The 4 Principles to get on the TEDx Stage

Even if you've been turned down before

even if you aren't sure which events are best for you

even if you've got lots of ideas and aren't 100% sure what your best topic is yet.

I'm Ryan - a TEDx organizer (I founded the 2nd largest TEDx event in the UK), TEDx speaker, and coach -- I specialize in helping coaches, academics, musicians, YouTubers, authors, and everything in between get invited to become TEDx speakers.

I've seen over 1,000 accepted and rejected pitches at this point, and helped over a dozen people become TEDx speakers.

If you're ready to do a TEDx talk and want a reliable system to create the best results, read on -- this page is for you. 

Regardless of which coach you choose, this page will help you on your journey.

Principle 1: Speak at the Best TEDx Events

When you envision doing a TEDx talk, do you picture something like the left, or right?

Poor-quality TEDx event

On the right, a professional. You'd watch the video assuming they're an expert right out of the gate.  

On the left, an amateur. Did they fake the event? Are they as much of an expert as other TEDx speakers? Would you pay as much attention to the content? Would you trust them as a highly-paid speaker or coach? Probably not.

The wrong TEDx event can ruin your reputation, and may not produce video at all.

This isn't just a consideration for one event -- this talk is a resource you can use for LIFE. 

Think of all the time spent developing your expertise as a professional, thinking you got the opportunity of a lifetime, then being disappointed in the end result!

The best TEDx events have:

  • Larger audiences online (there is a strong correlation between event and talk performance)
  • High-quality video and photos so you look like a pro (my clients speak at events with 10+ person photography teams, 6+ camera angles, and 20,000 person audiences)
  • The best OTHER speakers, so your network is strong
  • The best support after the event (some will translate your talk to different languages for you)

30% of events have very poor video and stage quality.

Another 50% don't film their talks at all.

Why? Professional video and a huge venue are expensive. Not every organizer has the skill to sell tickets or get enough sponsorship to pay for everything they want to.

My client Leo came to me after seeing a list I'd published of the best TEDx events globally (I analyzed the entire TEDx YouTube channel to find patterns in talk performance...they were strong). 

Leo had applied previously to TEDxRioDeLaPlata in Buenos Aires, and had been turned down. He was adament that they would NEVER select him. He thought this event was completely out of his reach, as by looking at other past speakers, it seemed like they just wanted inventors, scientists, and so on (Leo is a business speaker and author).

He wanted to aim for a smaller event. 

I convinced him that after we'd done working on his pitch and approach, he'd be just fine.

You can probably guess the end of the story -- here he is speaking to a live audience of 20,000 people (not a typo) at the exact event he was turned down for prior, where he said they would "never" accept him. Check out the size of the room (right).

This wasn't an accident -- Leo himself admitted that after working with me, his old pitch seemed really disorganized and unclear by contrast. We didn't change him as a speaker, I just gave him a better approach that unlocked a massive event.

I do NOT recommend blasting a pitch out to a bunch of events -- you're very likely to run into a bad quality event, and you may not realize it until days before the event. 

Just like taking the time to make your book cover high-quality and hire an editor, taking the time crafting your TEDx message and pitch with a professional can make a huge difference in the how well you're able to leverage the talk long-term, and the number of people it reaches. 

Book a free strategy call here.

Principle 2: Play the Two Games of TEDx

I hope you're already comfortable speaking.

I hope you're great at what you do.

But that's not enough to get on the TEDx stage.

Here's the thing -- I'm guessing that most speaking you've done has come through referral, your network, your job, or a workshop you've organized yourself.

If you're an academic, you may have probably submitted abstracts for adademic conferences.

But TEDx is different.

Everyone is a good speaker who applies -- 200+ of them.

Your differentiating factor is not how great your talk is or how comfortable you are on stage.

If you can't get INVITED, it doesn't matter how good your talk is.

You have to speak the language of TEDx organizers.

My client John applied for more than 20 TEDx events. He got turned down by every single one (and heard nothing from most of them). Even though he'd consulted for companies like Google and Facebook, even though he had worked with over 8,000 individual clients.

Except one event -- he got invited at ONE, but in his words, it looked like it was filmed on a flip phone.  

He was playing one game well -- the speaking game.

He had no idea about how to play the second game -- the "applying to TEDx" game.

And as a result, he "won a prize nobody wanted".

