How to get selected for a TEDx talk

“It’s always been a dream of mine to have done a TED Talk in the past.” – Tim Urban, from his TED talk, “Inside the mind of a master procrastinator

Oh, you came to this post looking for step-by-step instructions on how to get selected for a TEDx talk? Sorry about that. Instead, I hope you’ll indulge me in recounting my process of selection . . . and hey, maybe you’ll learn something you can apply to your own TEDx application process.

Maybe. We’ll see.

Here’s what I know about getting selected for a TEDx talk.

1. Pitch with ego. Get rejected. Pitch again with heart.

The first time I pitched my talk, I was rejected. They were right—my topic stunk. I went back and reread it recently and couldn’t believe how blasé and self-serving it was. I like to think of myself as a low-ego individual (some ego is required in life, I think), but my topic screamed, “Hey, I want to advance my career!”

I took a year off from pitching TEDx to have a baby. I’m glad I did, because wow, I never would have been able to handle the intense preparation that goes into writing and preparing to give this talk. The next time I pitched, I did it from my heart. I pitched the idea, not my expertise. To be honest, that was a little scary, and as I hit send on my idea late last year, I knew I was doing it for the right reason: the idea rather than my ego.

If you make it through the first round, the next step in the TEDxBoise selection process is to give a live three-minute pitch. The pitch took place in an intimidatingly large board room with five TEDx planning members. I probably overprepared—practicing the pitch on video, audio, and for my kids (best practice ever in dealing with distractions!). The panel listened to more than twenty of us and selected twelve for the TEDx stage in April.

2. Get accepted. Feel elation followed by gripping self-doubt.

When I got the acceptance e-mail, I was nursing my baby to sleep. I stared at it for a long while. I smiled and silently cheered, not wanting to startle my son. Then, extreme panic set in.

To be clear, I’m a fairly confident person. I’m not afraid of giving the TED talk. But the panic I was feeling in that moment was a mix of incredulousness and self-doubt. Was my idea really worth spreading? Would I be able to craft a talk that could do something?

Here’s the trick, folks. I let myself engage in that self-doubt for a few days. I talked with my TEDx coach, who assured me, “You don’t have to wonder if your idea is worthy. Our panel has already validated that it is by selecting you.” Thanks, coach.

I knew that in order to write, prepare, and give a great TEDx talk, I had to move past feelings of inadequacy. Because, if I’m being really honest, self-doubt has accompanied every great endeavor of my life. Bring it, TEDx.

3. Be ready to happily rearrange the next several months of your life.

A caveat here: TEDxBoise is extremely organized. I believe we have one of the foremost TEDx programs in the country, barring major cities with more resources and volunteers. Getting selected six months out like our speakers did is hugely beneficial. Not everyone is so lucky. If you’re in a small-ish town or city, you might have just a couple of months or weeks (!) to prepare your talk. And you also might not get the luxurious five private speaking coaching sessions our speakers get.

That said, be ready to rearrange your schedule significantly, especially if you have a short time frame. I’ve spent about five hours a week so far just researching and writing a draft for my talk—and I haven’t even started practicing it yet.

Be realistic about the time commitment. If you’re going through a career or life transition (ahem, like having a baby) that’s depleting your energy, maybe this isn’t the year for you. But then again, maybe it is.

That’s it for now. If you’re thinking of putting together your TEDx pitch, waiting to hear if you’re selected, or preparing to give a talk, please comment below. And if you have anything to add, please do so!

Finally, if you’ll be in the Boise area on April 8 and want to hear my TEDx talk on raising brave kids, along with eleven other incredible speakers, you can purchase tickets here.

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