How to Give a Tedx Talk (With No Professional Experience)

Ted and Tedx talks are some of the most inspirational tools around. The short, curated talks given by CEOs and other game changers have in recent years become an accessible way for young people share their world-changing ideas as well.

Have you ever been inspired by one?

But have you ever been inspired to give one?

If your understanding of a Ted or Tedx talk is that you have to be really, really credentialed, accomplished or be some kind of child prodigy to give one, think again, says Shreyas Parab, who graced his first Tedx stage at just 14 years of age.

Shreyas is the CEO and founder of Novel Tie, a tie company creating witty and silly ties for uniform-bound students as well as the young-at-heart. His ties help add flare and individuality to restrictive dress codes, and start conversations for you so you don’t have to. Novel Tie is expected rake in 50K this year, which would double its revenue in only its second full year of business.

The success of his first company lead Shreyas to found his second company, Spell for Success, which he co-founded with Sriram Hathwar, 2014 Nation Scripps Spelling co-champion and best friend. Shreyas is a two-time national speller himself and has sat down with Walmart’s CEO and his state senator to discuss the expansion of youth entrepreneurship in Philadelphia.

So Shreyas may border more alongside prodigy, you may be thinking. But before you dismiss this post and think it’s not for you, consider first that Shreyas gave his first Tedx talk when he was just 14 years old — before he was kid CEO or had anything accomplished to talk about. He mentioned no accomplishment and had no inside connection when he first reached out to Tedx organizers.

The only thing he had to offer was a message he believed in about every child’s innate incredibility.

“If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid. Albert Einstein once said this…” opened Shreyas at his first Tedx talk.

Another reason Shreyas wanted to give a Tedx talk, he admitted to me though probably not to his organizer, was because he wanted to be on TV. Not exactly shining qualifications for giving a Tedx talk.

So how’d Shreyas do it?

Shreyas cold-emailed 30 different organizers. Some he contacted more than once. He also messaged them via Facebook and Twitter, and also called them by phone. He appealed to the organizers by using his seeming weakness (a kid with no professional experience) as a strength (a kid’s perspective would add variety). Repeated emails can border on obnoxious. But Shreyas kept his tone coy and polite.

“Did you get my email by any chance?” he would ask.

Out of the 30 organizers he contacted, only one responded. And that after contacting the one organizer five separate times. But one was all he needed. Shreyas was the youngest speaker alongside CEOs that night. But his talk ended up being one of the most viewed.

After his first talk, he repeated the same process, contacting more organizers from different cities. He has since given four more talks all across the country, from Connecticut to Delaware to New Jersey to Philadelphia where he first started.

Watching Shreyas on YouTube, it’s easy to assume he enjoys public speaking. But Shreyas says nothing could be further from the truth. His stomach knots on the podium like the rest of America. It’s not public speaking he enjoys, he says.

“What I realized through this journey is that there are some things that I really like doing and some things I don’t like doing and some things that I know I have to do to get to the things I love,” says Shreyas. “To this day, I speak in front of people all the time. And I’m still super nervous and I always choke up. But the thing is, at the end of the day, what I want is to be able to convey my message to other people, to be able to lead the conversation knowing that I’ve been able to make an impact on someone or knowing that I’ve been able to learn something from someone else. That’s what I like doing. So I have to get over the fear of speaking in front of people and to people to get to that.”

If the idea of giving a Tedx talk excites you and makes you nauseous all at the same time, you may be the ideal candidate to inspire others through this portal. Here are some tips Shreyas shared to help you get started:

1. Locate your local organizers. Locate at least a dozen organizers you would like to contact.Remember that success is a numbers game. The more organizers you contact, the better your chances will be. The preferred method of contact is usually email but don’t shy from messaging them via Facebook, Twitter or any other channels that are listed under their contact info.

2. Come up with a unique and inspirational message. Listening to Ted or Tedx talks can give you an idea for what topics have already been covered and what topics do well. You want your topic to be both inspirational and unique. Remember that you don’t need to be a CEO, or have cured cancer to have the authority to speak in front of an audience.

“I realized that by the end of it, they didn’t care how old I was. They didn’t care about my credentials. They just cared about the message,” says Shreyas. “And that confidence that I got from there has carried me to this day. I still remember how old I am, how unqualified I am. If I’m able to convey a good message, a message that matters to people, it doesn’t matter how old I am or how unqualified I am.

3. Craft the perfect email.

      • Be succinct. Remember that organizers can receive hundreds of emails.The number one rule is to be succinct and to the point.
      • Include your topic in the email title.
      • Talk about what you can do for them, not just about what they can do for you.

“Don’t just ask what can this person do for me, but what is something I bring to the table and be a contribution to what they’re doing,” says Shreyas. “So for me, that was hey, I looked at all your speakers and they’re all adults, which is great, but what about a kid perspective?  That was part of the pitch. And for anyone who’s cold emailing, trying to get an adult or a mentor’s attention is don’t just ask them for things. Show them what you can do for them. It might be something like you know what, I’m a young kid who’s trying to make it out there. If you help me, you’re giving back to the community. And a lot of adults go for that because a lot of people out there want to give back.”

4. Prepare, prepare, prepare.  If an organizer does decide to take a chance on you, make sure to be prepared. Preparation is the best way to calm your nerves and overcome nervousness on stage.

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