How to Do a TED Talk: Tips to Apply, Audition, and Take the Stage

by Gabby Beckford
Reading Time: 5 minutes

How do you do a TED Talk? Can anyone do a TED talk? How do you apply to speak at a TEDx? What's the difference between TED and TEDx?

Auditioning for TEDx is something I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to do, but am so happy I got out of my own way and did. A TEDx speech and training can open many doors for a person, whether you’re an influencer, a student, trying to break into the public speaking realm, or even a white-collar worker who wants to demonstrate leadership and influence skills.

And getting to the audition is a much easier process than I imagined! I'll tell you about my experience and give you step-by-step actions so that you can apply them to your first TedX talk.

Whats the difference between TED Talk and TEDx Talk?

Simply put, TEDx, x=independently organized event. TEDx follows the same format as a TED Talk. The main difference between TED and TEDx is that TEDx is focused on a local, geographic area. It is a local gathering where TED-like talks and presentations are shared with the community.

The main difference between a TEDx Talk and a TED Talk is that TEDx Talks are independent talks (hence the “x”). They are assembled and hosted in local communities.

💡 Are you an international student (i.e. not American)? Skip to the section for study abroad scholarships for international high school students.

How to Do Your First TEDx Talk

Search for TEDx stages in your local community.

Go to TEDx Events website. Identify a TEDx talk in your local community, or however far you’re willing to drive.

I live in Washington D.C. but I inquired about events as far as Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina, and South Carolina, and even California (since I’m out there so often for work.) Ultimately got accepted to audition at an event 1 hour away in Northern Virginia.

As far as I can tell there are no restrictions on where you can perform as a speaker unless specified by the event. Though, keep in mind, events favor speakers in their local community.

First, check event sites.

Search event sites such as Facebook Events and Eventbrite for “TedX” and “TedX auditions”.

TEDx Eventbrite pitching and speaking tips
When I search “TEDx” in Eventbrite. So many opportunities!

Target events happening 3-8 months in the future.

If you attempt an event too close it's likely that they already have secured speakers and auditions are closed. If you look too far into the future, they likely are not at that stage of the process yet.

However, there's no harm in asking. Especially if you see a theme that is right up your ally.

Find the host of the event (easily listed) and email them.

You can use this script:

“Hello Brenda,

My name is Gabby, and I came across an advertisement for the Tedx[insert specific event name] happening September 14, 2019. I was inquiring about more details for this event, specifically your selection process for speakers and if there are any speaker positions left available? The theme of “Travel While You're Young” really interested me and I think I would have a compelling talk if I could speak to it I'd be interested to hear more, and if speaking would be possible.

Thank you,


It's really that simple. TEDx hosts are more often than not normal people from within the community who go out of their way to make these events happen. They can be past TEDx speakers, Rotary club members, professional speakers, or just community volunteers.

Either way as hosts, they are usually more than happy to answer any questions and help find relevant speakers for their events.

Interested in speaking at a @TEDx event but have no idea where to begin? Start here.u0022 Click To Tweet

Haven't heard back? Follow up.

TEDx hosts usually have their social media accounts such as Twitter and Facebook listed. I’ll send them a message saying

“Hi! My name is Gabby. I’ve just sent you an email with a few questions about the TedX event you’re hosting. I just wanted to connect with you here and make sure you got it.


Gabby Beckford”

If you don’t hear any response within 7 days, email and ping them again on social media. I usually ping them twice before cutting my losses and moving on.

Take the time to attend TEDx events. (Duh!)

This could be a chance to get some audition tips, as well as network with the hosts of that event and hopefully be on their radar for the next event they host. They may also be able to refer you personally to a host of another event—these people run in tight circles, you know?

Make a good first impression.

Once you get a positive response (which of course, you will! It's a matter of time.) and want to submit a specific pitch for the TedX event—flex. Heavy.

Your initial pitch is going to be the first impression of you as a person, and it needs to be strong. Include every accolade, prestigious award, spelling bee, organization that you've been in that could possibly show them what an ambitious, influential, creative, and inspiring speaker you would be.

TEDx Audition and Application tips for young people young adults

Tips for Young TEDx Speakers

Use your age to your advantage.

Your initial application will likely be an online interest form. Even before you fill this out to express your interest in speaking, I recommend emailing or calling the event organizer to ask what exactly is expected of a speaker, what the theme means, what the audition entails, what the time commitment is, etc.

As a young person, you're going to want to make sure you leave an impressive impression: that you're young yet capable, new yet talented, and perhaps inexperienced yet wisened.

Basically, play off of your youthful innovation and optimism, in a way that doesn't set off “do they know what they're doing?” alarm bells with older judges and staff. This combination of youthful yet wise is unique, and very in demand.

Make sure you understand the submission and audition requirements.

Don't be afraid to call the host of the event (it's one of the things I wish I'd done before I applied).

I'm 23 years old and I just auditioned to be a TEDx speaker. Anyone of any age can, and it's not as complicated as you may think. Why haven't you looked into it yet? Click To Tweet

My TEDx event's theme is as follows:

This year's theme is the Un's which is a part of our everyday life, the universe, world, social experience, humanitarian quest, it also the good, bad, right, and wrong in our life …its ideas and concepts are endless. Some of the un's that might come to mind is, unstoppable, unimaginable, unimportant, under, unqualified, uneasy… it's endless, but you get the idea. My 3-minutes pitch will relate to the Theme of Un's…be creative and innovative and think outside the box when you come to pitch your 2-3 minute idea.

This could be pretty vague, and if I move on to the next round I'll definitely be asking for specifics of what my topic should be to stay on theme.

Also, make sure you talk about something that you're very comfortable with for your audition. That way, if you get nervous and need to ad-lib, you can smoothly continue with no interruptions.

Ask for help.

Another thing I would change if I could go back: I wish that I had found previous TEDx speakers and asked them for tips/advice, and asked them if they would listen to me rehearse, either on Skype on in person.

When I got to my audition I was so nervous that I was rehearsing my speech in the hall. I met many previous TEDx speakers at my audition. I wish I'd done some digging and met some of them before! They could have given me valuable tips.

TEDx Audition and Application tips for young people young adults
Me and the other 11 auditioners. So proud of us all.

Don't be fearless. Be courageous.

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.

– Mark Twain

If this is the first time you're public speaking, you will likely be terrified. TEDx is a huge organization, and some of its videos open doors to even more greatness. You may be wondering if you should even apply. What if you get rejected?

Or worse… What if you get accepted?

Think about it like this. If you get rejected, it is not at all unusual to apply again. You won't be shamed or thought differently. It's encouraged! And the silver lining is that you hopefully have made great connections with the organizers and other speakers that may serve you well in life.

And if you're accepted, you'll know that this is divine timing. You're meant to be doing this. So why worry? 

TEDx Audition and Application tips for young people young adults
Gabby Beckford

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1 comment

Ami K. September 8, 2023 - 4:55 AM

This article is great and super informative. I am in the process of applying to my first TEDx and this gave me some insights I didn’t even know. This article also answered some questions I had circling in my head. I will circle back here after I do my first TEDx talk. Thanks, Gabby ✨


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