Speak at TEDxWomen: The Complete Guide

Here’s a surprising thing that most women don’t know — there are 180 TEDxWomen events every year that coincide with the TEDWomen conference, and many of them have open speaker application forms. This means it’s possible for anyone to apply to speak at TEDxWomen!

NOTE: if you aren’t sure about your topic, want to do all this right, and are looking for expert guidance (or, you tried this on your own and got turned down), click here to learn more about how I work with clients.

speak at TEDxWomen

If you’re a woman that wants to do a TEDx Talk, this is a HUGE DEAL. If you know a woman that wants to do a TEDx Talk (or should do one), they need to see this article.

(Note: if you’re not a woman, it’ll be tough to get selected to speak at these events. Here’s a more general look at the TEDx speaker application process for any event.)

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TEDxWomen events happening at the same time as TEDWomen

Here’s the thing: rather than competing with men for speaking spots, you don’t have to. At all. Your odds of getting selected are effectively 2x, and the audience is targeted specifically at your message.

And as you can see from the map above, there are TEDxWomen events all around the world that generally happen every year. In the rest of this post, I’ll show you how to find these TEDxWomen events (that always coincide with TEDWomen), when they are, and how to apply to speak at the TEDxWomen event near you.

What do you do? Let me show you.

Step 1: Figure out when the TEDWomen Conference is

TED keeps an updated schedule on their website on the TEDWomen page. Go there and see when the next event is, then locate the theme. So, for 2021 all TEDxWomen events will be around early December.

Notice how the theme for 2021 is “What Now?”. When you apply to speak at the corresponding TEDxWomen event, your pitch will need to match the theme somehow (not literally, more conceptually). More on that later.

I recommend you set a Google Calendar reminder for closer to the event date (I recommend 6 months out and every month afterward, as you’ll see later) so you don’t forget.

Step 2: Choose a Topic

Now that you know the theme for the next TEDWomen conference, what is your topic? You may already have a topic in mind (in which case, excellent! You can skip this step), but if not, you’ll need to choose a topic for TEDxWomen.

Step 3:  Find Local TEDxWomen Events

These won’t start showing up until about 6-8 months before the TEDWomen conference date (hence the Google Calendar reminder you added in step 1).

Every month, when you get your Google Calendar reminder, start checking the TEDx event directory and search for TEDxWomen events (or, just click on this link to get a list of upcoming TEDx events. I’ve filtered them to show TEDxWomen).

You’ll then see a map with a bunch of little dots, just like this (if you don’t see any events yet, keep checking back every month). Check in the following locations:

  • places where you grew up (or went to university)
  • places you travel frequently

NOTE: I’ll use 2017 as an example from here onwards, but other years are the same.

an example TEDxWomen event

Let’s use TEDxOrlandoWomen as an example of a TEDxWomen speaker application. You can click on the event name to pull up a special profile page for this event. For this TEDx event, it looks like this:

TEDxWomen example profile page

This event is a little strange – most TEDxWomen events are organized by women. In this case, chances are Alexander has a team full of mostly women (I know for the event I started, the team was about 80% women and it wasn’t even a TEDxWomen event).

Step 4:  Determine how to apply to the TEDxWomen event

Now that you’ve found the event, how in the world do you apply to speak?

You’ve got a few options:

  • cold email the organizer
  • send them a Facebook message or LinkedIn message
  • find contact details on the website and send the team an email
  • find an application form on the website

Let’s look at each of these options (I’ll show you what to include in your application/pitch later in the post since this part doesn’t depend on the exact pitching method).

Note: Not every TEDxWomen event has live speakers. Some of them will simply show a live stream of some of the TEDWomen videos.

Cold email the event’s organizer

At the bottom of the TED.com profile page for this event, we can see that someone named Alexander Rudloff is the main organizer of this event (but there will be a whole team). You can then click on his name to bring up more info:

TEDx decision maker contact details

Check it out! You can see his personal website and Twitter (which should have contact details), as well as a bio (which can tell you some things about how to nail your pitch).

If there isn’t a website or bio listed here, you can always do a Google search for their name (and location), or search specifically on LinkedIn. If a TEDx decision maker lists all the details like this, it’s fair game to email them (more on that later).

Contact them through social media or their website

You’ll notice that this event’s TED.com profile didn’t have a website listed. Some events have this on the TED.com profile page, and some don’t.

If it’s not listed on the TED.com profile, I recommend that you do a Google search for the event name (eg: “TEDxOrlandoWomen”) and the event name without the “Women” suffix (eg: “TEDxOrlando”).

(Note: This is a weird insider trick – the “TEDxOrlando” event and “TEDxOrlandoWomen” event are almost always the same event team. This means they’ll share a Facebook page, website, Twitter profile, and so on.)

From your Google search, try to find a Facebook page (or Twitter profile) and website.

If you do this as a Google search for this event, we can see the Facebook page for TEDxOrlando with a TEDxWomen event listed:

TEDx Facebook page with TEDxWomen event

Step 5: Apply to Speak at the TEDxWomen Event!

Now that you’ve found options for where to apply…what do you include in your application?

