How To TEDx: The 4 Types of TEDx Speaker

In my article The Speaker Matrix, I the outline four types of speaker that you will meet while putting together your line-up.  Below is some information on what each style means and where your focus as an organiser should lie for the speakers to produce a mind-blowing talk.

Quadrant 1 – Innovative

Innovators ooze creativity and what makes them unique is their ability to think differently. Singer-songwriters, designers and everything in between; managed well, they will make the day unforgettable.  The problem is, those that choose to perform or showcase their work onstage often struggle to gain traction online, especially if they are up and coming.

‘In a world of infinite choice, context – not content – is king’ Chris Anderson

Innovators need to be multifaceted and cannot rely on a performance alone to stand out. Help them to incorporate an idea and a talk around their performance.  Sting’s TED talk is a great example of how an idea can give context to a performance and you don’t need a multi-award winning international superstar to do it.

Quadrant 2 – Maverick

Rule breakers and idea makers, Mavericks test boundaries.  Throw away the rule book, agree on the idea and let their brilliant minds do the rest.  Be warned though, give them too much free reign and you risk them getting lost in a stream of consciousness on stage that leaves the audience feeling enthused, but unable to pinpoint why.

‘When you’re focused on everything, you’re not focused on anything’ 

Looping is a technique that writers use to strengthen a theme.  Help them use it to cement their idea as the backbone of the talk.  Mavericks are elusive, so expect a some sleepless nights.  When you do manage to pin them down, treat each meeting as your last chance to influence their talk.

Quadrant 3 – Intellectual

Highly analytical and meticulous in their preparation, intellects will put together a substance rich talk. Normally, they present their work to their peers which means that the talk will need a lot of TEDxifying early on so make sure you are deadline conscious.  Your job is to help them see past irrelevant intricacies and keep perspective of the bigger picture.

‘True simplicity is about bringing order to complexity’ Jony Ive

The success of an intellectual’s talk will come down to how well the audience can relate to them and their idea.  Props will go a long way to bringing about that understanding but there is more you can do.  Challenging the speaker on how they can get from A to B in the quickest way possible; it will help you decide what should make it into the final talk.


Occasionally, you’ll come across someone who has accomplished something extraordinary.  You arrange to meet and find this unassuming, down to earth individual who is reluctant to draw attention to their achievements. They don’t do it for the glory, they do it for self-fulfilment, so getting them to share their story may be a challenge.

‘Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today’
Robert McAfee Brown

Your job is to create a narrative that comes to life. Treat it like a piece of prose and make sure it appeals to all the senses. The audience needs go on the journey with the speaker so spend time helping them understand the mechanics of how they have achieved their feat. This will help you both decide what idea to share.  Chris Hadfield’s TED talk is the gold standard. Watch it, learn from it and enjoy!

This blog is part of the How to TEDx Series.  If you enjoyed it – please like it, share it and comment below!