Create a theme

Your TEDx event theme sets the tone of your event with one overarching question or statement. It essentially lets your attendees know what they should expect from the day.

What is the difference between a theme, a topic, and an idea?

A theme is the title or tagline of your event.
A topic is a subject area that you’re interested in covering at your event.
An idea is the original concept or notion that your speakers will bring to the stage at your event.

Choosing a theme

Your theme should be abstract, and open to interpretation – it should be broad enough to leave room for a wide range of topics and speakers. Think of it like a title or tagline for your event.

Your theme is not a topic or single subject like, “sustainability,” “medicine,” or “happiness,” but should be broad and overarching. Here are some examples of different themes that were used by other TED and TEDx events:

  • The Great Unveiling
  • The Big Questions
  • Icons, Geniuses, Mavericks
  • Inspired by Nature
  • The Pursuit of Happiness
  • The Substance of Things Not Seen

You want to choose a theme that can be interpreted loosely, so that you can be as diverse with your talks and speakers as possible. For example, the theme titled, “The Substance of Things Not Seen,” included the following speakers and topics:

  • An artist who creates microscopic sculptures
  • A politician talking about the un-seen poor
  • An astrophysicist explaining the existence of black holes, even though we cannot see them.

Why a diversity of topics?

When people are presented with a series of ideas, they instinctively form connections. When the connections are obvious, a whole audience will walk away with the same set of obvious connections. But when the ideas seem unrelated, each member of the audience will invent their own, individual set of connections.

This makes for a more engaging, personal and surprising experience, and will generate a wider array of questions, and much more lively discussion.

Choose topics

The best way to choose topics that fit both your theme and your community’s needs is by creating a long list of big topics and subtle questions. Don’t worry if some of these are vague or too specific, but remember: your topics shouldn’t fall under one single subject. They should be diverse and wide-ranging. You can make sure of this by using big categories like technology, entertainment, design, business, and science as a guide. Think of topics that might fall under each category.

Here are a few things to consider when creating your list of topics:

  • Ask new questions - When creating your list, you want to highlight ideas that most people haven't thought about before. Don’t aim to reinforce world views.
  • Think local - Consider choosing topics that TED can't address on our global stage. What new ideas are being discussed and created in your community? What critical issues are big thinkers and innovators talking about in your local community?
  • Think global - Think about how you can reflect your community outward to the world. What could the rest of the world learn from your community? And alternatively, what could your community learn from the world that they don’t know?

Keep in mind that this is a draft list, and not your final lineup of topics. You’ll be using this to begin researching local speakers who can address these concepts in the most interesting ways.

TEDx Tips

  • Need help thinking of a theme? Take a look at your local papers and other publications you like to read. Look for themes that come up again and again.
  • Need inspiration for topics? Friends can be a great guide. Sit down with the smartest, most interesting people you know, and discuss what’s important to them right now personally, locally and globally. Find out the things they know that others should. Find out what bores them. Find out what excites them!

Rules to Remember

  • Be wary of bad science. Topics should be realistic, and must maintain arguments that can be defended by well-founded evidence.
  • No commercial, political or religious agendas, or polarizing, “us vs. them” topics are allowed.
  • Remember: No single-topic events are allowed. (e.g., An event on “charity”)

Past TED themes

The Great Unveiling
The Big Questions
Icons, Geniuses, Mavericks
Think Again

Past TEDx themes

Ideas Empowered
Breakthrough!
Revolutionary Ideas
Thriving on Turmoil
The Essence of a Changing World

Topic examples

Sustainable agriculture
Youth activism
New discoveries in astronomy
The “third act” of life
Climate crisis