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:
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!