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!

How To TEDx: An Introduction

Organising a TEDx event is one of the most challenging and rewarding things I have ever done. The last 12 months has taught me more than I could have possibly imagined.  We got a lot right in our first event, but we had to learn many lessons the hard way and some of those could have been avoided. TED provide organisers with little more than skeleton instructions and I am yet to find an easy to use content source for running an event.

Over the next few months, I will be writing a ‘How to TEDx’ series to bridge this gap.  With just one event under my belt I don’t claim to be an expert, but by documenting the lessons I’ve learned, hopefully organising a conference can become a little easier.  Along the way, I will be inviting other organisers to share their advice in guest posts with the goal of creating the most comprehensive guide to running a TEDx conference out there.

If you would like to feature as a guest blogger – fill out the form below!

My TEDxVision: One Year On

It’s almost been a year since the plans for TEDxClapham were first announced.  Now, just days after the final talk was released, it seems like a good time reflect on what has been achieved.

The Goal
To host a 1-day TEDx conference for 100 attendees that set out to:
1.  Prove that TED/TEDx talks can help to create tangible change
2.  Show that there is more to Clapham than it’s infamous night life
3.  100,000 video views in 12 months
4.  3 talks to make it to TEDx Editors Picks
5.  1 talk to make it to TED Editors Picks

The Numbers
Speakers: 17
Ticket applications: 300+
Attendees: 100
Video views: 120,000+ (First talk released 5 weeks ago)
Hours pledged to Clapham based charity organisations: 420
Talks that made it to the TEDx Monthly Editors Picks: 1 (so far)
Talks that made it to the TED Editors Picks: 0 (so far)

The Talks

JC Movember TEDxClapham GradLifeLondon

Click here for the TEDxClapham 2015 Playlist

Pretty good overall – everything we can control we have achieved. As for making it to the TED and TEDx Editor’s Picks, well that’s in the hands of the TED Gods in New York –  keep your fingers crossed! Ultimately, the true success of our event boils down to one question:

Can TEDx talks create tangible change?

After all, that seems to be the sticking point for TED’s critics.  I think this event has shown two things:
1.  Mix like-minded people with opportunity and you have are providing the perfect environment to create change.  420 hours pledged in 90 minutes by our audience isn’t bad!
2.  The most inspiring TEDx talks haven’t been written to inspire others but to challenge perception and issue a call to action.  Comedian, Dave Chawner’s talk on eating disorders is a great example of this.

Every talk should have a greater purpose and if TEDx organisers can keep this in mind when choosing their speakers, change has a really good chance!  Edwina Thompson used her talk to help influence key decision-makers in several European governments, NATO and Interpol prior to face to face meetings, it’s no wonder TEDx picked it up so quickly.

I’m yet to see or hear of a TED or TEDx event that has been solely responsible for creating change, but I do believe that running or speaking at an event can provide a powerful platform a) for change to be showcased and b) to aid positive change globally.

What about TEDxClapham 2016?
We’ve been overwhelmed by the support that TEDxClapham has received since it’s inception.  Our post-event reach on social media has exceeded 1.5 million and that will continue to grow with time.  The team is currently enjoying some well deserved r&r, but we are already in the early stages of planning next year’s event.  If you’re interested in being part of next year’s team, fill out this form and I’ll be in touch soon.

What to expect?  Think spring time, new theme, new format, new speakers and lots of surprises.  It’s likely to be a similar size to this year, so if you’re interested in applying for a ticket you’ll need to get in quick. Be sure to follow us on Twitter to get first movers advantage; if last year was anything to go by, they’ll sell out quickly!

For us, the most important thing is to make sure TEDxClapham 2016 is an event that’s like no other.  London plays host to some astonishing events in and outside of TEDx and we are going to have our work cut out to make it our most special event yet.  For now though, on behalf of the TEDxClapham team, I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has helped us along the way, I hope we’ve done you proud.

Alex Merry

An open letter to journalist Martin Robbins

Hi Martin,

I’ve just come across an article called ‘The Trouble with TED Talks‘ that you wrote for the new statesman a few years back and thought I’d drop you a line. I am the curator of TEDxClapham and we had our first event in January under the theme ‘Creating Change’.

We received some stick from those that thought a TEDx event in Clapham was a step too far; which is probably something to do with the abundance of red chinos and the infamous night life that Clapham is often associated with. On a larger scale, there is talk on the internet that too many licenses are being handed out and that TED/TEDx talks have become diluted.

It took me 18 months and countless rejections to get my license, so while I don’t agree with the initial point, I do think the second one links to your article where you mention that many TED/TEDx talks lack substance. I agree with you to an extent, which is why our event set out to challenge this notion and show Clapham in a more positive light.

Our first talk is now online and thought you might like to see it. To give you some context, the speaker is sending the talk to key decision-makers in several European governments, NATO and Interpol prior to face to face meetings with them over the next few weeks. She is hoping to use the talk to help put serious pressure on them regarding issues in terrorism finance at the moment.

Hopefully it shows that when approached correctly, TED/TEDx talks can be used as an aid to help create positive change on a global scale.

Any comments, suggestions and feedback would be gratefully received. I look forward to hearing from you,