How to Pitch a TED Talk

These days, every author, business owner, activist, and their dog want to give a TED Talk. And it really is no wonder when doing so automatically establishes you as a definitive leader in your industry.

But how do you achieve that gold-star in public speaking? What does it take to achieve a place on the stage?

Speechy has the five-step-plan for that TED Talk triumph (and a few tough questions for you to ask yourself first)…

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Step 1: Do you have anything interesting to say?

Let’s start with the bad news. Not everyone does.

Sorry, to be brutal but sometimes we speak to clients wanting to give a TEDTalk and mutually conclude this might not be the best route for them increasing their personal or business credibility.

The fact is, sometimes people can be inspiring, brilliant at their job, the best in their field and still, have absolutely nothing new to say.

The TEDtalk stats are tough. Sure, there’s examples of speakers videos getting millions of views (currently, the top rated is ‘Do schools kill creativity?’ by Sir Ken Robinson with 74.6m views) and there are dozens of examples of TEDTalks transforming the speakers into global phenomenons (such as Simon Sinek, Brene Brown, and Amy Cuddy) but the chances of you getting to that level of exposure is, to put it bluntly, highly unlikely. And, yes, even with our help!

When clients come to us, many don’t understand how the process works so let’s be clear, it’s a long and tough one. Before you have a hope of getting invited to the holy-grail-stage in Vancouver or get your talk uploaded to Ted.com, the audition begins by delivering a powerful and innovative TEDx Talk.

Tedx are independently organised events run by volunteers, often within universities. There are now 50,000 Tedx talks around the world but even then, getting invited on stage is still a highly selective process, often involving months of work and commitment. And then, if you do manage to deliver a talk the chances of it being uploaded to Ted.com – is about 1 in 18,000. Danny Dyer has better odds of becoming the next James Bond.

So, as well as asking yourself if you have something interesting to say, you also have to ask yourself, do you have the stamina to put a lot of time and energy into something that may only be witnessed by a hundred students and viewed by a thousand folk online. Is saying you’re a TED speaker that important to your LinkedIn profile or could your marketing efforts be better utilised elsewhere? Speaking at a business-related conference, for example?

Ask yourself, are you genuinely wanting to give a TedTalk to ‘spread ideas, foster community and create impact’ or is your motivation simply an ego boost?

The latter will get weeded out in the TedTalk process, but the Speechy team is happy to help innovators, leaders, and founders develop their speaker goals to ensure they align with your goals; whatever they may be!

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Step 2: Framing your idea

Before you get pen to paper, you need to be confident that what you have to say is both innovative and, ever so slightly, mind blowing. We’re not saying your idea has to lead to the next scientific breakthrough, it can literally be as simple as a ‘how to’, but it needs to spark the part of the audience’s brain that responds to something new and exciting. Ideally, it needs to change the way they see the world.

When we work with TED Talkers (and the wannabes…) the first step is nailing the message they want to get across. In our experience, we find that the idea that’s pitched is rarely the one that’s suggested by our client. More often than not, our client’s suggestions are ones that we’ve already heard: business theories, buzzwords etc.

It generally takes hours of conversation to reach the nugget that excites us. It’s not a process that’s done overnight, but it is doable.

Often the central premise of the talk comes from an ‘aside’ that leads to us developing a whole new line of thinking. Sometimes it’s a long-forgotten case study, sometimes it’s applying your theory within your personal rather than business life that becomes the focus of the talk.

Sure, the core concept needs to reflect your expertise, but don’t forget that there’s one thing you have in life that no one in the world has. Your own personal experiences and anecdotes can help explain your concept or put it into a new sphere of thinking.

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Step 3: Find the perfect place to pitch

The best place to pitch your TEDx talk won’t always be the one that is closest to you. TEDx Talks typically have a dedicated theme for each event, so you’ll need to be sure that your idea can be categorised into one of these, or at least, tailored to suit.

A theme like ‘Vision’, ‘Luck’ or ‘Authenticity’ might allow you to legitimately present your idea in that framework. But don’t attempt to shoehorn your concept or central idea into something it isn’t. This does no one any favours.

Use the TED.com website to research which TEDTalk event your talk will best be suited to. This gives you information on the event organiser and all social media links/email subscriptions, so be sure that you are following all of these to keep updated throughout the process.

It is also worth noting that some TEDx events also carry more weight than others. These are known as level two events and expect a higher level of public speaking experience. Due to each TEDx event being independently organised, ensure you are the type of speaker the organiser is after.

Step 4: Make sure you can actually do this

You may be a hardened business speaker, but a TEDTalk is a different beast, so write the basis of your talk and deliver it to a few folk. Get feedback before you pitch your idea.

Are people genuinely excited, or do you detect only ‘polite’ reactions.

If you can, present your talk to teenagers. They’re your toughest critics and connoisseurs of content designed to make an impact in a short amount of time.

Of course, if you’re looking for brutal, expert, feedback, get in touch. If you’ve nailed your central idea, we can help package it up into something that excites and inspires from the get-go. We use our TV scriptwriting techniques (that have attracted audiences of seven million) to ensure every word you say is memorable for all the right reasons.

It’s also worth knowing, companies like Gritty Pearl are also particularly helpful with speakers from diverse or underrepresented backgrounds . Check them out if you can.

Step 5: Contact the organising team and create the pitch

We’re fans of having a strong speech ready to go before you pitch it. This way, you’ll be more confident with ‘the sell’.

We also recommend speaking to the organisers before officially pitching your Talk. Nothing beats personal contact and, insider intel can also help you package your pitch to better suit the organiser’s ambitions for the event.

Of course, it goes without saying that you’ll want your pitch to make an amazing first impression. You don’t need to reveal the whole body of your idea, just enough to pique the organisers interest. Highlight the elements of your idea that legitimise it and build a connection with the organisers but don’t over-complicate it and try to say everything.

Remember, you’re presenting the talk equivalent of a book’s blurb.

Your application can be completed via a form or a video submission, but we advise opting for the latter. At the end of the day, you’re applying to be a speaker! Use any and every opportunity you can to demonstrate your speaking ability.

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how speechy can help

The Speechy team specialise in speeches.

With a background of writing TV scripts and directing TV presenters, we’re ideally equipped to help you make the most of your message. Or even, as business owners ourselves, help develop it.

All our business writing is priced on an individual basis and around your unique needs.

WhatsApp us, call Heidi on 07971 224 245or email hello@speechy.com  to find out more.

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