We love TED at Ethos3! In fact, we participated in Nashville’s very own TEDx event. One of the biggest myths about TED is that you must be asked to become a speaker at one of their conferences. In reality, all you need to do is fill out an application. If you feel as if you have an “idea worth sharing,” here are a few tips to help improve the strength of your overall application:
1. Application 101 – The TED application includes six essay questions, references, plus additional contact information. What exactly can be found in the essay questions? These touch upon your goals, accomplishments, and why you’d like the be part of the TED community. Become familiar with these questions and let yourself stew on them a bit before you start.
2. Tell a Story – Share a surprising, funny, or unique anecdote in your essays. This is the kind of content they will be looking for in a TED talk, so reveal your hand before by writing something personal. Another option you have is to submit a video resume, which you can send to supplement your other materials. Take a lesson from Sheryl Sandberg, who had originally planned to deliver a data-heavy presentation. Instead, she shared three impactful stories and delivered one of the most impactful (and popular) TED Talks of all time:
3. Don’t Be Lazy – Don’t copy-paste any information already floating around about you, which includes bios used on other websites. Write something original and specialized for TED’s requirements and goals.
4. Ghostwriters Not Welcome – Your voice is unique; don’t let anyone else take credit for that style. Be sure that you are authentically yourself and don’t let your third cousin twice-removed write these essay questions for you.
5. References That Impress – When you include references, make sure it’s someone who knows you well, is in the appropriate field that you will be speaking about, or is extremely familiar with your work/message. References from loving mothers, doting fathers, and occasional friends will not impress anyone. Also, don’t forget to include other relevant speaking appearances you’ve made, or even your entire speaking portfolio.
6. Keep It Together – Be concise about which links you include for additional information; avoid just attaching a few personal social media pages that have nothing to do with your message. Instead, refer them to pages that showcase your work.
7. Give Yourself Time – One of the nicer features of the TED application is the fact that you can go back later to edit it. Don’t rush this process; give yourself a day or so before returning to your answers and submitting.
8. Be Yourself – Don’t fill your application with jargon, unnecessary rhetoric, or fluff that you feel will “enhance” your perception. Use a tone that reflects your personality, is conversational, but also stays firmly on topic.
9. Don’t Be a Snake Oil Salesperson – The purpose of TED is not to pitch your product, platform, idea, or business. Instead, it is to enhance your audience’s knowledge through new, interesting content. If you sound like a salesperson in your application you will not be selected: they have distinct rules against any propaganda.
10. Ideas Matter Most – The most important part of a TED application is to have specific ideas with a point of view that can be defended. Don’t just say “we should all eat more vegetables,” go into specifics. What is the fresh angle of your perspective? Keep in mind that they are looking for shared ideas, not identities.
TED has additional tips on their site if you are interested in learning more about the process. We’ve also gotten some public speaking insights from some of the most powerful (and popular) TED speakers. This list includes Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor who delivered “Stroke of Insight,” Shawn Anchor of “The Happiness Advantage” fame, and Simon Sinek with the second most watched TED Talk of all time, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.”
When it comes to your application, don’t skimp on your research, be sure your ideas are fully developed, and share a fresh perspective that will make you stand out from the crowd. But perhaps the most important takeaway is simply this: applying to become a TED speaker should require same the time and effort with which you would give to the speech itself.
Question: How can you improve your current TED application?
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