News TED Conferences

The #1 myth of TED: You have to be invited

Posted by:

facts_and_myths_blogEvery year, as registration for the TED conference begins, a myth floats in the ether: many people think that you have to be invited to attend. Not true! To show your interest in attending TED, all you have to do is apply. It’s open to anyone — from inventors to directors, philanthropists to painters, chemists to computer scientists, the long-established to the up-and-comers, the people who’ve been a part of the community for years to newcomers filled with enthusiasm.

Don’t let the invitation myth deter you from applying for TEDGlobal 2013 in Edinburgh, TED2014 in Vancouver or TEDActive 2014 in Whistler. We want new voices in the audiences of each of these incredible events.

In the spirit of radical openness, here are some frequently asked questions about our conference application process.

Q: Why do you have to apply? Can’t you just let people register on a first come, first served basis?

We have a limited number of spaces, and people across the globe interested in attending — so we don’t just want to favor the first people to hear that registration is open. So we think of it like a dinner party. It’s about curating a well-balanced group — people who work in different disciplines, who live in different parts of the world and who are of different ages. TED events are all about the audience. If the audience is amazing, the experience becomes so much richer and more interactive — a loop of digging deeper into ideas, inspiring each other in new directions and teaming up for unexpected collaborations. As TED speaker Matt Ridley put it, every TED conference should be a place where ideas have sex.

Q: How long does it take to apply?

The application is six short essay questions that touch on your goals, accomplishments and how you’d like to be a part of the TED community, plus some basics like your address, email and references. How long the questions take to complete is up to you. We recommend taking around two hours to polish your application and make it really reflect who you are — both as a professional and as a person.

Q: Can you give me tips on how to apply to come to TED?

Find lots on this tips page. But here are some easy dos and don’t:

  • Do take the application seriously. Give thoughtful, meaningful answers to the six questions that are, in general, longer than Tweets.
  • Don’t simply paste your bio from your website.
  • Do list websites that relate to your work, your side projects, your hobbies and your life. Your links should reflect the spaces where you are actively involved.
  • Don’t just send us to Facebook, LinkedIn or Google Plus. Show us more about who you are.
  • Do choose references who know you well. Bonus points if they’re a member of the TED community already or work in your field. However, if you don’t know a TEDster, don’t let that stop you.
  • Don’t list your spouse or family members as references either. We know they’ll have glowing things to say about you.
  • Do tell us a great anecdote about yourself. It helps to bring you alive. Surprising or funny are good, but not required.
  • Don’t ask an assistant or intern to write these short questions for you. We want the real, awesome and authentic you.

Q: How do you evaluate applications and select attendees?

We read each and every application with an eye toward creating a great, diverse and balanced audience so that inspiration becomes a two-way street. The focus is on finding remarkable individuals who combine combine significant achievement and great character. Sound like you? Apply and tell us about yourself. Not sure if you’d qualify? Apply anyway. You might be surprised.

Q: $7500 is expensive! What about the people who can’t afford it?

TED has lots of options, from free to those who can donate $15,000.

  1. Free. A large number of the talks from any TED conference will appear later in the year on All videos on the site are absolutely free.
  2. $1,000. A membership to TED Live gives you remote access to the live webstream of both TED and TEDGlobal. You also get an iPad mini — which becomes the centerpiece of your viewing experience — and become a member of the TED Live global community.
  3. $3,750. TEDActive 2014 in Whistler, B.C., is the younger, hipper version of the TED conference with original speakers, a live simulcast of TED2014 and a fun social program which, of course, includes skiing. For Americans, $1,250 of the cost is tax-deductible.
  4. $7,500. A regular pass at TED2014 in Vancouver. For Americans, $5,000 is tax-deductible.
  5. $15,000. A VIP pass at TED2014 with early seating access and other benefits. For Americans, $12,500 is tax-deductible.

The tax-deductible portion of conference attendance goes towards supporting TED’s incredible philanthropic programs including the TED Prize, TED Fellows and TEDx.

Q: Are there any options for reduced price tickets?

Yes, we offer a reduced rate program for leaders of innovative small NGOs. And for young innovators, apply to the TED Fellows program, which funds 40 trailblazers in a wide range of disciplines from across the globe to attend one TED or TEDGlobal conference, all expenses paid.

Now that you know applying is the key, we hope you’ll join us for the upcoming conferences. Here are easy links to get you started on your application.