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What Scott has created at Live Your Legend is mind-boggling. He creates inspiration, the challenge to dream big and bold, and the tools to make all that a reality. But most unbelievable is the community he's developed of people who are passionate about doing something great, and helping each other achieve that."

- Leo Babauta, Creator of ZenHabits

How to Become a Main Stage TED Speaker: Interview with TED Content Director Kelly Stoetzel

TED Kelly Stoetzel and Chris Anderson

Stepping Onto the World’s Stage

Most of you probably already know my obsession with TED. Their 1,700+ free videos from the smartest, most talented, influential, creative and crazy people in the world provide more useful education and inspiration than just about anything else I’ve found on the Internet. To date their talks have been watched well over 1 billion times.

Over the past few decades the TED stage has become one of the most prestigious on the planet. Those who share their ideas in front of that crowd often immediately rocket to the top of their industry. And even their independently organized TEDx events can create a ripple of their own.

To date, by far the most powerful single thing I’ve done for our LYL movement and my career was to stand on the TEDx stage in San Francisco and give my talk on How to Find & Do Work You Love (that’s somehow gotten over 1.7 million views and ranks top 20 of over 40k TEDx talks). I could have given a thousand non-TED-related talks, and I doubt it would have had even close to the same impact. And to prepare - of course – I watched dozens of my favorite top talks.

If you’re looking to change the world (or simply have your idea heard), there’s probably no better venue than TED.

So today we’re going to learn how to get on the main stage - directly from the person who chooses TED’s speakers…

While most people have heard of TED, odds are you haven’t heard the name Kelly Stoetzel.

Neither had I, until I attended my first live TEDActive Conference for their 2014 30-year anniversary (#mindblown). She and her co-host Reeves were the emcees for the week.

So why is Kelly such a big deal? Well, she’s the Content Director at TED. This means is she and her team are directly in charge of finding, vetting, choosing and training the annual TED Conference main stage speakers. Talk about responsibility – and a dream career!

The best part is that she started out as a camp counselor (which she claims as her most important job), became an art gallery director and then moved to trial evidence presenter – all of which lead her to one of the coolest and most under-the-radar influential jobs in the world.

But as I got to know her, what piqued my interest even more was her passion for spreading ideas and possibility to kids. Her biggest passion project is TEDYouth, where over 100 youth events are held around the world on the same day to show kids what’s possible and help them find the career paths they are meant to pursue. Amen to that! (2014 TEDYouth is on November 15 – get involved or access the free live stream here.)

Needless to say, I can’t wait for you to watch this interview, where she covered the ins and outs of TED and TEDYouth.

In this video we’ll cover: 

  • How TED finds and chooses their main stage speakers
  • The TED speaker training “un-formula”
  • Top 80/20 tips for giving a TED-worthy talk and killing the nerves
  • What not to do and how to avoid giving a talk that bombs
  • How she connected with TED owner Chris Anderson
  • How TEDYouth is changing the future of kids’ educations
  • The importance of career “steps” and trying many different careers
  • How Kelly handles being an introvert while hosting events for hundreds of the world’s most influential people
  • One question to help identify the impact you want to have on the world
  • And a lot more…

See below the video for the audio mp3 download and detailed time-stamped notes.


How to Become a Main Stage TED Speaker (and other really good speaking advice): Interview with Kelly Stoetzel, TED Content Director

Don’t see a video? Click here.

Download the audio version mp3 file here.

Detailed time-stamped interview notes:

