Want to Speak at a TEDxWomen Event? Here’s How.

speak at TEDxWomen

(updated for 2022)
If you’re reading this it’s highly likely that you’re already a very successful professional in your own right and one who has achieved many incredible things throughout their life. Why not make it the year to speak at a TEDx or TEDxWomen event? Local events are starting their application process now.

You have numerous aspirations in life, you’re admired by many and you won’t stop until you’ve left your mark on the world. The TEDx audience needs to hear your story.

Please do not let age be a factor, in my experience as Director of Speakers we’ve selected speakers from very young women to one who told the audience on stage, that she was in her 70s.

What is searched for is the drive and determination to share the idea to help, inform and inspire others.

If this sounds like you, then speaking at a TEDx event is the platform upon which you can showcase your exemplary thoughts, ideas, and initiatives. This event helps people like you achieve the recognition they deserve and could see you stepping into the footsteps of like-minded and powerful people such as Brene Brown, whose talk at TEDx changed her life forever.

In this article, I’ll take you through the stages involved in the application process as well as what’s involved in speaking at the conference.

I’ve been a past director of speakers (2013-2015) for TEDx Distillery District Women – the first TEDxWomen event brought to Toronto.

During that time I made it my job to help women who have real passions and unwavering ingenuity to achieve unprecedented success worldwide.

What I saw, though, were hundreds of applications that could have had a better chance for success. Two flaws stick out in my mind:

  1. Not having an active social presence (blog, social media, website) where the selection committee could learn more about the applicant.
  2. An unclear topic lacking focus combined with using too much industry jargon in her application.

An application to be a speaker at TEDxWomen is the perfect platform for you to start this awe-inspiring journey from. Let me help you get yours on the right track for this year.

How to Apply to Speak at TEDx Events

You know you’ve got what it takes to become a speaker at this year’s TEDx event, so now all need to do is produce a stellar application. It needs to be one that shows why you are head and shoulders above the competition and will need to demonstrate the unrivalled amounts of confidence you have in your area of expertise. You aren’t just going to suggest you might be a good speaker; you’re going to depict yourself as this year’s must-have speaker.

Throughout my years of experience as Director of Speakers at TEDx Distillery District Women, I have noted a number of things that will prove invaluable to you during the application process. So, with my advice and with your sheer determination, your unparalleled success story starts here.

TEDx Events and What’s Involved

We’ll start by discussing what’s involved in the event and what equates to a successful application. Speakers selected can vary dramatically from event to event so we need to put you at the forefront of the application process.

What sets local TEDxWomen events apart from all of the other events is the fact that it happens during the same days all over the world. This year, the dates are listed here. The main conference is typically held in the USA and a total of 90 minutes of this will be streamed worldwide to each of the independent events; connecting thousands of pioneering women. All of these powerful connections made between the TEDx events provide you with an amazing basis upon which you can showcase your unique and unprecedented ideas.

Click here to get your speaker application (applies to men as well for TEDx events) checklist so you don’t forget a thing!

Typically, this event is open solely to women speakers, providing a platform where ideas worth spreading are shared and notions that are worth spreading are heard around the globe; and this year, there’s no reason why this can’t be you.

On some occasions, speakers have taken to the stage to discuss a topic and it has been deemed lacklustre by the audience because it hasn’t sparked a fire within; and it is this spark of passion that the audience is seeking. Speeches that have a lifeless quality can really hinder the opportunities that are presented by this occasion, which is why your zealous ideas need to be portrayed in the right way to the audience.

Those who succeed have taken everything incredibly seriously and have prepared, then once chosen have hired expert speaker coaches and designers for their slide preparations to help them create the most empowering and impacting talk of the day. By utilizing these tools alongside their own creative notions and evident ambitions, it has enabled these women to watch their businesses and ideas take off, gaining a lot of credibility along the way. This event has proven to be unbelievably successful for many women and this is now the chance for your voice to be heard and projected across the world.

How to Get Selected to Speak at a TEDx Event

In my experience, those who are selected as speakers at TEDx events have ideas that are entirely original and are centred around topics that none of the hundreds of other applicants have considered. You want your idea to be the next extraordinary and uplifting topic the event is looking for, so I’ve put together some handy tips on how you can find a topic that stands out from the crowd and how to have the best possible chance of being selected as a speaker at one of the individual events.