I recommend the following, regardless of whether there’s an application form or you apply via email:


Insider Tip: A TEDxWomen Speaker Application Checklist

[clickToTweet tweet=”Insider Tip: A #TEDxWomen Application Formula” quote=”Insider Tip: A #TEDxWomen Application Formula”]

Here’s what I recommend you include in any TEDxWomen application (whether you’re submitting a form, or sending an application via email):

  • Detailed contact information
    • First and last name
    • Email
    • Phone number
  • More about you
    • Website (if you have one and it presents you in a positive light…don’t link a site that’s out of date)
    • Social links (LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter etc – anything that’s up to date and related to your topic)
  • Summarize your idea and its connection to the event theme
    • Why you want to speak at this event this year with this theme
    • What is your idea worth spreading? Why does it matter? How does it relate to the theme? (200-300 words)
    • If you know how long your talk will be, put that too (a shorter talk is better…less than 10min is ideal!)
  • Summarize your credibility (no, you don’t have to be famous)
    • Why should they choose you for this particular event to speak about this idea? (education, research, professional background, what’s the story of how you came to this idea)
  • Demonstrate (don’t describe, unless explicitly asked) your speaking ability
    • Record a short (2-3 minute video) outlining your idea so that they can see your communication style and personality
    • I don’t recommend you describe your speaking experience (eg: “I am an experienced speaker and have won many awards….”). If you’re a great speaker, demonstrate it on video. Exception – if you have a comedy background or theatre background. Mention this casually, it’ll let events know you’ve got an unconventional style.
  • Avoid the following
    • As much as it’s tempting to do so, don’t describe yourself as “motivational” or “inspirational”. You can be inspirational, but this should be obvious (show, don’t tell).
    • Don’t sell you. Sell your idea (remember, “ideas worth spreading”). Your idea should be the focus of your pitch.
    • Don’t be vague about your idea (e.g.: not “I would like to speak about relationships”, but “My talk is about what we can learn from the sex lives of penguins, the points I’ll make are X, Y, Z”)
    • Don’t spell the event name incorrectly (i.e.: “TEDxLondon” not “TedxLondon” or “tedxlondon”. Capital “TED”, little “x”, place name capitalized. Same goes with wanting to do a “ted talk” vs “TED Talk”).

Insider Tip: How NOT to choose a title for your talk

Here are my recommendations for a “topic” or “title” field:

  • Use plain English, not made-up words or catchy phrases that obfuscate what you mean (e.g.: not “How to find your inner sniper” but “How to focus on one thing at a time”)
  • Summarize your thesis/talk in a sentence, rather than using an overall subject (e.g.: not “Thinking in business”, which doesn’t tell us what you are going to say, but “Why your thinking matters more to your bottom line than you’d realize”)

To drive home this point, check out the titles on the most popular TED Talks of all time. Notice the simplicity of the language (“Do schools kill creativity?”, “How great leaders inspire action”, “The power of vulnerability”). Many speakers try to come up with a clever title. Instead, just be clear.  At this stage, the description of the idea is more important than the “topic” description.


Insider Tip: A TEDx application makeover in 30 seconds

Here’s an example of a real TEDx application we got:

“Thinking in business.
In particular my interest is thinking in sales in business.
Businesses spend fortunes training their people to behave differently but behaviour rarely changes. My obsession is to show people that it’s only thought that stops you doing the things you need to do. Thought creates your experience of life and we treat it as though it always knows best, yet its nothing more than some random firings in the brain that we then decide or don’t decide to act upon.
I want to introduce the world to the idea that they don’t have to feel the way they do about the things they know they should do but don’t!”

When our team received this pitch, we were concerned. Not because the speaker lacked qualifications, but because we didn’t understand her one idea. We were concerned because this talk could be about one thing or another, and this ambiguity suggests a lack of clarity in the speaker’s mind about what she wants to say.

Instead, what if her topic read something like this:

“My business clients spend years thinking about raising their prices, they stall, then they feel bad about it. Likewise, people in everyday life feel bad about having high self-esteem. They don’t set boundaries. This talk is about how real people can use the same techniques I teach to business about pricing and apply them to improving their own self-esteem and setting boundaries. More broadly, it will introduce the idea that business principles apply to any situation in life, and how to apply them.”

Is this what she meant originally when she described “thinking in sales in business”? We can’t be sure, but at least it’s clear this time what the proposed topic is.


Step 6: What happens after the application

Now, you wait 🙂

I recommend you follow the event on social media and join their email list in the meantime. Share their posts (the event organizers sure notice, and they appreciate it).

If you get selected, AMAZING!

If not, there are 4,500 TEDx events available for you to speak at all around the world (they aren’t TEDxWomen events, but there are many more of them!). I talk more about how to apply to these events (and a TON more background information on TEDx vs TED) in this post on how to get a TEDx Talk this year.

Do you have a topic that would be great for a TEDxWomen event? Let me know about it in the comments (and remember to share this with a woman that you think should do a talk at a TEDxWomen event this year!)

-Ryan

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Ryan Hildebrandt
Articles: 33
  • Ryan- thank you for this article. It’s informative and straight to the point. I have found myself seeking this stage and although I don’t see any TEDxWomen events happening this year, I plan to submit.

    Here’s a thought: We all know about the #metoo movement, yet I’ve discovered the #thisismenow movement. It’s about applying the lessons most of all American women have had to learn by now in order to be successful without selling our soul to the sexual predators. Most can say #metoo, but now many can say #thisismenow? Teaching how one can overcome rape, sexual molestion and harassment and succeed in their personal and business life is so much more powerful than the state of victimization.

    Don’t you think!?

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