3 Types of TEDx Coaches & How to Pick The Right One for You

Interested in coaching to help you on your TEDx journey? There are a ton of people who call themselves “TEDx coaches” these days.

Here are the different types, what they offer, what they (generally) charge, and what you can ask them to find out if they can get you results.

Coaches Who Help with your Talk

These are people who will take your idea and shape it into a talk script. Sometimes they’ll call this a “TED-style” talk.

Is this important work? Yes. But, there are some things you should know:

  • Often, these people are speaker coaches who volunteered for a local TEDx event. Here’s how they get most of their “clients” — 100-200 people apply to speak at the event, the founder of the event (or a few people on the team) chooses the best 10, and the coach helps those 10 on their talks. The talks get published online, and these become the “results”
  • Often, they’ll say they were a “TEDx organizer”, though this usually means they were a volunteer on a 20+ person team, and didn’t make the decisions as to who was turned down (they may not have even seen most of the speaker applicants)
  • This is a little like being a “Harvard tutor” — does that mean they helped people only after they’d gotten into Harvard on their own accord, or that they were struggling to get into Harvard and you got them in? It’s great to see the kind of people who are *at* Harvard, but Survivorship Bias plays an important role — would these speakers have done a great job even without the coach’s help? Who knows.
  • These people have almost never done a TEDx talk themselves (about once a month, someone like this reaches out to ME because they want to do a TEDx talk, but can’t figure out how to get booked themselves). This is a little like hiring a fat personal trainer — if their method doesn’t work on themselves, is it a method that you can trust?

For instance, I spoke with one such coach a few days ago. She had charged a client $3,000 to write a talk, and when the client asked about getting invited, her response was “oh, it’s simple…you just reach out to events!”. The coach was (on behalf of the client) applying, but had reached out to more than 40 TEDx events and hadn’t heard anything.

In other words, a coach like this can easily help you create a very expensive document on your computer.

What you can ask them:

  • “Can I see videos of your client’s talks?” (if several of the videos are from the same event, none of these people hired the coach — the coach was on the volunteer team and all the speakers were assigned to work with this person)
  • “Did this person get booked with your help, or did they get booked on their own before working with you?” (ie: did they “tutor a Harvard student”?)
  • [If they did say they helped this person get invited]
    • “how many events did this person reach out to before getting booked?”
    • “was this the TOTAL NUMBER, or just the events that explicitly turned them down?”
    • “did this person know the event organizers?” (“helping” someone get booked at an event where they know people is different than a purely cold approach)
    • Pay attention to the quality of the video/stage for the PARTICULAR client this coach helped get booked (eg: it’s one thing to say “here’s the event I volunteered at, look at this great stage”, but it’s another to say “this client was struggling to get booked, here is the stage I helped them get on
  • Search their name on TED.com — You’ll see their profile, like this. If you don’t see anything here, it DEFINITELY means they were not the main decision maker for speakers (they may have been part of a large team though)

When you click on my “TED Profile”, you’ll see I am a “TEDx Organizer”. Only someone who is the head organizer has this. Everyone else is on the volunteer team and certainly involved (and in no way is unimportant), but certainly not aware of many of the speaker applicants.

Why these people get hired:

  • It’s easy to become one – Anyone can read “Talk Like TED”, volunteer to help out with a local TEDx event, and call themselves a “TEDx speaker coach”. They say they’re helping you put your talk in the “TED format”, but how do you know unless you get booked somewhere?
  • It can feel like the only way to get feedback on an idea is to write a talk about it and get feedback on the talk (this isn’t true, but it can feel that way)
  • The talk is visible (the pitch/approach to getting invited is invisible), so if you watched TEDx talks on YouTube, it would be obvious that a talk needs to be created, so this seems like a first step

Why you should think twice before hiring someone like this:

  • You should NOT write your talk until after you get booked, for a number of reasons:
    • You may have to shorten your talk after you get booked (so, if you pay thousands for the perfect 18-min talk, what happens if the event that books you has 15 other speakers on the day and you only have a 6min slot?)
    • It’s faster to craft a great pitch (you can even pitch multiple topics and see which one gets booked at a great event soonest), so you can capture better opportunities, faster
    • TEDx events confirm speakers months before the event. They often ask for a draft outline AFTER they invite you as a speaker. In other words, they fully expect (and give you time to) write your talk after getting booked
    • There are several different angles you can take on your message, but what if you write a talk about the one that is the least appealing to TEDx organizers? Make sure you get booked first, THEN write a talk, knowing that you’ve already been booked
  • These people got their start as volunteers for a TEDx event. So, great TEDx events provide these peple for FREE after you get invited (ie: if you got invited to speak at the event these people are volunteers at, you’d get their coaching for free)

When they are most useful:

  • If you’re speaking at an event that doesn’t already have a speaker coach on the volunteer team (that you’d get FREE help from) OR they do, but you want even more 1-1 help

General price — $3,000 to $8,000USD

Coaches Who Help Get Invited (or Apply For You)

Often, these are past TEDx speakers. They did it once, some friends asked how they did it, and now they make money as a coach helping people get booked. Sometimes, they’re PR agents or virtual assistants who had a client they helped land a TEDx talk once.

The obvious risk is that they have theories about what worked for them one time, but they don’t see the people that got turned down (who may have been following the approach they’re recommending to you). It’s another case of “Survivorship Bias” (in other words, they know they “survived”, and can easily make false conclusions about *why* it worked).

What happens? You end up either struggling to get invited anywhere or only being able to get booked at a poor event.

For example, I spoke with one woman who was incredulous that any TEDx coaching would cost in the multiple thousands of dollars. She had worked with a coach who helped with her application to get invited, her talk, title, prep everything, and it was only $500.

The only problem — I Googled her name and “TEDx”, and no videos came up. In other words, she spoke at an event that wasn’t filmed at all.

What’s the point of delivering a TEDx talk if nobody sees it? I’m not sure (you can’t leverage the platform, you don’t get the credibility advantage of being a TEDx speaker, and so on)

It’s no surprise that she didn’t have any photos of her on stage (they didn’t exist, and I’m sure the stage was small anyway), and when potential clients ask about her TEDx talk, they’ll almost certainly ask to see the video. Will they think she’s lying if she doesn’t have one? Who knows.

This isn’t uncommon – I spoke with one speaker who’d done 3 TEDx talks. None were filmed.

What you can ask them:

  • “How many events did this client reach out to before they got booked?”
    • “Is that the TOTAL number of events they reached out to, or just the ones you/they heard an explicit ‘no’ from?” (if someone reaches out to an event and the pitch sucks, often there will be no reply at all, and people like to think/say that the event ‘just wasn’t selecting speakers’, when in reality, they got rejected. It’s a little like dating…if you’re not into the person, it’s easier to say “I don’t have time to date right now’
    • There is a large company in this space that insists that you HAVE to apply to something like 30-50 events before one will book you
  • “Can I see videos of your client’s talks?”
    • Look at the quality of the video/stage — many TEDx events are not filmed, many have poor stages/audio/video quality. A great talk spreads much farter (by as much as 10-30x) on the best stages.
    • Obviously, very small, poorer-quality events are much easier to get booked at.
  • Have you ever had a client who spoke at an event that wasn’t filmed at all?
    • I spoke to one guy who’d done 3 TEDx talks, none filmed at all. Ask about this.

Cost: $5,000 – $10,000USD

What to do if you want someone else to apply for you:

IF you’ve already hired someone who’s promised you a TEDx talk and is applying for you — be aware of the incentive (it’s to “get you a TEDx talk”, not “get you a TEDx talk at a good event”).

Here’s what you do: Agree on the criteria for which events they’ll apply for: I recommend

  • ONLY Standard, TEDxWomen, and University events (ie: “TEDxToronto”, “TEDxTorontoWomen”, “TEDxUofT”)
  • ONLY events that have happened at least once
  • ONLY events that are filmed (ideally, you see the past videos first)
  • AVOID anything that is a Salon, Library, or Youth event (exception for Youth events — if you speak primarily to under 18s AND the stage looks awesome)

Those are the most important criteria. The problem is, getting this data efficiently is a big pain (this is why I created a TEDx event alert system and full event list that allows you to sort/filter by this criteria. Several competitors even use it)

If your coach can’t get you booked at an event that’s filmed, that has a great-looking stage, then you need a new coach.

(and no, if you get turned down, it is not because of COVID, it is not because the theme doesn’t match, it is not because you’re not a good speaker)

Who I am and What I Do

I founded a TEDx event (TEDxLeamingtonSpa in 2015), spoke at a TEDx event (TEDxWindsor, 2019), and help people figure out their big idea and get booked at some of the best TEDx events in the world.

Some things I’m proud of about the people that choose me, and how I’m able to get results:

  • Several of my cleints worked with other coaches, had no success for years, and got booked with my system
  • I have clients from Oxford, Yale, Harvard, and Princeton (and one former Olympian)
  • But also, some of my clients did a TEDx talk as their first talk ever

A couple of FAQs:

  • How many events do my clients have to reach out to before getting booked? – 2-5 usually (competitors are generally in the 30-50 range)
  • Have you organized a TEDx event yourself? – yes, I am the founder of TEDxLeamingtonSpa (started in 2015, the members of my original 2015 team now run it)
  • Have you spoken at TEDx? – yes
  • How many views do your client’s talks get – a few thousand to a few million
  • Do you have testimonials I can see? Of course – here’s a whole playlist of client success stories here
  • How much does it cost to work with you? – it varies, but working with me is a high-ticket service

Where you start:

  • You must already be a ambitious, self-driven person
  • You already have a field you’re passionate about, and know you still will be in a few years time (ie: if you don’t know if you still want to be a leadership coach in a few years, figure that out before doing a TEDx talk about leadership)
  • You have some public evidence of this passion (you have a website for your biz/non-profit/personal brand, a book that’s already published, etc)
  • You’re already comfortable speaking in general (if you aren’t comfortable on stage, Toastmasters is a good place to start)

What I help you do:

  • Getting booked on a *good* TEDx stage is about as competitive as getting into Harvard
  • We develop/refine your topic through several stages (starting with a single sentence) and I guide you through getting booked on one of these great TEDx stages
  • This includes things like finding the best title, outline, etc
  • You have a launch plan for exactly how to capitalize on the photos/video from your talk

In other words, what I offer is start to finish.

Note: There is no sales page where you can “buy” working with me. Depending on your goals, TEDx may not be the best platform for you at all, and I insist on understanding your situation and goals so I can make the best recommendation.

First, you must apply for a call in order for me to make sure I understand your goals and current situation. If I can’t get you results, I’ll tell you so.

For instance, I turn down clients who:

  • Don’t have a website (not just the site of the organiztion you work for, not just your work in the media, but your own website, not just a free Wix site, that you run). If you book a call with me and don’t have a website, I’ll just cancel the call
  • Are in a field that goes against TED’s content guidelines (psychics, flat earthers, reiki healers etc)

Want to work together on becoming a TEDx speaker? Apply for a call here.

Ryan Hildebrandt
Ryan Hildebrandt
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