks. Additionally, some coaching organizations can also help you market your talk once it goes live, so you get the most bang for your buck.

Working with an organization that focuses on TED Talk coaching saves you time, money, and unneeded frustration. For example, business owner and speaker Katie Kimball used a coaching company to get a TEDx talk. Now she’s nationally recognized for her child cooking expertise and running a six-figure business.

Webinar Hosted by Taylor CTA

5. Build Your Public Speaking Portfolio

If you’re an established speaker with a built-out portfolio, you can skip this step and go straight to applying for a TEDx talk. However, if you’re new to the speaking arena, you’ll want to leverage your skills and build a name for yourself.

The good news is your public speaking portfolio doesn’t have to be as tricky as it sounds. To start, consider taking any accessible speaking gig you can get your hands on. We talk about this concept more and list available public speaking gigs here.

Have a friend or professional record you speaking at different meetings, universities, coffee shops, etc. Then choose your favorite recording. Next, turn that recording into a 5-10 minute speaker reel that you can use to build out your brand. Once you have a speaker reel, there are two portfolio options you can consider:

A Media Kit:

A media kit is a downloadable overview of everything you’ve done related to speaking. It showcases your skillsets, famous speeches, places you’ve spoken at, and more. These are fantastic to send to prospective event organizers via email. Here’s an example of a professional speaker media kit that we like.

A Speaker Website:

A speaker website helps increase your digital footprint. It’s a placeholder for your online presence if someone Googles your name. This website should be a high-level overview of the top places you’ve spoken at. It needs to include a short bio section, a video reel, and a way for a speaker booker to contact you. Here’s an example of our favorite speaker website by Taylor Conroy.


6. Apply to be a TEDx speaker

Whether you’ve partnered with a coaching company or not, to become a part of the TED community, you’ll first want to land a TEDx talk. If you’re using a coaching company like Thought-Leader, you’ll get an event list to help with applications and talk prep. Meanwhile, if you’re on your own, you’ll want to look up TEDx events near you before applying.

What’s the Difference Between A TED Speaker and a TEDx Speaker?

The main difference between a TED speaker and a TEDx speaker lies in the process it takes to become each. TEDx is a group of independently organized community events established by TED curator Chris Anderson. While the focus of these events is still to spread ideas worth sharing, speakers are usually local experts as opposed to globally recognized names.

Each TEDx talk is 18 minutes or less in length. Meanwhile, TEDx events are licensed, hosted across 100 languages, and subject to TED’s guidelines and talk format.

Because the event is community-focused, TEDx is often more attainable for individuals and speakers. In addition, to get on the TED website, you have to be a former TEDx speaker. Therefore, the best path to getting a TED talk is through TEDx.

How to Apply For A TEDx Talk

If you’ve made it this far, the biggest hurdle you’ll face is the TEDx application. This application is the piece of paper that event organizers use to decide who will speak at each TEDx. It’s your chance to pitch your idea and propel your public speaking career forward.

TEDx Application Tips:

Now that you know that path to landing a TED talk is through TEDx, let’s discuss some application tips you can use to get a TEDx talk and eventually land a TED talk:

Research the Community Where the Local TEDx is Held

Because regional communities organize each TEDx event, each application is similar but slightly different. Therefore, having a deeper understanding of the particular TEDx your applying to is critical to landing a talk.

A TED talk coaching company usually has all of this information and a list of upcoming events you can choose from.


Being A Local Gives You A Competitive Advantage

In addition to regional research, applying for TEDx events closer to your geographical residence offers you an advantage over others. Because these gatherings are focused on helping local communities, if you grew up or live near the event, you’re more likely to be considered for the gig than someone who lives far away and can’t offer further support to that community.

Similarly, since local individuals run TEDx events, if you’re a native to the area, you’re more likely to know the people hosting the event. Life is all about personal connections, and TEDx isn’t any different.  

Suppose you aren’t a local. If not, there’s no need to stress. Partnering with a TED talk coaching company can offer considerable benefits to your application process. Often these organizations have connections with local event organizers because they’ve worked with them before.


Find Future TEDx Events

Perhaps you’ve scoured the internet looking for available TEDx events and have come up short. Or, maybe you’ve looked for events on the TED website, and you’re unsure which ones to apply to. One suggestion we have is applying to events months in advance. The farther out the event, the better your chances of landing a talk at it.

