How To TEDx: 5 Speaker Management Must-Dos


Every speaker has a different route to the TEDx stage and organisers should adopt a management strategy that is tailored to each speaker.  Below are some of the most effective ways of influencing a speakers talk.  You’ll struggle to tick every box with each speaker so see achieving each one as a step towards a great talk.

How to TEDx, Hannah Witton

Find Out The Why 

Some want to influence or educate, others may do it simply because they really like you.  Whatever the reason, be sure to find out before you give them the go-ahead.  Each speaker needs to fit in with your theme and if you understand their why, you have created a management tool.  Be wary of the self-promoters; that’s not what TEDx is about.

Cut The Waffle

When you receive what the speaker believes to be the final draft, that is when you start editing.  Your job is simple: make the talk as short as possible!  Be brutal and challenge the speaker on anything that you think is noise.  Key questions to ask include:

What is the relevance?
Is it memorable/worth remembering?
Has the point already been made?
Does it strengthen/have no effect on/weaken the theme?  

Judge the successfulness of your cull on how many minutes you manage to loose from the talk (my record is 8!).  Will Stephen’s TEDx talk demonstrates why this is crucial.

Give Them The Fear

‘The Fear’ will help to ensure speakers put in the time and effort required to produce an amazing talk.  It will also get your more unreliable to stick to their deadlines.  Here are my top 5 ways of giving your speakers the fear:

1.  Compare them to your most prepared speaker: ‘I’ve received 4 video drafts from one of my speakers so far, so I need one in from you ASAP.
2.  Set achievable deadlines that create urgency and get commitment to them.
3.  Call a spade a spade: ‘I don’t think your talk is where it needs to be at the moment – the theme isn’t clear enough.’
4.  The 121 performance (see below).
5.  As a last resort, you can set an ultimatum.  ‘It’s got to a point now where if I don’t see a first draft by x date, I will have to pull in one of my reserve speakers instead.’

Make sure you strike a balance.  Overdo it and the speaker could quit, so pair fear with a plan that gives the speaker hope and confidence.  Preparing a good talk will always be difficult, but it should always feel achievable.

Watch Them One To One

By far the most effective way of preparing speakers for the big day. The set-up is simple: 1 empty room, you play the audience, they play the speaker.  While it will feel strange for both parties, it is the easiest way to create an uncomfortable environment for the speaker to perform in.  This has to be done face to face, so don’t make the mistake of thinking a Skype performance is a suitable substitute.  If you want to take it a step further, record the performance so they can watch themselves back.  You’re welcome!

Build Them Up

The speakers should have gone on an emotional rollercoaster in the weeks leading up to the event.  With all the talk ready, you need to make sure your speaker is too.  You’ll be the busiest person of the lot, but make time to tell them they are going to be brilliant, it’s a little thing that will go a long way.

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

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!

How To TEDx: The Speaker Matrix

Experienced TEDx organisers will tell you to tailor your management style to each of your speakers.  The problem is, speakers come in all shapes and sizes and knowing what approach to take can be a real challenge, especially if you are a first time event organiser.

I’ve created a matrix that splits speakers into four quadrants based on their personality type and the tone of their talk.  While each quadrant requires a different strategy, the reality is everyone has levels of each style.  Use the matrix to work out which quadrant most suits each speaker and then check out The 4 Types of TEDx Speaker article for more information on what each style means.

GradLifeLondon How To TEDx Alex Merry

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

Speaker Technique: Looping

Looping is a technique used by writers to create intrigue, build anticipation or strengthen a theme. It is typically done by referring back to a point that was made previously.

The secret is to leave the loop open by changing the subject without disrupting the flow of the narrative.  A basic loop will do this by telling the audience what is about to happen: ‘we’ll come back to this point in a bit.’ However, the most powerful loops use a subject change as a distraction and then close the loop by later referring back to the original point.  Audience satisfied, point emphasised, job done.

Here is an example of how Milton Jones uses looping for comedic effect. Comedians are of course, the masters of public speaking.