  1. An idea worth talking about: No matter how good the topic may be, if it’s something that the judges have heard of before or it isn’t presented correctly or with enough authority, it’s not going to succeed. Victorious applicants will have a concept that will help other women and it will be told in a way that doesn’t resemble a hard sales pitch but instead stirs a passionate response from the committee reading your application. It will reflect the strength and empowerment you possess and will demonstrate just why your concept is the next sensational idea for womankind.
  2. A short, focused pitch: The application form will often be quite short and may only provide you with 150 words to sell your imaginative idea, which isn’t a lot. Therefore, your thoughts will need to be articulated in a way that instantly inspires and lifts the reader and transports them to the center of your iconic concept. Be bold, compelling and creative.
  3. Consider the committee: The TEDx committee most likely will be made up of women of all ages, backgrounds and educations, and they will come from a whole host of different industries. Therefore, it can’t be assumed that they will immediately know what you’re talking about; nor should you undermine their intelligence by being too simplistic.

With this in mind, you’ll need to write a pitch that has ample clarity and is free of any jargon but still provides a hard-hitting message that the committee will take away with them. This section will need to include what you’ll be speaking about, why it really matters, how it will positively impact the audience and why it is the pinnacle topic that will provide their TEDx event with the wow factor. Keep it punchy, imaginative and above all, informative.

Click here to get your speaker application checklist so you don’t forget a thing!

Throughout the entire application process, you should also be mindful of the fact that these events are independently organized and are therefore arranged on very small budgets. The committee will be trying to get as many seats filled as possible, which is why they’re going to be looking for topics that are pioneering and inimitable. That’s why your topic needs to capture their attention and make them feel as though it will intrigue their desired audience and leave guests talking about the event for months to come.

Showcase Your Involvement in the Community

In order to give your application further credibility, and to demonstrate your unwavering dedication to your topic, you’ll need to provide validation as to how you have already developed this idea within the community.

Having an online presence is particularly important and you’ll need to show how seriously you’ve invested in your website, blog, YouTube channel and social media accounts and how you’ve rigorously kept them up to date. Showing that you have utilized these channels to get your message out there will show the committee how steadfast you are in your commitment to this topic and how you’ve already built up a dedicated following of people.

This participation with the community will be one of the ways in which the committee will use to find out more information about you, learn your point of view and will be a huge part of the consideration as to whether to put you on the shortlist. By showing how forward-thinking your initiatives are in this area it will demonstrate just how unquestionably devoted and driven you are when it comes to your concept. If someone hasn’t tried to make contact with the community about their idea, the committee will probably find someone else who has.

The industry support derived from your involvement with the community will help your application immensely as it will show the local TEDx Women team how much they can benefit from your idea if it becomes a success. Explain how, if you are selected, immeasurable publicity would be gained for the committee and how vast amounts of interest would be gathered for the TED event. These are important considerations to take into account when submitting your application as they’re key factors that all committees will be searching for.

Planning Your TEDx Application Process

As you can see, it is the planning and implementation of your strategy that is fundamental to your application being a success. In my experience, over 150 people apply for the 7 to 9 spots, which makes it a highly competitive process.

One final thing to keep in mind is that the people you are appealing to are hardworking and dedicated volunteers who put aside many hours without pay to bring this event together. They have a lot of expectations on their shoulders and will also have the pressure of putting together an event that is in keeping with TED and its traditions. It is this commitment and professionalism that warrants them to showcase those who normally may not have a platform such as a TEDx stage to share their message with a wider audience.

If you want to join this groundbreaking and innovative team of inspirational women – you’ll need to show your commitment to your message, get it out there online (your blog, social media, newsletters, YouTube videos etc.) and be able to explain it in a compelling way to those who are not familiar with your topic. Utilize all of the aforementioned components within your application process and team these with your deep-rooted passion and determination and there’s no reason why you won’t be taking the next step to give the biggest talk of your life so far.

Application deadlines generally close a few months before the event. Check your local TEDx event for details.  Get yourself ready for the most phenomenal application you’ve ever submitted. With these exclusive tips and your own immeasurable ingenuity, your speech could be the most spectacular one your local event has ever witnessed.

Good luck!

Click here to get your speaker application checklist emailed to you so you don’t forget a thing!


Jen Kelly New Initiatives Marketing Inc.

Jen Kelly was the volunteer director of speakers for TEDxDistilleryDistrictWomen (2013-2015).  She is a marketing consultant in Toronto running New Initiatives Marketing Inc. (NIM) serving clients in Canada and the USA. NIM is the team to call for marketing execution excellence.

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