How to Get a TED Talk

Let’s start with a question back to you: Is this a TED Talk?

how do you do a ted talk


It isn’t a trick question – I really want to know what you think “doing a TED talk” means because there are several correct answers.

If you answered, “YES that’s a TED Talk – how do I get one of those?” Then I can definitely help you — in fact, that’s my client Connie pictured above, and I helped her land that exact talk.

To learn how it works, check out my guide on how to be a TEDx speaker, or, if you’re ready to apply and just want the fastest way to find opportunities, the TEDx event applications list is a tool I developed to make this process insanely easy. 

I’ve helped 17 clients become TEDx speakers, and this process definitely works (though some people hire me as a TEDx coach.

TEDx is a series of TED-like conferences licensed by TED itself. If you really want to know all the details, you can read more about the difference between TEDx and TED Talks, when many people look at talks done at the biggest TEDx events, they refer to them as “TED Talks.”

If you looked at the photo above, and thought, “No, that’s NOT a TED Talk. That’s just a TEDx Talk. How do I do a TED Talk?” that’s also fine.

Technically speaking, TED and TEDx are distinct stages, and some people who have already spoken at TEDx want to go one step higher.

Let’s look at how to speak on the BIG TED stage.

What’s the Process To Do a TED Talk?

Step 1: Do a Good TEDx Talk

There are about 100,000 people that apply to give a TED Talk every year. 100 get selected. 

Frankly, those aren’t very good odds.

But, TED reserves a session specifically for past TEDx speakers, so your best path forward is to apply to be a TEDx speaker (and make sure it is at one of the best TEDx events), which will drastically improve your chances of being invited to speak at TED.

For those that want to skip this part because they like to “aim high,” don’t.

This is a little like thinking “I want to be in the Olympics, but I don’t want to bother winning local races first.” Win the local race. See what you think, then aim higher afterward.

Getting booked at a great TEDx event is itself about as competitive as getting into Harvard, so TEDx is by no means a “baby step.” You may actually find that the benefits you think you’d get from a TED Talk you already get by becoming a TEDx speaker.

Step 2: Read What TED Has to Say About How to Become a TED Speaker

TED themselves put out a guide on how to apply to speak at TED. Before you apply to speak at TED, it’s wise to read through these guidelines.

Step 3: Prepare Your Bio and Topic

Before filling in TED’s speaker nomination form, you’ll want to prepare your answers in a separate doc.

This allows you to save your answers for later. This also helps if you want to apply to be a TEDx speaker because you can apply to multiple TEDx events without re-typing the same information.

First, you’ll need to prepare your bio. Here’s how the question is phrased:

how to get on ted talks

Next, figure out one or more TED Talks topic ideas. You can’t do a TED Talk until you get invited (obviously), and while you won’t need to write your entire talk first, you will need to tell them what you want to talk about:

how do you get to do a ted talk

Step 4: Apply to Do a TED Talk

The next step is to nominate yourself using TED’s speaker nomination form.

In addition to the bio and topic answers (which you’ve already prepared), the rest of the questions are basic demographic and personal details (email, name, phone, etc), which should all be pretty easy to fill in.

Thankfully, there is no application deadline to apply to do a TED Talk (unlike TEDx events, which typically have application deadlines about 6 months before the event), and TED looks for speakers year-round, so whenever you apply is fine.

Ryan Hildebrandt
Ryan Hildebrandt
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