Outline + script

Constructing a TEDx Talk takes a lot of discipline and creativity, so it’s important your speaker has some great guidance.

First and foremost, you will want to give every speaker for your event a copy of our TEDx Speaker Guide. It provides all of the guidance they’ll need to draft and deliver a compelling talk. However, it’s still important to check in, offer support, and make sure they’re not falling behind.

Here are the things you need to keep track of when your speakers are putting together an outline and script:

Set expectations

The first draft of your speaker’s talk will not be their last. Set a timeline with specific milestones for which your speaker can aim. Here’s a sample timeline:

6 months before the event’s day: Thesis and basic outline due
5 months out: A script or detailed outline due
4 months out: Second draft and first rehearsals
3 months out: Final draft and more rehearsals
2 months out: Bi-weekly rehearsals
1 month out: Weekly rehearsals
2 weeks out: Take a break. (Don’t think about the talk.)
1 week out: Rehearsals
1-2 days out: Dress rehearsals

The above is just an example; your own timeline depends on your overall schedule and the needs of your speakers. Once you have set a realistic timeline with milestones in place, make sure you check in regularly to make sure your speakers are on track.

Look for structure, brevity and purpose.

When you’re reviewing drafts of your speakers’ outlines and talks, you should look for the following:

Structure

This is the foundation of a good TEDx Talk. Make sure each speaker’s script has a clear introduction, middle, and end.

Brevity

Your speaker should know how many minutes they have for their talk. Make sure their script is an appropriate length for their time slot, or else their content may seem cramped. Think: Is there more than one major idea here? If so, which is the best? Help your speaker hone in on the one major point they’re trying to make.

You’ll learn more about assigning the length of a speaker’s talk when you design your program.

Purpose

Every point within a talk should serve the purpose of proving the talk's main idea and its importance. Make sure these points will be understood by the audience, and there’s a clear explanation as to why they matter.

You also want to make sure the talk is relevant to the audience. Does this talk make a connection with the guests? Is it relatable? Speakers' should always keep the listener and what they might want or need to know in mind.

TEDx Tips 

  • Some TEDx organizers choose to hire a speaking coach. While there are advantages to doing this, many speaker coaching tactics go against the TED and TEDx format. If you decide to hire one, keep a close eye on their work, and make sure they’re following the TEDx Talk format.
  • Speakers should talk like they talk, not how they write. This is why it’s sometimes better for speakers to simply outline their talks and never produce a full written script.
  • Make sure that your speakers’ language is conversational in tone, never bombastic.
  • Encourage honest, contagious emotions – wonder, optimism, anger, surprise, etc.
  • Be wary of overstatements, utopianism, fake emotion, fake self-deprecation, TED puns, and suspicious claims.
  • Personal anecdotes are like garnishes. Just the right amount can make a delicious meal, but too much of the wrong kind can destroy a meal.

Rules to Remember

Our Content Guidelines give you a set of standards to follow when it comes to TEDx talks, so it’s important both you and your speaker use this as a guide. In fact, make it a requirement that your speaker reads it. This includes:

  • No selling from the stage
  • No political agendas
  • No religious proselytizing (including new age beliefs)
  • Only good science.

Also make sure that your speakers know the TEDx rules, which includes information about content and copyright laws. Make sure they sign the speaker waiver. Each speaker must affirm that they are the sole author of their presentation, that they own all rights to the content in their presentation, that they will inform you about any third-party material in their presentation, and that use of their presentation won't violate the rights of any third party.

Some guidance is best with a little creativity sprinkled in. Check out the illustrated guide for speakers!