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6 Tips for Developing and Landing a TED Talk

Here's how to be noticed in the popular forum

Who hasn’t seen a TED Talk, those speeches known for being relatively lengthy (for the web) yet almost always entertaining and informative? TED speakers offer nuggets of wisdom or insight that can refresh you at the end of a long day, or inspire and motivate you at the beginning of one.
If you’ve ever watched a TED Talk and thought, “I wonder if I could give one?” then read on.
(MORE: The 11 Greatest TED Talks for Anyone Over 50)
Here’s why: Giving a TED Talk might be a bucket list item that’s actually attainable. Maybe you’re not a marine biologist or an authority on behavioral economics, but it is entirely possible you have experiences and insights that, if you could only find a way to elucidate them, could make for a successful TED Talk.
Here are six tips to help you know how:
Tip No. 1: Understand what a TED Talk is — and isn’t.
“A TED Talk is not a business presentation or a lecture,” says Al Meyers, founder of TEDxPeachtree in Atlanta, Ga.
In other words, a TED Talk doesn’t have an agenda. “It’s a conversation about the idea.”
Let’s say you have that idea and you think it would make a great TED Talk. First, do your homework to make sure it hasn’t been done before by searching the TED website. Note: even if someone else has given a TED Talk that touches on the same themes or ideas, that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t try. Maybe you have a different take on it. Either way, it’s good know what has come before.
Tip No. 2: Even if you don’t have a specific idea but still feel you have something to say that’s worthy of a TED Talk, let the people in your circle know.
(MORE: How to Follow Your Improbably Passion)
“Take a look at your life experiences, and be objective,” says Jacqui Chew, the licensee and co-organizer for the 2014 TEDxPeachtree. “Ask friends for their opinion on what is most interesting or impactful about your life or work.” Develop a talk around that idea.
Tip No. 3: Next, find a TEDx event near you — the TED website lists them.
A quick look revealed, for example, eight talks scheduled in Georgia for 2015. Some are already sold out. If that’s the case in your area, you can always offer to volunteer at one. It’s a great way to get to know the organizers, who may put on another event next year.
Basically TEDx is a feeder to TED — your “x” talk will be recorded and official TED curators will see it as they add to the over 1,900 on the site.
Tip No. 4: Think about what is needed and if you fit.
When looking at TEDx events (most of them have a website), make sure to find out if they are themed. If so, it only makes sense to inquire about trying to get a speaking slot if your talk fits into their theme.
Chew pointed out that most TEDx events try to present a balanced slate of speakers who may discuss their scientific research, offer their unique take on social issues or serve up insights on art and pop culture.
There are also what are known as “personal journey” talks, which are first-person accounts of a specific experience.
TEDx events find speakers in a variety of ways. For example, the TEDxPeachtree website has a form anyone can use to nominate a speaker they think is worth considering. It’s OK to nominate yourself.
Tip No. 5: Be patient.
While TED events are professionally organized by paid staff, TEDx events are put on by independent organizations that have licensed the TEDx moniker, and they’re run by volunteers who probably have day jobs or are full-time students.
Tip No. 6: A great way to determine what your talk should accomplish is to watch as many TED Talks as you can.
Good examples include Susan Cain on the power of introverts, Ken Robinson on how schools kill creativity, Elizabeth Gilbert on your elusive creative genius and Bryan Stevenson on why we need to talk about an injustice.
(MORE: How to Stay Motivated and Accomplish Anything)
“The best talks don't just relay an idea,” said Valerie Rivera, speaker concierge for TEDxHololulu. “They tell the story of someone who had an idea and did something remarkable with it. The impact doesn't have to be huge, because it's the potential that truly makes them exciting.
“Last year, I saw Isabel Allende give a fantastic talk on how to live passionately that had the audience laughing and crying.”
Still want to know more? You can contact TED via their website, as I did. Christine Kwak from TED Support recommended several links, including these:

After each talk, the viewer is invited to rate the talk and then choose three words (from a list of 14) to describe it. Among the words to choose from are: inspiring, jaw-dropping and courageous. But these are alongside words like: OK, longwinded and obnoxious.

Stephen L. Antczak is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and is the author of four books and more than 50 short stories.

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