  • 1:56 Defining the TED Why
  • 2:45 The TED & TEDx secret: The talks are only the tip of the iceberg
  • 4:30 The curious career path that took Kelly from camp counselor to picking TED main stage speakers
  • 4:45 Why “Camp Counselor” was Kelly’s most import career step leading her to TED
  • 7:10 Her simple strategy for building a genuine connection (and getting a job) with Chris Anderson, the leader and owner of TED
  • 8:50 Explains her all-powerful role of finding and choosing TED speakers
  • 9:20 The fear that comes with choosing and inviting the right speakers
  • 9:50 Her speaker-finding process to identify the gems among 10,000+ candidates
  • 11:40 TED speaker training process and the “un-formula”
  • 12:10 The initial vetting and interview process
  • 12:45 Kelly’s first key to killing nerves and creating the environment for a world-changing talk
  • 13:10 The importance of curating the right audience and its effect on the speaker
  • 13:40 Top advice for dealing with stage fright, killing nerves and building confidence
  • 15:00 The importance of the “Power Pose”
  • 15:25 Nailing eye contact and how to not do it
  • 15:55 A simple reframe to take the majority of the pressure off the speaker
  • 16:20 The mindset for creating the most compelling slides and visuals
  • 16:50 Every single thing you do as a speaker comes back to one cardinal rule
  • 17:15 Learning from the ultimate talent search – 14 countries, 3 months, 293 speakers and what it taught TED about speaking
  • 18:40 How Kelly handles being an introvert while hosting events for hundreds of people and avoiding panic attacks
  • 19:15 Battling the speaker’s worst enemy
  • 19:30 The key to being an engaging host or emcee
  • 20:15 How to simply communicate incredibly complex topics
  • 21:15 How TED decides the length of a talk
  • 21:30 The 80/20 guidelines for presenting a TEDx talk that’s worthy of the TED main stage
  • 22:15 Avoiding the risks of memorized talks and two methods for knowing your talk is prepared enough
  • 24:00 Nailing your one idea and what makes an idea TED-worthy
  • 25:20 What not to do and how to avoid giving a talk that bombs
  • 26:15 The one word that makes speakers seem like they have a huge ego
  • 27:00 The process for choosing the TEDx talks that make it onto
  • 27:20 Tips for speakers to have the best chance of their talk ending up on TED
  • 28:00 For TEDx organizers: 2 crucial tips for getting your talks on
  • 29:40 The story behind TEDYouth – Kelly’s real passion and what it’s all about
  • 31:10 How TEDYouth is visibly changing the future of education and dream career potential for kids
  • 33:25 Advice for choosing the right career path and finding and doing what she loves
  • 35:40 Why the underlying (and often hidden) skill set of a job is often more important than the job itself
  • 36:00 Warren Buffett’s top career advice
  • 36:25 How to support and become a part of TEDYouth
  • 37:30 The pride of having a 10-year-old daughter as a 3-time TEDx organizer and host
  • 38:20 Kelly’s rather odd TED speaking topic if she had to take the stage today
  • 39:00 One question to help identify the impact you want to have on the world

So… what TED Talk would you give if you had the chance?

It’s a question I asked myself for years. And it eventually led right here.

Give it some thought and tell us in the comments. And if you have speaking questions or advice, please share those as well!

A huge thanks to Kelly and the team at TED for the impact you’re having! I’m so grateful.

And be sure to check out TEDYouth, apply for a free ticket, and see how you can get involved either with their main event in New York or the 100+ around the world. All the talks will also be live streamed for free.

Here’s to taking the stage that can change everything…


P.S. Keep an eye out for our annual Start a Blog Challenge coming soon too. Without a blog, LYL wouldn’t exist, and I certainly never would have been asked to speak at TEDx. Get ready for some fun. :)

19 awesome comments

Ask the Reader: What Quest or Adventure Are You Dying to Pursue?

Regret is what you should fear the most

“Regret is what you should fear the most. If something is going to keep you awake at night, let it be the fear of not following your dream.”

- Chris Guillebeau

The Endless Pursuit of What Matters…

As I write this, I’m wearing a Live Your Legend t-shirt. The back of it says “Do Something That Matters.”

First, do things that matter to you. When you do, they also end up mattering to those around you, and in a way, to the world.

But this was never meant to just apply to doing work you love – it goes for everything we do. Because when we live a life full of meaningful actions, it feels damn good – and it’s a lot more fun. It also inspires others to do the same.

This has gotten me into a number of physical adventures over the years in an attempt to prove what’s possible, including Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournaments, stomaching the 12-hour GORUCK Challenge, swimming from Alcatraz with 9-year-olds, running a 50k in those funny FiveFinger shoes (without having run more than 15 miles prior) and eventually attempting a 50-mile trail race and hobbling over the finish line nearly dead last (hours after dozens of men and women twice my age).

It’s also led to a year spent building my first business in Sevilla, learning to surf in Costa Rica, eating my way through Greece (and just about every other place I’ve traveled), and to the creation of Live Your Legend.

But lately the pursuit of a quest has taken on a whole new life.

I’ve spent the past week in the mountains of Lake Tahoe thinking about the 1-2 year plan both for me and Live Your Legend.

I also just finished reading my friend Chris Guillebeau’s new book, The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose To Your Life, which hits shelves today.

Chris recently finished a rather big 10-year quest of his own – visiting every country in the world (193 of them). But the book isn’t just about him. He covers dozens of stories of other everyday people’s quests in an effort to provide a framework for developing and pursuing your own life of meaning and adventure. The idea is simple: the pursuit of purposeful pursuits, goals and adventures makes us happy.

