How To Do a Ted Talk

TedX SPJainSydney 2018 @ SP Jain Global School of Global Managenent - Sydney Olympic Park

Have you ever wondered what it would like to deliver a Ted Talk? To get on stage, be recorded, and convey your idea worth spreading in 18 minutes or less?

Does this terrify or excite you?

What would be possible in your career if you did it?!

For me, doing my first TedX back in 2018 was a peak experience. I entered a deep “flow” state in which the words came out. It’s proven to me that I am capable of this and it’s opened up doors and possibilities. I highly recommend giving it a go!

Let Me Offer You Some Strategy & Encouragement

Since I work in live events, I meet a lot of people. Whenever I talk about Ted, I get the impression from most that this seems an unbelievable feat or something that they could never do. To be fair, “It’s estimated that as much as 75% of the population struggles with a fear of public speaking to a certain degree.” But what if you could get over your fear? What if you belong to the 25% and want to share a message?

Chris Hall Ted Talk - Impact Over Originality

My 5 Recommended Steps

1. Find a TedX in 12 Months Time

Firstly I hope you noticed that I use the term TedX not Talk Talk. A TedX is still a Ted Talk but it’s locally organised by a local committee. This is partly how Ted has managed to spread virally around the world. The central organisation licences out the right for local committees to run a TedX so long as they have the budget and follow certain guidelines.

Start by finding a TedX in your country, maybe in your state / region, so that you know it wouldn’t be difficult to get to. Most TedX events can buy you a hotel room for the night before, but they might not be able to fly you in.

Once you’ve found the geography, then look at dates. Try for ones that are 12 months or more out, because the likelihood is that they still haven’t filled up all the speakers.

Another tip is perhaps to go for a less central TedX if you haven’t done this before, or don’t have a large following. If you tried to go for example to TedX Sydney, or TedX London then they might shoot you back quicker than you can say hello in case you aren’t famous enough yet. The more regional ones might be a little more open. Remember, you’re getting your first rodeo here and your main objective is to get on that red dot!

Finally, if you have any relationships with existing people or perhaps Universities that run a TedX, leverage these relationships to get an introduction to the organisers.

Search For Your TedX Event Here

2. Refine Your IDEA

I applied for two TedX events before I was successful. The first one never gave feedback, but luckily I had useful feedback from the second. Here is what I learnt.

I thought I was being clever by coming up with a MODEL that people could follow to get a certain outcome. I submitted my original application with this in mind, but it turned out they didn’t want a MODEL….they wanted an IDEA!

I learned that Ted Talk truly need to be about IDEAS. Something that the audience can follow, something that is like the movie Inception, where you get inside the hearts and minds of your audience. An idea can be a new way of interpreting the world, of approaching a problem, or a new way of creating a dialogue around an important subject.

This feedback was my golden moment where spontaneous inspiration came to mind, and after that, I had my winning application.

3. Get Great Visuals

Most Ted Talk have a PowerPoint presentation as a visual aide. This isn’t to say that this is the only way of delivering a talk, because there are plenty of awesome examples where people perform, people use props, people do all sorts. But, if you like me, want a visual aide.

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For me I did the following:

  • Took Photos Myself with any persons either blurred out or with explicit permission from them to be included.
  • Shared photos from my past (as part of my storytelling).
  • Asked my photographer mate for some shots.
  • Sought permission from the United Nations to quote statistics.
  • Sought permission from research studies to quote them.
  • Used plain text (yes TedX Committees even suggest the font to use!).

I feel that clean, crisp images are best and that often it is more powerful to make a simple statement or to ask an important question.

Here are some examples:

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Now whilst images are great, what about your WORDS?

4. The Target Length Of Your Transcript

Ted Talk must be delivered in less than 18 minutes. There are some famous ones of just five minutes and some ten, but I personally feel the 15 minute mark is a good target to think about. Some people speak spontaneously, but I highly recommend using your transcript. This is the best way to ensure you convey your message in the right sequence and without rambling.

When writing your transcript bear in mind that everyone has a different vocal pace. You should read your transcript out-load to check how long it takes you to read your first 500 words. This will give you an idea of required length.

I did my TedX in 16.5 minutes and it was around 2,000 words. I chose to hedge my bets on purpose in case I did any spontaneous additions.

5. Read This Book!

Even if you haven’t written your transcript, applied, or composed your PowerPoint, check out this amazing book! It literally breaks down the best trends, structures, and techniques of delivering an amazing Ted Talk. This was the book that inspired me years ago to even give this a go and I ended up going back to it as soon as my application was approved. You’ll find this an incredible resource throughout your journey.

Buy The Book On Amazon

Wishing You Luck!

One final piece of encouragement is that the local TedX committees exist to support you and give you feedback. They will send you official guidelines plus tips, and they’ll review your transcript as you go. Practice in front of a variety of people. Not just the ones that you love. Take on feedback, sharpen your tools, and YOU’VE GOT THIS.


If you’ve found this article useful, please share it with someone who you think should give a Ted Talk.

Any questions, leave it in the comments below!