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10 Dos and Don’ts to Jump Start Your Journey to the TED Stage

by Ana Lopez
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Cindy Metzler is a senior marketing, branding and public relations strategist. She is founder and CEO of Omm media and co-organizer of TEDxBocaRaton.

Is giving a TED or TEDx Talk on your bucket list? Getting into the spotlight at TEDx is no easy feat. TEDx stands for independently organized TED events that are community focused. I volunteer as a co-host of TEDxBocaRaton and have seen hundreds of submissions and heard from dozens of people interested in sharing their ideas. Getting through the filing process can be daunting, but following these 10 dos and don’ts can give you a competitive edge and help you through the process.

1. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s all about you.

TED Talks are not memoirs. This may sound harsh, but it’s not about you. Don’t get caught up in your own story. Rather, focus on your impact and sharing meaningful knowledge with the world. Ask yourself: How will your speech help others? Remember, the organization’s tagline is “ideas worth spreading.” Your presentation isn’t just a story or journey about overcoming adversity, it’s an opportunity to educate the audience with compelling content.

2. Do follow the guidelines.

The guidelines are there for a reason. Follow them to the T or your entry risks being disqualified. And make sure your pitch remains relevant to the theme of the event to maximize your chances of success.

3. Don’t decide on a title at the last minute.

I’ve found that coming up with a good title is one of the best things you can do to make your speech stand out. A strong title can attract viewers forever and ensure viewers understand your talk as intended. Be thoughtful about choosing a title that is equal parts meaningful and provocative.

4. Do your research.

Show that you understand the process with your entry. Familiarity with the organization’s format and purpose can go a long way. Check out previous TED talks and read articles from previous speakers to stay up to date. Feel free to attend events in your community and don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek insiders for top tips.

5. Don’t exaggerate your background as a keynote speaker.

Many events are looking for raw talent, and you don’t have to be a professional speaker to be selected. In fact, in some cases, you’ll have a better chance if you don’t consider yourself a professional orator (although you may become one by the end of the process!). Be yourself, be authentic and follow your intuition.

6. Contact organizers and committee members.

Find a champion within your local program. By reaching out to organizers through social media or your network of friends, you can express your interest in speaking and provide you with invaluable advice to boost your entry.

7. Don’t expect the organizers to do the work for you.

Putting on a high quality TEDx event is a huge effort and all organizers and committee members are volunteers. Be mindful of their time when communicating with them. They are there to support you. But remember that you has to put in the work, do the research, and take the time to make your submission — and conversation — a success.

8. Volunteer.

In my experience, volunteering is one of the best ways to get to know the process and people running an event. It can give you a foot in the door and easy access to advisors when it comes time to submit a submission.

9. Don’t take it personally.

Many people want to take the TEDx stage. Just because you weren’t selected doesn’t mean your idea isn’t worth it. Go back to the drawing board, review the guidelines and resubmit.

10. Keep submitting.

Once you’ve refined and perfected the idea for your talk, keep submitting it! Enlist the help of your friends and family members to help you think about the audience’s perspective. Consider working with a professional coach. And don’t forget the smaller events in your community and university programs.

Wish you good luck on your journey! I look forward to seeing you and your idea worth spreading on the TEDx stage.

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