A few case studies include:

  • Moving to Japan to become a ninja (one of our own LYL and CWA members)
  • Spending seven months walking across the United States
  • Knitting 10,000 handmade hats
  • Practicing “Rejection Therapy” by attempting to get rejected for 100 days in a row
  • Running a marathon in all 50 states (and 250 in a year)
  • Cooking a meal from every country in the world
  • A man pursuing his wife’s bucket list after she died of cancer
  • Finding and donating $10 to a new charity every day for a year
  • Completing the 4-year MIT computer science curriculum in a year

People’s creativity, drive and potential astound me, and the timing for LYL couldn’t be better…

You see, this January my wife Chelsea and I are setting off on our own quest – a yearlong trip around the world – something we’ve dreamed about for nearly a decade.

Our goals next year are simple: to have fun (and embrace some freedom before it’s baby-making time), and to visit the LYL Local communities around the world. We’ll also live in Italy for a few months, learn some Italian and do our fair share of food and wine experimentation. :)

But for a while, I’ve been wanting to tie our adventure to something more specific, with deeper meaning.

Our final plan is still totally up in the air, but here are a few ideas I’ve been toying with for our big trip:

  • Throw a “global dinner party” by hosting dinner parties in each apartment we rent, as a way to bring the local LYL communities together, and for Chelsea to build upon her passion to inspire others to cook simple, healthy, local, plant-based meals (the focus of her newly launched site, The Simple Kitchen). This is currently my favorite idea.
  • Interview LYLers in each country who have made the transition to work that matters and the specific steps they took to make it possible (to share with all of you, of course).
  • Try to crack the code on living a balanced and low-stress life by surrounding myself with “super-chill” people and attending meditation and mindfulness retreats around the world.
  • Focus on a new skill for every month, based on the local customs (think surfing in Costa Rica or meditation in India).
  • Discover and volunteer at a different charity in each city to shed light on some important causes.

These are just a few, and they obviously need plenty more hashing out. But we have four more months to decide. Plus, I’m depending on you to help us out…

I’d love your thoughts on the above and any others you think would make for a worthy adventure, and ideally get as many of you involved next year as possible.

But more importantly, I want you to think about a quest of your own.

Life is a lot more interesting when we put our energy towards endeavors we actually care about.

So… what’s one quest or adventure you want to pursue before your time’s up?

It can be anything.

Mental, physical, supporting a cause or just something selfish that’s always been on your mind. It could take you around the world or all happen in your own kitchen. It could tie into your career or be something totally separate. The fun thing is that one can often lead to the other, if you let it.

Chris defines a quest as something that has a clear goal and specific end point, presents a clear challenge, requires sacrifice and is often driven by a calling or sense of mission. But in today’s case, you can define it any way you want to.

Here are a few questions to think about to help with the brainstorming:

  • What do you get lost in?
  • What about the world makes you really angry?
  • What idea consistently keeps you up at night?
  • What’s always been on your bucket list?
  • What adventure are you dying to tackle?
  • What cause would you love to support?
  • What’s a hobby or passion you’re constantly dedicating time to? How could you tackle it on a much bigger scale?
  • If you could only pursue one thing, what would you craft a life around and do every day?
  • What have you always wanted to do if you had the time, money, courage, etc.?

Once you give some thought to what’s exciting, you start to show up in the world in a different way.

Your conversations change, people see you differently and you begin to inspire others to think about what they too could be doing that matters. And most importantly, your actions begin to change. And so the ripples get set in motion…

The Shift that Ripples Across Your World

A subtle shift happens when you decide to start pursuing things you actually care about.

Even on the smallest scale, as you start to act in a way that’s congruent to what matters to you, you begin to notice more and more actions following suit. People start to pay attention. You and those around you begin to expect it from you. So you continue to show up in a bigger way. Before long, the only actions you take are ones deeply rooted in the difference you want to make.

But that all starts with deciding to pursue that first quest. And that starts with getting an idea out of your head and onto the page.

Living your legend isn’t just about doing work you love. It’s about pursing a life based on what you actually care about, in all walks.

Chris put it nicely near the end of the book…

“If you’re going to worry about something, worry about the cost of not pursuing your dream… Regret is what you should fear the most.”

So, what’s on your list?

- Scott

Two things to do now:

1. Share your own quest idea in the comments (anything goes). And for bonus points, give me some advice on a quest you think Chelsea and I should incorporate next year. I want the LYL community to be a big part of our worldwide adventure (and join us along the way).

2. Check out Chris’s book and grab your own copy on Amazon, read it and then give it to someone else who needs it. The message is so essential to what it means to Live Your Legend and do work that matters. And I’d love to see The Happiness of Pursuit get the traction it deserves.

105 awesome comments