5 Easy Tips to Help Get You On the TED Stage as a Featured Speaker
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Did you know that every day, somewhere in the world, there is at least one TEDx event being held? And every year, just in the United States alone, there are over 250,000 conferences, conventions, open workshops and summits. This means that we have more of a need for subject matter experts than ever before –people who have the ability to teach others on topics that they are uniquely qualified to instruct.

A few years ago, my speaking careerwas limited to monthly internal training at my company and weekly client webinars. A challenge from a colleague caused me to branch out to the wider world, explaining that the knowledge I was keeping internal was relevant to a wider world.

After I learned how to write an abstract, find call for speakers, and find the proper material for each event, I even managed to snag two TEDx talks.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a TED public speaker and how to get there? Here’s what it’s like:

1. Apply to speak.

For each event, there will be a call for speaker proposals (CFP) listed on their site, and within this CFP they will list the theme of the day. When I presented at TEDxUNLV, the theme was “Living to the Extreme,” and I had a story that matched.

When applying for any conference, you must present something basedon what the organizers are asking for — not necessarily something you have presented before. Always make sure that what you submit is relevant to the conference.

2. Wait it out.

For any conference, once you have submitted your abstract, you simply have to wait until you find out if it has been accepted. At TEDxUNLV, therewas roughly fivemonths between submission and acceptance –long enough for me to forget about the event.

Pay attention to when the CFP closes, as speaker decisions will generally be made after that. Sometimes, you won’t even hear anything from a conference except for public speaker announcements. It is usually not a good idea to follow up with the organizer before announcements are made– they’ve got hundredsof submissions to go through –but if you were not chosen, it is generally okay to ask why.

Additionally, I’ve known a few examples of people who were added as alternates to the schedule by politely following up after getting an initial rejection.

3. Write the talk.

This may seem counterintuitive if you’ve never done this before, but you don’t actually write a talk until it’s been accepted. This is similar to software development –you shouldn’t waste time developing something until you have a client.

I had written my abstract as part of the initial selection, so I just had to use that as an outline and write the story.

4. Memorize everything.

Next comes the most difficult part.TED and TEDx talks need to be “Happy Birthday Level Memorized.” This means you need to know the wordsof your talk as well as you know the song “Happy Birthday” –so that you will speak as naturally as possible.

There are many different methods of memorization, but in case you need one, mine is this:

  • Read one sentence (or in the case of long sentences, stop atanypunctuation) and read it aloud threetimes in a row –while listening to instrumental classical music.
  • Recite the sentence three times in a row, with the music playing, with eyes closed.
  • Open my eyes and walk around while reciting the sentence three more times.

I then repeat that on the next sentence, and beyond.

5. Battling the imposter.

No matter how well prepared you are, or how many times you’ve done it, whenever you give a presentation you will always be a little nervous. You’re going to feel like you don’t belong there, and you can’t understand why anyone would want to listen to you.

The best way to combat that is to remember that you’ve got information that no one else out there does, and they won’t know it unless you tell them.

With these tips, and an idea worth spreading,you will be a successful speaker on the TED stage in no time.

Aug 20, 2019
Angelina Lawton
Angelina Lawton

When Angelina Lawton ran communications for the Tampa Bay Lightning, she could never understand how a company with such an exciting product–professional hockey, for goodness sake–managed to be so dull when it came time to pitch potential sponsors.

“We were doing these huge pitches for naming rights with these boring PowerPoint presentations. It felt very stale,” says Lawton. “I kept thinking, we can do better.”

Her frustration spurred her to start a boutique agency, Sportsdigita, whichspecializesin making flashy presentations for pro sports sales departments–“a movie-trailer for franchises” is how she describes them. Nine years later, executives at more than450 teams, stadiums, and arenas haveused her multimedia slideshows, called Digidecks, to sell everything from merchandise licenses to luxury suites, she says.

But now the pandemic haspostponed professionalsports seasons, and widespread protestshaveLawton’s bread-and-butter clients–the sales groups–lying low. To keep revenue growing and her company afloat,Lawton ispivoting to target customers in new fields from financial services to health care.

Work-at-home sales teams at all kinds of businesses must now figure out how to close deals from afar–and they can use all the help they can get.

“Covid-19 has opened up people’s eyes to remote selling and collaborating,” says Lawton. “Our product is perfect for that.”

When Lawton first started marketing souped-up sales decks to sports and events companies, the multimedia opportunitieswere obvious.Looking to sell advertising rights to the billboards in the outfield? Show a star centerfielder leaping for a catch in front of them. Marketing the luxury suites for your arena? Play clips of the games, concerts, and monster truck rallies that clients will be able to see up-close from the box.

In 2016, she decided to focus on the hard part, the software–andbegan selling it as a service sosalespeople could produce the digidecks in-house. The move put her into direct competition with legacy competitors like Microsoft PowerPoint, as well as subscription-based online software, such asPrezi. Even so, since pivoting to this software-as-a-service model, Sportsdigita revenue has grown over 200 percent, to $4 million in 2018, which putthe company at No. 1,993 on last year’sInc. 5000 ranking of fastest-growing private U.S. businesses. It ranked at No. 146 on this year’s Inc. 5000 series Midwest list. Today, 80 percent of the company’s revenue comes from software subscriptions, and the rest fromservices. Clients include the Los Angeles Lakers, the Philadelphia Eagles, and U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Now, with sporting events on hold and tensions high from weeks of protests, high-profile sports teams don’t want to be seen as tone-deaf amid the unrest. Like entrepreneurs across the world, Lawton was forced to rethinkbasic assumptions about her company and customers.

Her company has already made some early scores: insurerMutual of America, Cargill, the giant food conglomerate, and Jostens, the seller of high school yearbooks and class rings, have signed on as clients. They haveexisting libraries of media–salespeople can populate the decks with pre-loaded photo and video options from their ownexisting ads, and then present them in tandem with Zoom calls or other videoconferencing software.

Next, Sportsdigita is planning to add videoconferencing to Digideckas well, requiring new kinds of software expertise and putting the company up against the likes of Zoom.

For Sportsdigita, the new revenue has offset the slump in sports, andLawton says the company is once again on track with its pre-Covid growth targets.And her new clients? Their presentations may lack the same jaw-dropping action of their pro sports counterparts–but their infographics and bullet points are leaping off the screen like all-stars.

Jun 15, 2020

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