Learn How to Write a TEDx Summary

Learning how to write a TED talk summary is one of the best ways to prep your application for success. First, consider the title you’ll use to submit your TEDx application. This title doesn’t have to be the same one you use when giving your TEDx talk. It just has to be attractive enough to grab the attention of the event organizer.

For example, consider a problem-solution title like Kelly McGonigal’s: How to Make Stress Your Friend. The problem is stress. The solution is making it your buddy.

Once you’ve solidified your title, it’s time to write your TEDx application. To do this, we suggest following the template we’ve created below:

TEDx Application Guide

7. Submit Multiple TEDx Applications

At Thought-Leader, we tell our clients it takes an average of 86 applications to get on the TEDx stage. Therefore, one of the largest factors contributing to you getting a TEDx talk is applying to as many events as possible.

Using the link we added above, you can find and apply to as many TEDx events as you find available. We suggest setting a daily or weekly application goal and bulk submitting as many applications as possible.

If you have a TED talk coach, they can help hold you accountable to your timelines. However, if not, consider telling a friend or family member about your endeavor. Having someone to hold you accountable to your deadlines ensures you keep applying even when the going gets tough.

check mark


Don’t get discouraged by multiple applications. Instead, let them fuel you to apply to more talks. Remember each rejection you receive is a chance for another yes in the future.

9. Market Your TEDx Talk

It’s here! You finally received your yes email. Now, it’s time to put some energy into marketing your talk to the masses. There are several different ways you can do this, so it’s best to leverage your existing coaching company’s expertise before throwing money at the wind. Of course, if you don’t have a coaching company, you can always hire a freelance marketer or publicist to help you get started.

Talk with your TEDx coaching company, publicist, or marketer about the different ways you can leverage your TEDx to build your brand. If you’d instead attempt to market your talk solo, here are a few ways you can get started:

YouTube Ads

Since most TEDx talks are published to YouTube, what better way to get exposure than boost that talk in a YouTube ad. 

Instagram Reels

Instagram reels have become extremely popular, with individuals gaining thousands of views by pairing their favorite videos with trending audio. Why not select a favorite clip from your TEDx talk and share it with some of your favorite fans online?

Email Marketing

One of our favorite ways to leverage a TEDx talk is by using it in an email marketing funnel to prospective clients or speaker bookers. If you’re trying to sell someone on what you do, why not include your TEDx in a follow-up email the second someone fills out a contact form on your website. Using your TEDx establishes your credibility as a subject matter expert and a speaker.

Facebook Ads

Like YouTube ads, Facebook is another excellent way to leverage your talk and share it with your target audience.

8. Become A TED Talk Speaker

Hopefully, now you see that becoming a TED talk speaker is more attainable than you thought. When you start with your purpose, other pieces of the speaking puzzle will align. From there, researching other professional TED talks can help you tailor your message to resonate with your audience further.

When it’s time to practice your talk, take any free gig you can get your hands on and join a virtual rehearsal group. Partner with a coaching company for accountability and help marketing your TEDx talk.

How to Apply for a TED Talk

Since TED only works with previous TEDx speakers, you don’t need to apply to the TED stage. However, the more views your TEDx has on YouTube and other channels, the greater the likeliness TED sees your talk and decides to publish it to their website.

TED might also see your TEDx talk and ask you to give a talk specifically on their platform.  Therefore, the number one way to get a TED talk is by giving a TEDx talk and marketing that talk to the masses. 

the number one way to get a TED talk is by giving a TEDx talk

How Thought-Leader Can Help You Get A TED Talk

At Thought-Leader, our goal is to help you understand your purpose and spread your message on the world’s most prominent stages. We’ve done this by helping over 400 individuals land a TEDx talk. In addition, popular speakers like Cynthia Thurlow and Brad Stevens have leveraged our market your talk training to go on and reach thousands. Eventually, they earned spots on the TED website itself.

While landing on the TED website isn’t guaranteed, our personalized approach helps you maximize your potential and reach your TEDx goals. The more you follow our simplified process for success, the greater your chances of becoming a global TED talk speaker.


Joelle Cullimore
Marketing Content Manager

Recent Posts

Check out more great articles from the Thought-Leader Blog covering TEDx Talks, success mindsets, and everything else in between