When I gave a talk on the TEDxBirmingham stage on March 24, 2018, I accomplished a goal I’d had for years. (You can watch my talk here.) If giving a TED Talk is on your bucket list, too, now is your chance to make this dream come true. The organizers of TEDxBirmingham are currently accepting applications for the 2019 event, set for May 3-4, 2019. If you’re ready to shoot your shot here are some tips to help your application stand out from the rest for this or any other TEDx event.
What’s the Big Idea?
The most important thing to remember when applying to speak at a TEDx event is that TED is all about ideas. After all, the TED tagline is “Ideas Worth Spreading.” It doesn’t matter if you have years of public speaking experience or if you’re president of your local Toastmasters. Likewise, it also doesn’t matter if you have absolutely no public speaking experience at all.
“When we’re reviewing applications — and we read every one of them — it is all about the idea,” said TEDxBirmingham co-organizer Rebecca Dobrinski. “Yes, the talks can often end up being inspiring and motivational, but if inspiration and motivation are all an application has going for it, then the potential speaker has missed the point of ‘Ideas Worth Spreading'”
Take it to the Tweets
Believe it or not when I was working on my TEDxBirmingham application and my TED Talk I relied a lot on Twitter. I wanted to be sure that I could describe my main idea and the subpoints of my talk in sentences that were no longer than the length of the average tweet.
“The pitch needs to succinctly get us to the idea, but not leave it to our imagination,” said TEDxBirmingham co-organizer Matthew Hamilton. “We find many applications at one end of the extremes: either way too detailed, leaving us to really hunt for what the idea is, or way too vague – more of a teaser – leaving us to wonder what the idea is. We’re faced with hundreds of applications and when we come across one that is too vague or too detailed, the easiest and most efficient thing for us to do, unfortunately, is to pass on it and move on to the next one.”
The Twitter test, as I like to call it, will help you make sure your ideas are both clear and concise. Plus, the TEDxBirmingham application even asks you for three things you’d like people to tweet after your talk!
If you have multiple ideas, take a moment to consider that they could all be connected. I had three different ideas for what I thought could be three different talks. I wanted to discuss the idea that a woman could empower herself by sharing her story, I wanted to explain how a woman could empower others by sharing her story, and I wanted to talk about creating a feminist classroom as an English teacher. But I realized this wasn’t three different talks but three acts of the same talk which could all support the idea that writing can be a feminist act.
No Experience Needed
The TEDxBirmingham application asks for links that will help the organizers understand more about you and your work and while this can be online videos of you giving a dynamic speech, it could also be a link to a blog post you wrote on your topic or an article someone wrote about you. In other words, previous speaking experience is not required.
“Our structure is designed to help anyone become a good speaker for the TEDxBirmingham stage,” Rebecca said.
To be honest, when I applied to speak at TEDxBirmingham 2018 I had a bit of an advantage. I was already on the radar of the organizers because of See Jane Write and because I’d been a TEDxBirmingham educator fellow. Also, a friend had nominated me to speak. (Your friends can nominate you here.) But none of that would have mattered if I didn’t have a good idea to bring to the table.
Submit your idea worth spreading for TEDxBirmingham here.