Did you know that every day, somewhere in the world, there is at least one TEDx event being held? And every year, just in the United States alone, there are over 250,000 conferences, conventions, open workshops and summits. This means that we have more of a need for subject matter experts than ever before -- people who have the ability to teach others on topics that they are uniquely qualified to instruct.
A few years ago, my speaking career was limited to monthly internal training at my company and weekly client webinars. A challenge from a colleague caused me to branch out to the wider world, explaining that the knowledge I was keeping internal was relevant to a wider world.
After I learned how to write an abstract, find call for speakers, and find the proper material for each event, I even managed to snag two TEDx talks.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a TED public speaker and how to get there? Here's what it's like:
1. Apply to speak.
For each event, there will be a call for speaker proposals (CFP) listed on their site, and within this CFP they will list the theme of the day. When I presented at TEDxUNLV, the theme was "Living to the Extreme," and I had a story that matched.
When applying for any conference, you must present something based on what the organizers are asking for -- not necessarily something you have presented before. Always make sure that what you submit is relevant to the conference.
Wait it out.
For any conference, once you have submitted your abstract, you simply have to wait until you find out if it has been accepted. At TEDxUNLV, there was roughly five months between submission and acceptance -- long enough for me to forget about the event.
Pay attention to when the CFP closes, as speaker decisions will generally be made after that. Sometimes, you won't even hear anything from a conference except for public speaker announcements. It is usually not a good idea to follow up with the organizer before announcements are made -- they've got hundreds of submissions to go through -- but if you were not chosen, it is generally okay to ask why.
Additionally, I've known a few examples of people who were added as alternates to the schedule by politely following up after getting an initial rejection.
3. Write the talk.
This may seem counterintuitive if you've never done this before, but you don't actually write a talk until it's been accepted. This is similar to software development -- you shouldn't waste time developing something until you have a client.
I had written my abstract as part of the initial selection, so I just had to use that as an outline and write the story.
4. Memorize everything.
Next comes the most difficult part. TED and TEDx talks need to be "Happy Birthday Level Memorized." This means you need to know the words of your talk as well as you know the song "Happy Birthday" -- so that you will speak as naturally as possible.
There are many different methods of memorization, but in case you need one
- Read one sentence (or in the case of long sentences, stop at any punctuation) and read it aloud three times in a row -- while listening to instrumental classical music.
- Recite the sentence three times in a row, with the music playing, with eyes closed.
- Open my eyes and walk around while reciting the sentence three more times.
I then repeat that
5. Battling the imposter.
No matter how well prepared you are, or how many times you've done it, whenever you give a presentation you will always be a little nervous. You're going to feel like you don't belong there, and you can't understand why anyone would want to listen to you.
The best way to combat that is to remember that you've got information that no one else out there does, and they won't know it unless you tell them.
With these tips, and an idea worth spreading, you will be a successful speaker on the TED stage in no time.