Here's why his strategy didn't work before:

  • He didn't have a "warm" intro like before
  • TEDx is not a conference for a particular industry. If a business conference was looking for speakers about "digital transformation" or "keto", you could simply propose that topic and have a pretty good chance. TEDx however, is looking for "ideas worth spreading", which is far more broad. You have to provide just enough background information, but not too much (the balance between confusing and boring)
  • TEDx is often more competitive than other events (200+ applicants for a good event)

Even though John's pitch sucked before he came to me, we worked out the kinks in both that and his message. After working with me, he got invited to speak at TEDxOakland, and in his words, my pitching process improved his MESSAGE too.

This is why books like "Talk Like TED" can help you speak well, but not GET speaking opportunities at TEDx.

Principle 3: Don't write your talk yet

If there are two games you're you need to bother with the "my talk is good" game before you win the "getting invited" game?

Of course not

You don't need to write your talk before you get booked as a TEDx speaker.

I'll say that again -- don't write your talk until AFTER you are invited.

Don't practice it.

Don't deliver it to test audiences.

Don't brainstorm visuals.

Doing so may result in WORSE results (and can irritate TEDx event organizers)

Creating a whole talk and repetetively delivering it to audiences BEFORE you even apply sounds like a great idea, but:

  • It's slow (it can take months to get it to a point where the audience is responding well)
  • Doesn't translate well to the pitch (a great talk doesn't necessarily mean a 200-300 word description of what it is will be exciting)
  • Coaches that advocate for this method help you with the talk, but you're on your own for getting invited...because they've NEVER helped anyone get invited before (only worked with speakers who have already been booked)
  • It can lead to a ton of work, but never an invitation (which is exactly what happened to this person who worked with another coach)

Most people who do it this way do a ton of work, over months or even years, the talk doesn't translate well into a pitch (the coach leaves them alone for this part), and they get turned down. Just like this speaker below (who worked with another coach, and has a talk she's "ready to deliver"). 

I reached out to this person on Facebook and asked, and she told me she tried a couple times, got discouraged, and never tried again (think of the wasted time and money!)

Instead, I recommend you refine CONCEPTS (a few hundred words), which are the main building blocks for your message and pitch. Test these out very much like features of a product -- not what features people "like", but what makes them buy. 

Seek data through behaviour, not opinion.

Think about it -- if you have 200 applicants to look at, do you have time to watch 200 18min talks? Not a chance. So TEDx events ask about "your topic" (ie: summarize your idea). These main concepts, if not articulated well in a compelling way, can make top CEOs and award-winning speakers get turned down.

Refining concepts has several advantages:  

  • It's faster than iterating on a whole talk (it takes a 10-15h and you can do it all at home vs. months or years). As a result, you can test the initial "angle" much faster, so your talk ends up being better (which means you get better long-term business results & impact from it)
  • You "win" sooner (eg: get the invite before you do all the work to write your script, practice it, decide visuals, do research, and so on)
  • You don't need a whole talk to get invited. TEDx events DO NOT WANT you to submit a whole talk. Most will put a hard limit on the application form (ie: 300 words plus a MAX 3min video of you speaking to you webcam). If you submit a whole talk, they'll ask you to summarize it (they won't even watch the whole video or read the whole script - with the number of applicants they get doing this takes too long)
  • You get 2-3 months after getting invited to work on your talk (you can practice with your friends, employees, existing audiences then)

This is exactly what I did for my TEDx talk (I had never done ANY talks before TEDxWindsor), and exactly what I helped my clients Kate (left) and Connie (middle) do. None of us had written the talk before getting invited. We pitched the talk concepts and worked on the talk itself (research, rehearsaing, deciding visuals) after getting booked.

Very much like a high-stakes product launch, we need to get real data to ensure your message is as potent as possible, and resonates with unbiased people from all different cultures, countries etc.

Imagine this -- if you had $1 million to invest in a product launch and an expert said "yep, this will work", would you trust this ONE data point? Or, would you want to get some pre-orders first to get real data from more than just one person?  

The same is true with your TEDx message. Treat it like a high-stakes product launch. That's exactly what it is.

In doing so, we ensure the long-term ability of your message to cause people not just to "appreciate" it, but take action.

Every single time insanely experienced professional speakers, authors who have sold 50,000+ books, and millionaire YouTubers have told me they "know their audience", they've been blown away at the deeper level of undersanding they now have once they do some simple (yet unorthodox) tests on their message concepts.

