Ruth Whippman

Author | Journalist | Filmmaker


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How to do a TEDx talk to promote your book

I recently did a TEDx talk about my book, America the Anxious.

Since I posted the video of the talk online, lots of people have been getting in touch to ask me how I set it up.  So I thought I would put the whole process here into one blog post.

TEDx are independently licensed events under the TED branding.  Each one is organized individually, and there are many all over the world.  You can find a list of them all here.

Each event has its own website, and its own application process- you can read the submission guidelines and apply through the official process on each event’s website.  I tried this official route with a handful of events, and got precisely nowhere.

So instead, I identified a few upcoming TEDx events that were near enough for me to get to easily and within my time frame, and started emailing the organizers of the the events directly with my pitch.

The organizers names always appear on the individual event websites, and I then found their email addresses easily through some minor sleuthing online- via Linkedin, personal websites, Twitter etc (using only publicly available information.)  This approach might seem overly forward or irritating, but it yielded much better results than going through the ‘official’ channels.

I then did my research.  I watched lots of TED and TEDx talks to see how they were structured, what worked well and what didn’t, which titles captured my attention etc.

When I had a pretty good idea of how these things were done, I put together a general pitch for my talk and then tailored it to each individual TEDx event.  Each event has a theme, so I generally used my “stump talk” with a few tweaks to make it relevant.

For example- my basic talk was about happiness, and why we are ‘failing’ at it – and the single most important thing we can do to change that.  The TEDx event I ended up appearing in was about tech, and the way it is changing our lives, so for that pitch I added an anecdote to my talk about a ridiculous experience I had with a happiness cellphone app and added some statistics about how tech is isolating us from other human beings.


My pitch included:

  • a detailed outline of my potential talk
  • a few lines about why it would fit in with their theme
  • a detailed bio including as much speaking experience as I could
  • a handful testimonials from people that had organized or attended other talks I had done in the past.
  • Audio links to  podcasts and radio interviews I had done.  Most of the TEDx events state on their website that you need to submit video of yourself doing other talks.  Despite having done lots of talks, I had no video of this type, so this had to do.

All in all the whole process involved quite a lot of work, and took close to a year to come together from beginning to end.  If you are trying to do this to launch a book and would like to do a TEDx talk as part of the launch, it is worth starting the process very early- I would recommend a year in advance.

I wanted to do the talk in time for the paperback release of America the Anxious, but it didn’t come together until nearly a year from when I started sending out the initial emails.  But it was definitely worth it.  It was a terrifying but exhilarating experience to appear at TEDx and great to have the video online as a platform for future books/ pitches etc.  Good luck!

If you have any questions about any of this, feel free to get in touch any time.   And why not sign up for my newsletter to hear more about writing, happiness, anxiety and other good (and bad) stuff.

What to do next:

Watch my TEDx talk here

Check out America the Anxious, the book that led to the talk.  (It’s called The Pursuit of Happiness in the UK) . It was a NY Post Best Book of 2016, a New York Times Editors Choice, A Sunday Times Top Summer Read and a Daily Mail Must Read!

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