5 lies keeping you from a TED Talk

The process to land a TED Talk is confusing. As a result, there are a ton of lies about how to speak at a TED Talks event that keeps you stuck.

Let’s dispel them, shall we? 😉


Lie #1: You have to wait to get discovered, then invited to speak.

About 10-15% of TED Talks speakers get there because the event discovered them, and it’s not a bad thing to work on your brand, build your network, and try to be discovered. But, you can usually apply to a TED Talks event with an application form or through email.

The long, hard way is to try and get lucky and get discovered. The fast, easier way is to apply.

[clickToTweet tweet=”The long, hard way to get a #TEDTalk is to try and get lucky and get discovered. The fast, easier way is to apply.” quote=”The long, hard way to get a #TEDTalk is to try and get lucky and get discovered. The fast, easier way is to apply.”]

Many have open speaker applications on their websites, and I can show you how to find TEDx speaking opportunities before they lock down their speaker list!

Lie #2: You need to write your talk first

When you decide to buy a book, you don’t read the whole book first – you look at the title and description. When you decide whether to click on an article, you don’t read the article first – you decide based on the title, picture, and sometimes a summary.


Many speakers work hard on getting feedback on their entire talk and making sure it’s amazing. TEDx events sometimes get over 200 submissions, so aren’t able to review everyone’s entire talk (and most speakers don’t have their talk written first). Instead, TEDx events will often make a decision whether to move on with a speaker based on the synopsis of their idea (and perhaps an in-person audition to assess speaking ability).

Lie #3: You need to be a professional speaker

Although you need to be a good communicator for people to understand your idea, good speaking only helps if you have an idea TEDx organizers are interested in.

“What we DON’T require is that someone is already a great public speaker. If you have something worth saying, we’re pretty sure we can help you find a powerful way of saying it!”Chris Anderson, head of TED

[clickToTweet tweet=”good speaking only helps if you have an idea #TEDx organizers are interested in” quote=”good speaking only helps if you have an idea #TEDx organizers are interested in”]

People don’t read books because the author is great at typing and using grammar correctly – they want the message that the author communicates. Many TEDx speakers are inexperienced speakers, but they have great ideas (after all, the tagline for TED is “Ideas Worth Spreading” not “people that are great speakers”).

Lie #4: If there’s a TEDx speaking opportunity in your area, you’ll hear about it

Most of the public hears about a TEDx event when the event’s marketing team is trying hard to sell tickets to the public, and this almost always happens within a month or two of the event. By then, speakers have already been selected. After all, a great speaker lineup helps sell tickets.

Unfortunately, this is exactly the opposite of what you want if you want to speak. You want to learn about the event BEFORE speakers are selected so that you can speak yourself.

What people don’t know is that TED maintains a directory of TEDx events happening in the next year, and there are several techniques I teach to find TEDx speaking opportunities. That way, you can learn about events, find out the theme and how to apply, and have plenty of time to send in an incredible pitch that’ll get you selected.

TEDx events in the next year

Lie #5: You apply on TED’s website

TEDx events all have different organizers that are all volunteers, and none of them are employees of TED. This means applying to one doesn’t harm (or help) your chances at any other event!

At the same time, it also means applying to one event doesn’t get you automatically considered for others (since the teams are independent).

Which of these lies was most surprising to you?

Let me know in the comments below 🙂


Ryan Hildebrandt


Ryan Hildebrandt
Ryan Hildebrandt
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