The 3 requirements to do a TED Talk

What are the real requirements to do a TED Talk? What do TEDx event organizers look for in speakers? Check out the video for more.

When selecting speakers, organizers check for 3 requirements:

1. What is your idea/topic?

Do we find the idea interesting? Do we think the audience will like it? Does it match the theme? Most topics proposed to us could have been good ideas, but they were:

  • Things the audience already knew (remember, a TED Talks audience is well-read, curious, and very smart)
  • Confusing (ie: we weren’t sure what the topic actually was)
  • Not valuable to the audience (ie: the speaker wanted to share an idea that the audience couldn’t relate to)

It’s not surprising that this is the case. When most speakers develop ideas, they do it more or less alone or they ask for feedback from their inner circle

Fortunately, there are a few subtle (and surprising) tweaks you can make to the way you ask for feedback in order to improve your topic drastically.

2. Are you credible?

Credibility is more than just having a bestselling book, having a Ph.D., or a bit Twitter following. It’s the answer to two questions:

  • Why should the audience listen to you sharing your idea?
  • Can the TEDx organizers brag to the audience that they got you as a speaker?

This means the senior management consultant might not get selected for his idea about how to be successful, but the 30-year-old nurse with her simple idea about improving healthcare in rural areas may land a TED Talk.

It means your crazy story about hitchhiking solo through South America with your 2 children may get a TED Talk, even though you only have 100 Instagram followers, even though you’re not as well-traveled as the businessman that’s stayed in fancy hotels all over Asia.

3. Are you a good communicator?

This is more than just having public speaking experience or going to Toastmasters.  TEDx events want to evaluate your style (eg: are you goofy? a bit awkward? funny? serious?) and see if they can fundamentally understand your idea.

Not every speaker has to tell stories. Not everyone has to be funny. Not everyone has to use visuals. But, you do have to be yourself and share your idea well. If you try to be artificially like someone else, we can tell every time.

If you’re not confident about your speaking ability, you can get this experience through theatre, doing podcasts, improv comedy, and more.

Surprisingly, being a great speaker is the least important thing to a TEDx organizer for a simple reason – they can’t sell your ability as a great speaker to the audience before the event. A speaker’s performance on a day is a huge risk. But, they can entice an audience to buy tickets for an event if the speaker has a unique idea or an interesting backstory (ie: credibility).

[clickToTweet tweet=”Surprisingly, being a great speaker is the least important thing to a #TEDx organizer” quote=”Surprisingly, being a great speaker is the least important thing to a TEDx organizer”]

Which of these are you strongest on? Which do you think might need work?

Let me know in the comments.


Ryan Hildebrandt
Ryan Hildebrandt
Articles: 31


  1. Ryan

    Thanks for sharing the video. It provided a very good understanding of how TED presentations work. Doing a TED talk is one of my goals as a professional speaker. My topic is leadership but I have ideas of how to share a unique and powerful approach to leading others. My credibility on the topic is well documented so I’m comfortable that step is fine. And, on the last part, I’ve been speaking professionally for 36 years. Got that step!

    You’ve convinced me I need to start the process.

  2. I’m very interested in giving a Ted X talk. Please send me a link to an application if it’s needed to move forward. If I need to check the calendar of events and apply independently please advise.

  3. Do you check online reviews of people who are nominated or who self-nominate? I know someone of questionable character that is bragging about doing a future talk. I was shocked that she would make it through the screening process.

    • Every TEDx event is independently-organized, so there is no central screening process. If you have concerns about the character of a speaker, the best thing to do is to contact the event directly that she is speaking at, as there’s nothing that I can do about it (since I’m not an employee of TED)

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