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8 insider tips: Make an audition video for TED’s Idea Search

Tania Luna auditions for the TED stage. (Spoiler: She got there.) Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Tania Luna auditions for the TED stage. (Spoiler: She got there.) Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Here are 8 insider tips to creating a great audition video for the TEDNYC Idea Search.

1. Distill your idea. In a 1-minute video, you have about 150 words to describe your proposed TED Talk. So you can’t — and you don’t have to — give every single detail of your idea. Instead, focus on the big question that your talk will answer, such as: “How can teachers learn to connect with Generation Z?” Give a short hint at your answer, a few of the bullet points, but don’t try to fit everything in.

2. Watch our TED Talk about … well … giving a TED Talk. Our curator, Chris Anderson, distills 4 points you’ll want to think about as you write your script.

3. Think about how your idea will be relevant right now. Some of our finalists will win spots onstage at TED2018, our major conference of the year, happening in April 2017. So think on this question: Why does your idea have special meaning right now, as 2018 is about to kick off? The theme of TED2018 is “The Age of Amazement,” in every sense of amazement — from wonder and awe to shock and surprise.

4. Use incisive, clear language — not jargon. Consider that the audience, for the most part, will not be as familiar with your idea, or your industry, as you are. So try to describe your concepts in a way that most people would understand, without compromising the quality of your thoughts and ideas.

5. When you practice your script, record your practice. And then watch your practice recordings — you’ll likely see some ways you can get to the point faster. Listen for places where you lose your own interest, and cut cut cut.

6. Consider asking someone else to film your audition video for you. This way, you can focus on delivering your talk, not on your tech. If you’re filming yourself on your laptop or phone, remember to look directly at the camera, not at your own face on the screen.

7. Keep your video simple. You don’t need to edit or produce your video in any way — no need for onscreen graphics or fancy cuts. We’re looking for your raw talent here.

8. Be your own fabulous self. Don’t feel you need to play-act the “TED speaker” — here at TED HQ, we’re as sick of this stereotype as you are. We’re looking for people who are authentic, who have something to say and their own honest way to say it. Use your real voice, your real gestures, your everyday words — be you!

Looking for a couple of examples of great audition videos?

Watch Zak Ebrahim’s short audition video, which turned into a blockbuster TED Talk and a TED Book, and helped share his message of peace to millions of people.

Watch Sally Kohn’s short audition video, which turned into a TED Talk … after which she was invited back to give another TED Talk. (And another.)

And finally, 2 pro tips:

1. Try to turn in your video and application a few days before the deadline. Here at TED HQ, we’re going to start watching hundreds of videos on the day after the deadline … but you can get our attention by submitting earlier.

2. If the audition format just doesn’t work for you, but you still want to speak, use our form to apply to speak at a TED event, or look for a nearby TEDx event and apply to speak there! The TED Idea Search is only one of many, many ways we are looking for great ideas.

Here’s how to enter the TEDNYC Idea Search: Complete the entry form and make a 1-minute video. Your 1-minute video can be very simple: Just explain your idea in a few sentences, and give us a flavor of how you’d present it. We’ll select a dozen finalists to present a short version of their talk in our New York City theater in January 2018.

We can’t wait to hear your idea!

[Edit: This post was updated November 2017 with new links for the TED2018 Idea Search.]