Becoming a TED/TEDx Talk Presenter: Tips for Authors and Experts to Secure Speaking Opportunities with TEDx

One of our long-term clients is a highly successful business professional and author. She was the COO of a Fortune 200 company and now sits on the boards of several organizations including one of the world’s leading telecommunications companies.

Over the course of her book publicity campaign with us, we’ve secured a number of high profile media placements across national print and broadcast outlets, as well as targeted trade publications. Attracting speaking engagements is also one of her goals. Therefore, along with our publicity efforts, she also works with an expert who successfully pitched her for a local TEDx talk. I asked her if I could share the path she took to secure this prestigious speaking engagement.

Below are her insights, plus information compiled from TED, to help authors and experts become presenters. Being selected as a “TED Talk” speaker is an honor and often opens doors to new opportunities and builds credibility. We use link of her TEDx talk in our publicity pitches to the media.

What is a TED Talk?

According to their website:

  • TED is a nonprofit devoted to “ideas worth spreading.” It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design.
  • TED conferences bring together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes or less).
  • On, the best talks and performances from TED and partners are available to the world, for free.
  • TEDx was created in the spirit of TED’s mission, “ideas worth spreading.” The (TEDx) program is designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level.

Famous TED Talk presenters include Al Gore, Steve Jobs, Elizabeth Gilbert, Bill Gates, and Tony Robbins. Others presenters, while not household names, are innovators and leaders in their fields and definitely people to watch. According to TED, here is a list of the most watched TED Talks.

The popularity of TED Talks continues to grow. Here is a February 25, 2014 Forbes article called “TED Talks Are Wildly Addictive For Three Powerful Scientific Reasons.” In July of 2013, Mashable published a compilation of the “15 TED Talks That Will Change Your Life.” TED talks are powerful game changers for viewers and presenters.

The Overall TEDx Process

The author wanted to be presented as a speaker candidate to her local TEDx. She found the TEDx coordinators young and dynamic, and the process from initial pitching of an idea to the final “yes” a bit of a meandering journey.

Her several month progression included submitting a written proposal, follow up telephone calls, updating the original proposal, presenting the topic, and then telephone and in-person rehearsals. This was not a straightforward process. As we experience with publicity, this task needed a dynamic positioning strategy, combined with patient and persistent follow up.

Three Essential Tips to Positioning a Speaker for a TEDx Event

To begin the journey, here is the link to find and contact local TEDx organizers. Based on our client’s experience, here were the three important answers TEDx looked for in choosing a speaker and presentation topic:

  1. What is your ONE big idea?
  2. What are you going to share that will SURPRISE your audience?
  3. What is the CULTURAL SHIFT?

TEDx wants speakers who are creating a cultural shift in his or her field and causing people to change the way they approach a problem, topic or solution.

How TEDx Organizers Identify Potential Speakers

TED Talks guides organizers on how to select TEDx speakers. Advice from the TEDx website:

  • Seek out extraordinary voices in your local community who have a unique story or an unusual perspective—and who can convey it in a dynamic way
  • Local voices that few have heard before
  • People who can present their field in a new light
  • Perspectives that the global TED community may not have access to
  • Diverse demographics, ethnicities, backgrounds, subject matter

Becoming a TED Talk presenter brings serious credentials to any personal brand, and is often a goal for business and other non-fiction authors looking to build their platform as a thought leader.

For those starting out, it may make sense to begin with a local TEDx program. One final tip, whether presenting at a TED event or any other venue, TED offers a Speaker Guide with tips to help prepare and present a “great” talk.

By Sandra Poirier-Diaz, President of Smith Publicity