A great TED talk has the power to change people's lives. For an entrepreneur, giving a TED talk can propel your career and personal brand to a whole new level.

Some of the biggest influences in my life have been TED talks from Brene Brown, Thandie Newton, Simon Sinek and Matthieu Ricard, among others. I'm sure that they, or others like them, have also inspired you.

Hoping to one day give a TED talk, I jumped at the chance to interview Wes Chapman. He recently gave an amazing TED talk about worthiness in the modern world. I wanted to know how he landed his TED talk, how he prepared for it, and what he did afterwards to maximize the value of his speech.

Here's what I learned about what it takes to be an effective TED speaker.

Decide on your message

You don't have much time on stage, so you need a concise message. "When I started to think about my topic," Chapman says, "I asked myself, What's the one thing I want the world to learn from me?"

Chapman wrote down over 85 different ideas at first. Then he trimmed that list down to one bold idea: the biology of worthiness.

Find the right TEDx event

Note that not all TEDx events are equal. A poorly organized event can result in bad production quality or lackluster promotion. You want an event with a good venue, seasoned producers and big sponsors.

"Nothing is worse than spending all that time and energy, and then the production value is horrible or they don't promote your video," Chapman says.

Chapman found producers who were well-regarded in the TED community and had been there since TED was started. He interviewed them to understand their goals for the event and plans for promotion.

Secure your TEDx talk

"The best way to secure a TEDx talk is to get in front of the producers and get to know them on a real level," Chapman says. "Demonstrate your value without asking for a placement right off the bat."

Every TEDx location announces its window for public submissions. Submit a two-minute video that clearly and passionately states what you want to talk about, why you want to talk about it, and why it's an idea worth spreading globally.


You can't expect to just take the stage and wing the most important speech of your life. Even the best speakers practice relentlessly.

"I spent three months practicing and wrote 17 different versions of my talk by the time I had a final script," Chapman says. "I practiced daily. I recorded myself giving the speech and would listen to it while driving or falling asleep."

Hire a coach

If you want to give a world-class TED talk, Chapman recommends that you get a coach. "I've given hundreds of talks, sometimes to 10,000 people at a time, but I knew that I needed a great coach to help me produce the best speech I've ever given," Chapman says.

Ask someone in your network for a solid referral and then meet with that person directly to determine if it's a good fit.

Present with purpose

Why do some talks go viral while others seem to go nowhere? The answer is simple: purpose. "You can't get on stage without knowing your purpose," Chapman says.

Chapman's talk on the biology of worthiness is a result of his personal experiences. It also comes from his role as founder of A Human Project, a non-profit that helps at-risk youth understand their own self-worth. His talk is congruent with his life's purpose.

Promote your talk

When your video is ready, you want to promote it as much as possible so it can reach and help more people. "TED uploads your talk to YouTube and then you need to promote it across all the avenues available to you," says Chapman. His advice: "Don't fragment the video views. Send everyone to your YouTube video."

When promoting the video, Facebook ads are a great way to target specific audiences and promote your video with people who will identify with it the most. Also, don't forget to interact with people who comment on your YouTube video.

Things to avoid

Here's Chapman's list of things to avoid with TED talks:

  1. Don't talk about your business or plug your company.
  2. Don't talk about yourself, except when it's relevant to your message. Your goal is to be likable.
  3. Don't be overly dramatic. This isn't a Broadway play!
  4. Don't dress poorly. Look your best and project the image you want others to remember.
  5. Don't speak longer than 18 minutes.
  6. Don't brag about your TED talk. Use your opportunity to uplift, not to be divisive.
  7. Don't buy fake views on Youtube. TED and YouTube pay attention to that, and they will pull your video.

Start now

As a TED speaker, you can awaken others to new realizations while taking your career and personal brand to a whole new level. Start now by watching some of the top TED speakers. Visualize yourself on stage giving an authentic, game-changing speech while keeping the above advice in mind. If you can see it, you can achieve it - and you'll be on stage before too long.