5 ways to design a great stage that won’t break your budget

Finding an affordable way to design a memorable TEDx event stage can be overwhelming. Below, 5 tips culled from veteran TEDx events to help you find your inspiration.

1. Use recycled materials.

Katrina Alcorn speaks at TEDxMonterey

At TEDxMonterey, the stage was adorned with strands of plastic bottles, giving the containers a second life.

2. Go outside. 


Andres Fernandez speaks at TEDxCuria

Many TEDx teams have utilized the wild outdoors for their stage design — either by using natural materials or by having the event itself outside. TEDxCuria in Ecuador was held on a beach, with talks broadcast on an oceanside screen built by the community. At TEDxGuatavita, the stage was decorated with bales of hay, farming tools and plant-filled rain boots.

3. B.Y.O. Stage Design.


TEDxYouth@Homer’s lunch set-up (Photo: Kat Haber)

For their 2010 event, the team at TEDxYouth@Homer organized a lunchtime potluck and asked attendees to bring their own plates and cutlery to the meal. Not only did this look great, but it prevented a lot of waste and cut down on expenses.
Take a page from their book and consider having team members and volunteers bring their own items to decorate the stage. Make a list of suggested items and then let the crowd get creative!

4. Find the artists.

Mark Powers speaks at TEDxConcordiaUPortland (Photo: Armosa Studios)

Mark Powers speaks at TEDxConcordiaUPortland (Photo: Armosa Studios)

Each year at TEDxConcordiaUPortland (now TEDxMtHood), the team appoints an Artist in Residence — a local artist who designs an art installation for the stage, delivers a talk on their work, and, later, mentors next year’s artist. The program invites local artists to showcase their work with a group of individuals who may have not yet seen their art, and provides TEDxMtHood with stunning stage design year after year.

5. Find some chalk.

TEDxYouth@Hewitt's chalk-fueled design (Photo: Stephanie Davis)

TEDxYouth@Hewitt’s chalk-fueled design (Photo: Stephanie Davis)

Sometimes all it takes to have a great stage is a piece of chalk and a steady hand. You can turn almost any surface into a chalkboard with chalkboard paint, and many art supply stores sell chalkboard-ready paper at a nominal cost. Create a chalkboard, think about your theme and start drawing!

Bonus: Talk to a local theater group. Those in theater are used to setting the scene with fabric, props and handmade set pieces. Consider asking a community theater group for guidance in acquiring resources and designing your stage, and perhaps you will even meet some great future team members!


  1. Pingback: Facebook, Gigaom and Twitter - EventHero

  2. We’ve found that for stage design, you don’t have to spend a lot to make it amazing. Pinterest is a fantastic resource for ideas. It’s amazing what you can do with cardboard and clear plastic cups. Or string. Or just plain paper. Extremely cheap, but put some work in and you can make it look incredible.

    One thing I’d add to this list is making the stage interactive or part of the attendee experience. For example, instead of giving out gift bags at the end of our conference, we made them into 6×6″ gift boxes, that actually filled the stage, making it look like a giant pixelated structure. After the conference, all the attendees went on stage to grab their gift boxes. It was awesome.

    One of our volunteers manages our venue design and has put together a board showcasing lots of great stage and venue design ideas.

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