10 TEDx tips from idea to delivery

Many people have an ambition to deliver a TEDx talk – it is a wonderful ambition to have!  It was an ambition I had, and managed to fulfill in October 2016.  I was thrilled to be able to share my message that “you probably are more intelligent than you think you are” in my talk.  This is a personal topic that is about my eldest daughter Katie.  She struggled academically and yet was super intelligent in other ways.

You would think that, as a TEDx speaker coach since 2014 and a high impact presentations facilitator since 2001 I would have found it super easy to put together my own talk.

Not so!  I have to confess, I did struggle to hone my talk – typical of the shoemaker and shoes!  This talk is so different to training or speaking at an event, areas in which I am totally within my comfort zone.  Many of the speakers I coach say the same thing, it really is a different type of talk altogether.

Recently I did a Live Stream with Lottie Hearn of  #LIVEWithLottie ConfidenceOnCamera.  During the stream I shared my top 10 tips around TEDx.

Before I shared the tips I shared thoughts on THE IDEA.  The concept of THE IDEA is so important that it comes outside the realm of tips.

The concept of THE IDEA is TEDx critical – you must thoroughly consider this, before you even apply to speak at a TEDx event.

The majority of the text below is a transcript from the Live Stream – hence it will sound more like the spoken word than the written one!  For the link to the Live Stream, see end of this post.


Do not apply to do a TEDx talk unless you have an idea worth sharing – an idea you’re really passionate about.  It needs to be an idea that’s of value to people out there.  Their hashtag is Ideas Worth Spreading (#ideasworthspreading) so make sure it is an idea worth sharing & you are not doing it just to raise your profile.

A good question to ask yourself is “what is it I really bang on about?” either in a positive way or a negative way.  “What is it that really gets me in my heart that I can make into an idea that’s of value to others?

For me, it was that I have 2 daughters – one is highly gifted academically, the other is highly gifted, not necessarily academically, but in people skills.  The key thing for me was that every day my daughter who wasn’t academically gifted was coming home from school saying “I’m so stupid”, and we were saying “you are not stupid”.  So, that’s where it came from, my whole idea was that “every single person is intelligent in their own way”, and there are different types of intelligence.

If you’ve got an idea and you have your own story, that’s fine, but usually TEDx will look to see if there is outside evidence, empirical evidence to back up and validate what you are saying.  What you are saying must be factually true and correct.

It’s a combination of stories and factual, empirical evidence that make your TEDx talk super.

Below are my top 10 tips to help you prepare for your TEDx talk


Tip #1: Less is more…

Remember in your preparation that less is more, and more is less.  Chris Anderson says in his talk about giving a TED Talk, to be very clear in your idea, have ONE good idea and chop your content.

There were 2 people who did a joint TEDx talk who I coached one time, and they literally chopped their content in half.

Halve the content, double the impact!


Tip #2: Choose BEST quote

When you’re preparing sometimes people will put up 2 or 3 quotes, maybe even 4 quotes – ONE will suffice! Pick your best quote and share that, rather than giving 2, 3, or 4 quotes which are all virtually saying the same thing.

If you are a speaker, or business person, quote yourself rather than somebody else – have the courage to use your own quotables, repeatables and retweetables, as Patricia Fripp , the California based Speaker Coach, would say.


Tip #3: Never learn by heart

Don’t learn your talk by heart.  I know if you look at the TED guidelines they will recommend that you do learn it by heart.

The danger of learning by heart is, especially if you are a person who likes to be more conversational, which is usually easier on the ear, if you learn it by heart it makes you come across as just a bit robotic.  I can generally tell just by looking at a talk if it’s been learned by heart or if they’ve done it the way that I would recommend.


Tip #4: Know your landing points

The way I recommend lies around having a really good structure, knowing your landing points and talking around them.


Tip #5: Record your talk

In order to help you to remember your talk, but not memorise it, record your talk on your phone when you have it right, then you can just play it back over and over again, so you know it really well and you know your landing points.

As a side point, do not do a live stream about your talk before you give the TEDx talk – it has to be a new idea.  The first time you share your crystalised idea, in 20 words or less, it should be your talk.

However, once you’ve recorded your talk, if you have a private Facebook or WhatsApp group specifically for supporting TEDx speakers, then you can share it in there to get feedback.

Note:  Prior to the TEDx event, only share your recorded dry run of your talk in private groups with fellow speakers/speaker coach.


Tip #6: Delivery – talk in conversational tone

When you are on that red dot, talk in a conversational tone – you don’t need to go into the big “I’m a speaker” tone.


Tip #7: Do not aim for perfection

Do not worry about being perfect.

You will probably fluff your words and you will probably leave out something, if you’ve gone along the guidelines of not learning by heart.

In my own TEDx talk I fluffed my first line, I mixed up my words and in my head, I just thought, “you’re human, you’re not a robot, it’s grand!”  When I walked off it turned out I’d left out a whole minute of a story of my talk, but it wasn’t missed.  I knew my opening really well. I had practically learned that by heart and I still mixed up the first line, and I knew exactly how I was closing.  My closing I knew almost verbatim as well, so that meant that even though I’d left out a bit in the middle, my talk still made sense and I still clearly shared my overall idea.

Know how you will start, know how you will close.


Tip #8: Do not refer to other speakers on the day

On the day do not refer to other speakers.  Remember your TEDx talk is not just for the people in the room, it’s for a global audience.


Tip #9: Be global with your local references

When you’re delivering your talk if you’re talking about a location, for example, Kilrush, most Irish people will know where it is, but the global audience won’t.  So, you could say, for example, “Here in Kilrush, a small seaside town in the West of Ireland…” Just put in context so that other non-Irish people will know exactly what you are talking about.


Tip #10: Enjoy it!

Looking back on my own TEDx talk, my facial expressions were all so serious!  I would just say enjoy it!  When you go out there just relax and enjoy it – it is easier said than done but just enjoy the whole experience.


Bonus Tip: File your story ideas for TEDx – NO self-promotion, log your stories

To help to come up with an idea, think about your own experiences, stories and incidents.

Create a file with all these things that have happened to you and put them in the file.   I use an Excel spreadsheet.  As you look down through them think about what was the message, your learning, your AHA moment …. one of these could be your “idea worth sharing”.

I gather stories in my story file to share during keynotes, training events or even in my 1 to 1 coaching sessions.  As I mentioned already, I use Excel.  In the First column, I have the story title in a sentence.  Along the first row of headings, I have topics that I would relate it to in a talk or session e.g. confidence, body language, humour, comfort zone, not being perfect.

Logging your stories might help you find your TEDx talk – there might be a particular incident that really is like a light bulb moment, that was maybe super significant to you.  This might give you an idea that’s of relevance to others and you could make that into that one big idea that’s worth sharing.

So, if you have an idea worth sharing – don’t keep it to yourself, apply to speak at TEDx.  Check out upcoming TEDx events, in your own country or across the world using this link – https://www.ted.com/tedx/events.

Below is the link to the full Live Stream with Lottie.  There were some technical glitches at the start!  Hence Lottie talks about dealing with glitches and also through the stream she shares some of her valuable insights into Live streaming.

If you just want to see the TEDx tips, they come in at 20:00 minutes from the end.