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Have An Idea? It’s Never Too Late To Share Your Story On A TEDx Stage

4 min read

We all have a story to tell and whether we have lived an ordinary or extraordinary life, our midlife journeys often have the power to encourage someone else. So why not share it on a TEDx stage?

Women over 50, in particular, who have learned from life’s ups and downs experiencing pain and joy, disappointment and triumph, loss and love have the potential to be very inspiring. We who have survived many challenges can help those who have yet to face them.

But having an idea, creating a story — or revising the one you’ve told — then sharing it with a large audience sometimes is hard and simply connecting the dots is not enough if you seriously want to be part of a TEDx Talk.

How to apply for a TEDx talk

To be a TEDx speaker you need to know what you talk about and have expertise or experience in that area. Speakers often compete for coveted spots in the TEDx programs. It is not an easy process and proposals to the event selection committee must be original, like a new take on a given subject.  You need a compelling story that will stand out from thousands of other talks and you need to be well-prepared to make it happen.

However, don’t let your age stop you from achieving your goals; believe in yourself and persevere till you find your way. These days, topics about inclusion and diversity are very welcome.

Understanding the Application Process

To kick start the process, google ‘TEDx‘ and find out who is accepting proposals, when the deadlines are and what is required. I suggest you cast a wide net and apply anywhere you would be willing to go. 

Each TEDx organization – high schools, universities and communities- has its own application process. These events are not controlled by TED, but event organizers agree to abide by the original format and are offered guidelines for curation, speaker coaching, event organizing and more. 

Keep in mind that dress rehearsals are required, typically the day prior to the event, as well as coaching sessions. Coaching and some of the rehearsals may be able to be done online, but being present in the same room with one’s speaking coach has additional benefits.

I applied to a dozen or so TEDx events before I was selected. I suggest keeping the answers to your first TEDx application so that you can cut and paste them onto others. 

While different, they may indeed include common elements. For instance, some require short videos containing a speaker’s “elevator pitch” regarding your proposed idea. Save your best one and reuse it.

Sometimes, it is hard to find the application portals for some TEDx venues as there is no central hub for submitting them. However, there are some independent companies that will help applicants with their endeavour to get on the TEDx stage and cut through that red tape and byzantine application process. They also help speakers hone their message, memorize their talks and improve their delivery to increase chances of selection by event organizers. 

I’d suggest not giving up so easily and instead reading books, blogs, articles or watching some tutorials online to better understand how to be a TEDx speaker and what makes the best TEDx Talk.

When applying for an event, pay attention to the theme and tailor your proposal to match it. If it helps, check if your alma mater has a TEDx event. As an alumnus, you may have a leg up on the competition. Use your connections to help move your application up in the queue and if you know someone on the TEDx event committee, drop them a line. It can only help get your application noticed.

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The benefits of being part of a TEDx Talk

TEDx was created in the spirit of TED’s mission, “ideas worth spreading.” These events are organized by passionate individuals who want to spark conversations in their communities but there are few more impressive feathers in a speaker’s cap than having presented on that stage. 

When one is a TEDx speaker, other event organizers know that you are battleground tested and trained and this credential can open multiple doors and boost book sales. 

It has for me.

I opened up my heart in a TEDx Talk in 2021. when I was 58 years old. In my speech “Using Life’s Challenges as a Force for Good“, I spoke about difficult issues and personal traumas hoping to help many people feel not so alone.

Being on that stage was thrilling. My TEDx Talk was at the City University of New York. The bright, enthusiastic, supportive students organizing the event impressed me. They nodded as I spoke and I felt their engagement. I felt that I was making a difference. I enjoyed the experience so much that I have applied for more TEDx events. I have many more ideas that I would like to have the opportunity to share. I also think the TEDx platform is good training to increase my speaking skills, spread my messages, expand the reach for my books and other offerings, and keep growing and learning

I listen to TEDx Talks every morning when I am getting ready for the day. They lift me up and challenge me to think in new ways. I think of TEDx Talks as mental floss for the brain. They are curated, timely, and compelling. They are original and short. 

The average TEDx Talk is 12 minutes. If I learn about a new thing every day for 365 days a year, just think how wise I will be!

And you? What ideas do you have that could improve our world? Please share it. We need more good ones in these troubled times that could help us accept our reinvention transition and see its best features.

About The Author

Maria Olsen | Diversity Promoter

Maria Olsen | Diversity Promoter

Maria Olsen is an attorney, author, public speaker and radio show host. Her radio show in Washington, D.C., “Inside Out,” focuses on LGBT and diversity issues. Her first nonfiction book, Not the Cleaver Family–The New Normal in Modern American Families, examined the changes in families in this decade. Her latest one, 50 After 50: Reframing the Next Chapter of Your Life, which chronicles the 50 new things she tried in her 50th year to determine how she wanted to live the next chapter of her life after getting sober and divorced, has been used as a vehicle to help many women reinvigorate their lives. Maria worked on diversity issues while in private practice and as a political appointee in the U.S. Department of Justice.

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