Advice for Potential TEDxMiddlebury Student Speaker Competition Entrants

Rules for TEDxMiddlebury’s Student Speaker Competition

  1. Your talk must be in the style of a TEDTalk (for more info, see below and/or or watch the sample videos)
  2. Your talk may not exceed 4 minutes. We will cut you off
  3. You are strongly discouraged from using any form of notes (except when applicable, i.e. reading a quote)
  4. You may not use props of any kind
  5. If you are on campus, we expect you to present at our event on May 7th, but if you are off-campus for a reason beyond your control, you may submit a video. (More details below)

What’s a TED talk?

TED talks are neither academic nor informal, but are intended to share an idea. It is a format open to creative interpretation – you may want to draw inspiration from talks on, but do not feel limited by what others have done. Nobody will be allowed to use projectors, slides, or music: tell a story to the audience they should know about, learn from, relate to or laugh at. The following “TED Commandments” may be useful – unless you have a better idea.

The TED Commandments

These 10 tips are given to all TED Conference speakers as they prepare their TEDTalks. They will help your TEDx speakers craft talks that will have a profound impact on your audience.

1) Dream big. Strive to create the best talk you have ever given. Reveal something never seen before. Do something the audience will remember forever. Share an idea that could change the world.
2) Show us the real you. Share your passions, your dreams … and also your fears. Be vulnerable. Speak of failure as well as success.
3) Make the complex plain. Don’t try to dazzle intellectually. Don’t speak in abstractions. Explain! Give examples. Tell stories. Be specific.
4) Connect with people’s emotions. Make us laugh! Make us cry!
5) Don’t flaunt your ego. Don’t boast. It’s the surest way to switch everyone off.
6) No selling from the stage! Unless we have specifically asked you to, do not talk about your company or organization. And don’t even think about pitching your products or services or asking for funding from stage.
7) Feel free to comment on other speakers’ talks, to praise or to criticize. Controversy energizes! Enthusiastic endorsement is powerful!
8) Don’t read your talk. Notes are fine. But if the choice is between reading or rambling, then read!
9) End your talk on time. Doing otherwise is to steal time from the people that follow you. We won’t allow it.
10) Rehearse your talk in front of a trusted friend … for timing, for clarity, for impact.


Example Talks – Here are some examples of talks from students who won the student event previously.

Ryan Kim ’14 (2012 winner)

Alec MacMillian ’14 (2013 winner)

Additionally, here are some TEDTalks we found to be particularly effective:


For Video Submissions:

  1. Be aware that your talk must adhere to the rules listed above.
  2. There may be no cuts in the video and the camera should be stationary (as much as possible – a seated friend is fine). We ask that you only use a single camera.
  3. The video should include your entire body, from your feet to the top of your head. For those for whom it is possible, we ask that you be standing while giving the talk.
  4. We ask that you speak as if you are addressing a crowd in a semi-formal setting. Imagine a crowd listening intently in the Gampa-theater. Don’t read from cue cards!
  5. If you have any more questions, feel free to email us at