What’s it like speaking at TEDxPittsburgh?

Author Lindsey Smith, sitting down for an informal chat with a cup of coffee.

What’s it like speaking at TEDxPittsburgh?

Author Lindsey Smith gave a powerful, revealing talk at TEDxPittsburgh 2016: Activate, Ideas in Motion. She applied as a speaker in previous years and was not selected, but remain undeterred. Asked why speaking at TEDxPittsburgh was so important to her, Lindsey remarked that, “I had a message I wanted to share, and what better place to share it than in the city I grew up in?”

Indeed, her message that we need to love ourselves more is incredibly important, especially in an age where working 60+ hours per week is applauded and worn like a badge of honor, and earning likes on Instagram or Facebook feels like a second job. Her question of, “What is it going to take for you to love yourself right now?” is one that we should all seek to answer.

To help potential speakers respond to the Call for Ideas for TEDXPittsburgh 2017: Rise Up, we asked Lindsey about her experience and what led her to pursue a speaker nomination. Many thanks to Lindsey for sharing her journey and helping this year’s speakers prepare their submission!

When did you decide to submit a speaker application?

“…2013 or 2014. Seriously, I’ve applied to TEDx every single year for the past four of five years. Even though I didn’t get selected the first several times I applied, I always took the rejection as a learning experience. The first year, I realized my application was too “about me” and not about the idea. The second year, I realized that I should immerse myself in what makes a good talk. The third year I didn’t make it, I went to the actual event to soak in the energy. I think all of these things combined helped me truly understand the TEDx community and what it takes to make a good application.”

“It’s all about pulling out that unique perspective and insight that people aren’t necessarily thinking about…[View] your work and ideas from a…lens that maybe you haven’t shared before.”


What was the biggest challenge in preparing your submission?

“…Understanding what TEDx curators are looking for. They don’t want a pitch about your business or any sort of promotional material. They want an idea or a glimpse into your work that maybe you’ve never shared before. For example, the CEO of Airbnb could talk about how successful house sharing is, but that’s not as compelling as talking about how Airbnb has shown the trust people really do have in one another. It’s all about pulling out that unique perspective and insight that people aren’t necessarily thinking about.

I practiced my talk every single day for about six weeks. I did something for it every day, and two weeks before the talk, I was …on Facetime, asking neighbors or whoever was over the house if I could perform my talk for them. I timed myself, took out certain lines, and truly gave it my all… That alone taught me more about myself than I thought possible.”

What did you learn from your experience?

“…I learned how resilient and dedicated I could be… I learned so much from my fellow TEDx speakers [and] feel like I made friends for life. The experience opened up my worldview. It’s fun to connect with people about how their stories and experiences helped shape who they are.”

How would you prepare differently if you were submitting another application?

“Well, seeing as I spent about four years reflecting and preparing differently each time I didn’t make it, I don’t think I would have done anything differently… I think the one thing I will highlight again is the importance of viewing your work and your ideas from a unique lens that maybe you haven’t shared before. Bring the audience into a unique perspective. I think that is the key to a successful application and a successful talk!”

2017 Submissions

Preparing your submission for 2017? Make sure to view our tips for the video application. How will you Rise Up? Applications are open until February 7th.

Adam Locke

Adam Locke is a technical writer, mountain biker, bookworm, and craft beer nerd. He and his wife live in the East End of Pittsburgh with their elderly dog.

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