Home » How to Get a TED Talk: The 9 Step Guide Used by 603+ Clients

How to Get a TED Talk: The 9 Step Guide Used by 603+ Clients

Many people dream of giving a TED talk but aren’t sure how to get one.

Maybe you’re an established business professional 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:

  • How to become a TED speaker
  • How to get a TED Talk
  • How to join TED talks
  • How to apply for a TED talk
  • How to land a TED talk

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, confusion, or that dreaded fear of public speaking.

At Thought-Leader, we’ve taught over 700+ people how to get TEDx talks. In this article, we’ll break down that process step-by-step.

What’s the Difference Between TED and TEDx?

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 instead of 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 get a ted talk
Getting a TED talk is 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 search 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. This is where TED coaching can be really helpful.

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 must 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.

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.

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 in our analysis of the top 100 TED Talks.

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 Toastmasters, 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 focusing on TED Talk coaching saves you time, money, and unneeded frustration. For example, business owner and speaker Katie Kimball used our coaching program to get a TEDx talk. Now she’s nationally recognized for her child cooking expertise and running a six-figure business.

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. Consider taking any accessible speaking gig you can get your hands on. We talk about this concept more and list available public speaking gigs on your way to becoming a keynote speaker.

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 your brand. Once you have a speaker reel, there are two portfolio options you can consider:

A Media Kit:

A media kit is a powerful way to build your TED speaker portfolio. It’s a downloadable overview of everything you’ve done related to speaking. This kit can showcase your skillsets, famous speeches, places you’ve spoken, and more.

Media kits are also fantastic to send to prospective TEDx event organizers via email.

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. 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.

Learning how to write a TED talk 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 summary. This will be used in conjunction with your application. We offer an entire speech writing training within our TEDx coaching model that equips you to write your TEDx talk.

Here’s a templated snippet from that course below:

tedx application example

Whether you’ve partnered with a coaching company or not, to become a part of the TED community, you’ll want to land a TEDx talk. To do this, you need to make sure you write a TEDx summary and apply to speak on the TED stage.

If you’re using a TED 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.

Find TEDx Events Near You!

For further help with the application process and to explore how we can help you land your TEDx talk, schedule a session with our team.

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

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

We suggest setting a daily or weekly application goal and bulk submitting as many applications as possible.

If you have a TED talk coach (like us), we’ll hold you accountable to your timelines. However, if not, consider telling a friend or family member about your endeavor. Having someone hold you to your deadlines ensures you keep applying even when the going gets tough.

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.

Once you receive a YES email from TEDx, it’s time to plan out how you will market your talk after it goes live on YouTube. Marketing your talk is one of the best ways to ensure it earns a spot on the TED website itself.

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 on YouTube, what better way to get exposure than boost that talk in a YouTube ad.
  • Facebook Ads: Like YouTube ads, Facebook is another excellent way to leverage your talk and share it with your target audience.
  • 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?
  • TikTok Videos: TikTok has emerged as one of the top social media platforms over the past few years. Because it’s so video-friendly, posting a clip from your TEDx talk, with a link to the full video, could be a great play to skyrocket engagement.
  • Email Marketing Funnels: 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.

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 do you qualify for TED talks?
Qualifying for a TED Talk is as simple as pitching your idea to a TEDx event organizer, but remember the help of a public speaking organization can make all the difference. To do that, you’ll want to have a unique perspective to share with an audience. From there, write your TED talk summary, find TEDx events near you, and complete your application.
How much does it cost to get a TED Talk?

There is no cost associated with getting a TED talk, other than the time and commitment you put into making your dreams a reality. Alternatively, you can choose to partner with a public speaking coaching company or TEDx-style coach to increase your chances of landing a spot on the TEDx stage. If you choose to get a coach, then you’re subject to whatever fees or costs you agree upon.

Do you get paid to do a TED Talk?
TED does not pay speakers a monetary fee. However, they do provide travel and temporary housing accommodations during the TED conference. As a speaker, you get free access to the week-long event.

Likewise, the notoriety and recognition you receive from giving a TED talk can help you land paid keynote gigs in the future.

Do you have to be invited to do a TED Talk?

Contrary to popular belief, you DO NOT have to be invited to do a TED talk. All you have to do to land a spot on the TEDx stage is apply.

Before giving a TED talk, do you need to have an established public speaking career?
The short answer: No.

Of course, it does help to have public speaking experience. But you don’t have to be a professional speaker. In fact, for many people we’ve worked with, getting a TEDx talk is what opens the door for them to speak in more places and earn more as a speaker.

Should you have a large following on social media?
Does it help? Of course.

Is it required? No.

After you get a TEDx talk, you’ll likely get a lot more followers and publicity, provided that you market it well. Good ideas spread, as they say!

How do you even find and get a TED Talk?
Everything in the article above should answer that question. Re-read the nine steps, and be sure to check out the “Find TEDx events near you!” link so you can see the locations of where this year’s events are happening.

At Thought-Leader, we aim 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.

how to get a ted talk


Joelle Cullimore
Marketing Content Manager

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