TEDx tips: 5 steps to finding great local ideas for your event

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Curating a TEDx event can be difficult, but your lineup can be first-rate with these tips from TEDx applications

As many TEDx organizers know, it can be challenging work to surface novel, interesting and thought-provoking ideas from a community. That’s why we’ve asked Rachel Saunders from the TEDx applications team — who works with hundreds of organizers on their programming — to provide five great tips on making speaker curation a painless process. Below, her advice for finding local ideas that will make an impact:

1. Look for ideas (not speakers): Brainstorm to find an idea you think truly needs to be addressed, shared and spread. Let this idea lead you to the speaker, not the other way around. Neither interesting speakers nor interesting stories are a substitute for an interesting idea.

2. Think like a journalist:

  • Research: Read, brainstorm, question yourself and others. Ask questions to learn about the current state of each field in which you are interested: What are experts in this field excited about? Worried about? Debating?
  • Target expertise: Seek out experts in local institutions, organizations and community groups. By talking to experts, you will get to information that has not yet been picked up by the media.
  • Seek out differing opinions and know-how: Surround yourself with those possessing different backgrounds than yourself. If you have a science background, find someone with an arts background when looking for arts talks, and so on.

3. Interview your speakers carefully: You want to ask questions that prod the speaker’s expertise rather than personal experience. Questions about personal experience, like, “How did you come up with this idea?” or “Why did you become interested in this field?” force the speaker to answer with a story, which can obstruct their idea. Instead, ask questions that elicit information about a speaker’s current work, such as a straightforward, “What are you working on currently?” or “What is the biggest challenge you are facing in your field right now?” or “What are you most excited about in regards to your current work?” Answers to these questions poke at the ideas the speaker is tackling in life, rather than forcing an “inspirational” story.

4. Turn your speaker application on its head: Consider asking community members and potential speakers to submit an application for an idea, rather than a person.

5. What a speaker wants to talk about is not always what they should talk about: Of course, this isn’t always the case, but while under the pressure of organizing an event, things can get misconstrued. Work with your speakers to pin down an idea for their talk before they start working on it, and don’t be afraid to redirect them back to the plan if they start to take a completely different direction. (Unless that direction is an even more compelling idea.)

Thanks to Rachel and all the TEDx’ers who joined the online Community Hangout and contributed to the conversation. The next Community Hangout is coming up on Thursday, March 26, at 11:00am EST in the TEDx Hub. We’ll talk with Jacqui Chew of TEDxPeachtree about how to promote your TEDx event to your community in an engaging way. TEDx’ers, hope to see you there!

2 Comments

  1. While I was in my early teens, I was taken to a spectacular books fair by the mother of a friend. Looking at the faces that could be familiar to her at the fair she suddenly squinted at the face of one of her oldest friend when they were in their 20s . This is the first time for my TED Programmes awareness.

  2. As a TEDxBabaDanbaffaSt chief organiser from Kano Nigeria this piece has been one of the best I read that could have saved me from been in the wrong way for choosing the right ideas to be curate at the event.

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