Here’s how you can make one, too!

Yes, I gave a TEDx Talk in 2020.

Yes, it was virtual.

No, it wasn’t easy.

How long did it take to record it? Four hours to record an almost five-minute talk…Four minutes and 55 seconds to be exact.

Did you hire someone to record it for you? No. My setup was not professional in the least, but it got the job done and did not fall although it definitely could have!

Those are some of the questions I get asked when someone sees that I did a TEDx Talk. My talk is posted on my LinkedIn page so it’s not hidden. I am extremely proud of it! I am not a Dr. Brené Brown or Simon Sinek, but I am a person with an idea worth sharing and that is all you need to have to start. You don’t need to be a celebrity or a recognized thought leader.

Giving a TEDx Talk became a goal of mine a few years ago, but I wasn’t sure how to make it a reality until I learned that a couple of amazing women who I know through a professional association I am in had given TEDx Talks in the past. Marie Incontrera and Elaine Bennett created a TEDx course to help people like me learn how to go through the process. I took their course which really taught me how to focus on a good idea. I drafted my pitch and got my feedback in class. Later, Marie shared her contact information with me so I could contact a TEDx organizer and for that, I am extremely grateful.

I revised my pitch and completed a form that I sent to the organizer of TEDxBeaconStreet. That was in June 2020. I recorded my TEDx Talk, A Knowledge Mindset: What You Know Comes from Where You Sit, in August 2020, and on September 4, 2020, my TEDx Talk was shared with the world by TEDxBeaconStreet. It wasn’t an easy process especially since it was done virtually meaning I had to record it myself as well as create the talk, but I will share with you everything that I learned sharing my idea on the virtual TEDx stage.

Here’s how you can make a TEDx Talk!

Select your idea.

  • Focus on ONE of your “ideas worth spreading.” Spend time looking through TED and TEDx talks to see what else has already been talked about and to watch talks to see what captures an audience. You will not get chosen if your idea has already been done.
  • You must connect your idea with something you personally know or experience. I connected my idea with a story of something my dad used to say to me as a child. No one else had my story. It is unique in that aspect.
  • Consider adding some research or statistical support. While it’s not required, your pitch may be considered “better” if you have some science or other outside support for your idea. I had it from two different research reports and have been able to repurpose it for other articles and posts I’ve created.

Find a venue.

  • Find a venue to pitch to https://www.ted.com/tedx/events. Not all venues have their call for speakers there so you may have to do a Google search or join a speaker’s group to find opportunities.

Prepare your pitch.

  • You will have to provide your pitch in the organizer’s required format but note that each venue may have a slight variation on what exactly those requirements are so you will have to tailor your pitch for each TEDx venue. The pitch may include a write-up, video, just a form, or all three when you first contact a venue. Not all venues reply to all pitches so you may not hear anything. Be aware that some venues may have themes that you need to tailor your pitch to support.
  • Read your pitch out loud to yourself or a friend who will tell you the truth about the word usage and topic interest as well as the length of the pitch time. Some venues require you to write a pitch of a certain word count or provide a video of you pitching your idea. I pitched to one prior event that required a write-up and a video of no more than one minute uploaded to YouTube as unlisted so be aware of all of the requirements. Don’t make it easy for the organizers to cut you because you didn’t follow directions.
  • Check your email frequently. If you’ve passed the initial screening, there may be other items you have to do to be a speaker that is time-critical. I had to reply to an email to be on a Zoom call the same week I applied to do a verbal pitch on a Zoom call in front of about 30+ other applicants.

What to do once you’ve been selected.

  • Keep in touch with your organizer and their team. The team may have coaches and production staff. Be aware that they are most likely all volunteers so their time will be structured around their work schedules and other aspects of their lives. I emailed my organizer every two weeks to get a status check because there was a time that I heard nothing…crickets. I wondered if it was still going to happen. Finally, the organizer asked me to send him my completed talk so he could read and analyze every word in his own time. After a week, which actually seemed like forever, he responded back to me and said I was ready to record. He passed me to his producer and provided a PDF of directions on how to record my talk using my iPhone.

Record and submit your virtual TEDx Talk.

  • I had to record my TEDx Talk on my iPhone in 4K. That was easy to do. What wasn’t easy was that I was directed to not record it in selfie mode.
  • Don’t forget to put your phone in “airplane mode” so you aren’t interrupted by a call. Using the “do not disturb” function will still let certain calls through.
  • I was supposed to have a wireless lavalier mic, but after I bought it, I forgot to use it. Luckily, after years of teaching classes, I could project my voice so I didn’t have to redo the talk.
  • I bought a tripod for less than $50 to hold the phone while recording.
  • I used a free teleprompter app on my laptop to stream my talk. I had the font at about a 16 and a speed that I could read a distance of about three feet away and that gave me time to speed up or slow down my pace.
  • I selected the colors I was wearing to reflect the branding of me and my business.
  • I recorded my talk in a spare bedroom in front of a set of long curtains. I had guidance to not record in front of a plain wall in a room without an echo with adequate light on my face with no light or windows behind me. I put props on a table in the background per the directions, but on the production side, the producer zoomed in and cut out the props to also cut out the spacing in the video.
  • As I said in the beginning, it took me four hours to record almost five minutes of my talk. Keep Chapstick to keep your lips moving and have a glass of water nearby. You will get tired, but don’t give up.
  • To send your video to your producer, you may have to use a specific service. The service I was directed to use required the file size to be no more than 2 GB. My recording was 2.1 GB so I just worked with the producer to send it via Google Drive. Request acknowledgment of your video and that they let you know that they are able to watch it. The organizer may ask you to re-record it. My video was accepted as is and the wait began.

What happens next?

  • My organizer asked me for the blurb that you see below your video as well as a title for my talk. I ended up having to shorten the title because although TED accepts it, YouTube may not due to character length.
  • I was sent the link and when I watched the video, I saw the team had left off my name in white letters. I immediately sent an email to the organizer and he immediately pulled down the video, had his team fix it, and got it uploaded again.
  • Once your talk is posted, don’t just hope people will read it. You will need to be proactive in getting the word out about this amazing accomplishment! Publicize it on your social media and the rest of your platform! Since my talk was posted on a Friday afternoon, I put a second post out on LinkedIn the following Monday and keep it in my “Featured” section on my LinkedIn page. It goes in my bio for every webinar I give or conference I speak at. I added it to my resume and my curriculum vitae. I let people know about it on Facebook, IG, and Twitter, too.

Throughout the process, I was worried that the organizer would change his mind. You may be as well. He didn’t change his mind and was incredibly supportive of all of us providing our virtual TEDx Talks. It was a great experience. My next TED goal is to step onto an actual TED or TEDx stage with the red TED letters at my side.

Don’t give up! Talk to people who have given TEDx talks and follow these tips to be on your way to finding your idea and sharing it on the TEDx stage!

Cindy is the CEO/Founder of CJ Young Consulting, LLC, a knowledge management consulting firm, a Veteran, a TEDx speaker, and HBR contributor.

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