This is how I get my clients on the biggest TEDx stages.

This is why my clients have people email them telling them that they took action on their talk (not just "I really appreciated it"). This is real impact. 

Principle 4: Understand your Coach's Qualifications

Whether or not you choose to work with me, you need to understand the world of "TEDx coaching"

There are three types of "experts" related to the world of TEDx.

1. People who have done a TEDx talk themselves

2. People who help you write "TED-style" talks (often these are speaker coaches who have worked with some TEDx speakers after they've been invited)

3. People who have done the speaker selection personally, so have seen both good and bad pitches from a variety of speakers and industries.

Which is best for you?

TEDx speakers

Let's agree - the worst thing you can do is try it on your own. So, if you have a friend or contact who's done a TEDx talk, you can ask them for advice about how they did it.

The problem is, they know THAT they got invited, but they cannot tell you why. The things they're telling you do to may harm you (like filming a professional audition video...sounds like a geat idea, but it's bad advice). They don't know about the other speakers who followed similar advice but got turned down.

They only have one data point.'s better than nothing.

"TEDx speaker coaches"

On most TEDx teams, there's a volunteer in charge of helping the speakers craft their ideas after they get invited. Most often, these are people with speaker coaching businesses who want to say they "helped with TEDx talks".

The problem is, they're playing only one game (see Principle 2 above). They have experiene helping people write the talk, but not get invited.

In fact, these coaches book calls with me THEMSELVES because they don't know how to get people booked but still want to get invited themselves. If you have a coach like this you already have paid for, use their services only after you get booked (but you probably don't need to, as most great events have a person like this on staff already who will help you for free).

TEDx founders

The third is the holy grail. If the first is "I got into Harvard", the second is "I tutor people after they get into Harvard", the third is "I've been on the selection committee for Harvard" -- the third has the most insight as to how/why certain speakers are chose.

I've done a TEDx talk too, but that's not the biggest thing that enables me to help my clients -- it's the fact that I was the founder/director for a TEDx event, and have done the speaker selection personally (I also know 7 or so other TEDx organizers, which gives me insight into their process too).

Honestly, I don't know anyone else in the world who has both *founded* a TEDx event as well as spoken at one.

So, choose the best coach you can. 

I recommend someone who very clearly has helped people get invited, and ideally, has done the speaker selection themselves (which gives them the knowledge of what *doesn't* work across a variety of speakers)

Here are some of the results I've helped my clients create:

  • I've helped two of them get 2,000,000+ views on their talks
  • One of my clients got invited to speak at the one of the largest TEDx events in the world (TEDxRioDeLaPlata), to a 20,000 person live audience, after he'd been turned down from this exact event years prior.
  • I've helped over a dozen get invited (most of which who'd been turned down before)
  • I've helped most of them go from feeling like TEDx is something that “they’ll be ready for in the future” or that their TEDx message idea “would just come to them” to getting that feeling within a few weeks of working with me. Some were invited to speak at multiple events with the exact same pitch.
  • Several of my clients landed book deals and their first paid speaking engagements after their TEDx talk

Here are some of them (more on how to work with me at the bottom).

Interested in working together?

Here's who I work with:

  • You must already have a website for your business, non-profit, side project etc.
  • You must have some high-level ideas for what you could share (normally based on a book, coaching program, workshop, etc.)
  • You must be great what you do (ie: we have an opportunity to scale what's already working)
  • You must be comfortable speaking in front of at least small crowds. It's perfectly normal to feel a little nervous about an opportunity like TEDx, but I can't help you if the prospect of speaking to 10 people paralyzes you (Toastmasters or Improv Comedy is a great alternative if you're getting over stage fright)
  • You must have the highest standards for the impact of your message (that means if you DO have a talk already, you must be open to feedback, and you must be open to trying for some big events with my support)

My clients include 28-year-old YouTube millionaires, Harvard and Oxford grads, non-profit CEOs with multiple PhDs and masters degrees, professional musicians, life coaches, non-fiction authors, software engineers, and everything in between. The things that unite them are the traits above.

Think that's you? Here's how to book a call with me and see if we're a fit

Other "requirements" you may have heard simply aren't true (if you don't have a book, have never memorized a talk before, have never spoken on a big stage before, have no social media following and so on...these aren't at all a problem). Anyone who tells you that you need these things is uninformed.

More TEDx speakers I've helped get invited: