I’m not famous…can I still do a TED Talk?

TED Talks speakers are famous. They’re eloquent. They have a ton of Twitter followers. They are amazing speakers, writers, coaches, entrepreneurs, story-tellers.


The truth is, there are some amazing TED Talks out there by people like Simon Sinek or Brené Brown. Some that go viral. These are the ones that stick in your mind. Some people assume that they have to be like that too.

There are also many by regular people that aren’t famous.

Kate Simonds was not a famous TED Talks speaker
2.5 million views is pretty good for a non-famous speaker!

I know what you’re thinking — “but Ryan, it’s obviously better to have more followers or more qualifications than none, right?!

You’re right…Honestly, fame is a great proxy for having great ideas (after all, if lots of people follow you, it’s a good indicator that lots find your ideas valuable). It’s not that amassing followers is a bad thing. It’s just not the only thing that matters, and as someone who’s selected TEDx speakers, I know a thing or two about how it all works.


Often, with my students, a lack of fame becomes an excuse to avoid taking action. After all, if you’re always chasing a made-up goal of being more famous before you do anything about landing a TED Talk, you’ll never have to know you’re ready, so you never have to pursue a TED Talk. Easy right? That way is nice and comfortable.

If that’s you, I get it. It can be scary to step up on stage and claim a new identity as a “TED Talks” speaker. What if you mess it up? What if the audience is disappointed? What if you don’t live up to your own lofty (probably unreasonably high) expectations for yourself?

It’s a tough thought process. Here’s a little trick to think about it – you don’t have to step on stage today, but you owe it to yourself to investigate this process and make just one little step. Let’s do it together.

But, back to the original question.

How famous do I have to be?

If you want to be an Olympic sprinter, there’s a clear time cutoff. The requirements are clear.

However, in matters like landing a TED Talk, any rejection can simply be a difference in preference. There isn’t a requirement for how famous you have to be. After all, if a 17-year-old is experienced or famous enough to get a TED Talk, how do you know you aren’t?

[clickToTweet tweet=”if a 17-year-old is experienced or famous enough to get a #TEDTalk, how do you know you aren’t?” quote=”if a 17-year-old is experienced or famous enough to get a #TEDTalk, how do you know you aren’t?”]

Instead of aiming for an arbitrary fame goal (and then hoping that you’ll get noticed), why not try a different strategy? Rather than anchoring your expectations on the most famous TED Talks (and never being able to measure up), why not choose a different reference point?


Here’s a little trick to doing things you feel scared to do — just find *one* person that’s less equipped than you are that *has* done it. If they’ve done it, couldn’t you?

Your homework for today — find and watch a TED Talk from someone younger or less “qualified” than you. I suggest this one (by 17-year-old speaker Kate Simonds).


Ryan Hildebrandt
Ryan Hildebrandt
Articles: 31

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *