Rehearsals – and a lot of them – are a necessity for your speakers when it comes to delivering a fantastic talk.

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

Once a TEDx speaker has a solid first draft of their script or outline, they should start rehearsing their talk. The key to a great talk is to start rehearsing as early as possible.

It’s also important that your speakers have your support (and/or the support of your speaker coaches) during this process through both positive and constructive feedback.

Here are some best practices:

Body language

  • When speakers step onstage they should feel comfortable to let a beat or two go by, take a breath, and anchor their feet before beginning.
  • Have speakers rehearse standing still. Pacing on stage makes life difficult for the camera crew and can ruin a video.
  • Work on physicalizing the talk – gestures can help speakers emphasize important points.

Script and memorization

  • Record, transcribe, edit, repeat. Some speakers will benefit from hearing themselves speak, others will find it a nauseating experience, but this is a great way to get speakers to believe you when you tell them bits of their talks aren’t quite right.
  • When a speaker sounds too rehearsed, they’re not done rehearsing. Speakers should run through the talk again and again, until they don’t have to think about that fact that they’re reciting a script. Encourage them to rehearse until the words feel like an integral part of their being. Or, alternatively, ask them let go of their plan and rely on the fact that they understand their idea better than anyone else. This depends on the speaker.

Emotion and tone

  • Help speakers find a conversational tone. One way to help with this is to ask speakers to imagine they’re at a dinner party telling the one story of the night that will make the whole table pause.
  • Encourage speakers to tap into honest, contagious emotions during their talk – wonder, optimism, anger, surprise, etc.

Other things to keep in mind

  • Speakers may not use a podium or lectern unless special circumstances warrant it. These objects disconnect the speaker from the audience, create an overly formal atmosphere, and encourage presenters to read from their notes. (Which is always boring to watch.)
  • Your speakers should have the opportunity to rehearse as many times as possible. Have them find one or two people to whom they can always turn for practice sessions, and/or consider organizing special rehearsals – in speakers' homes or elsewhere – where they can present in front of small, live audiences.
  • Repeatedly reinforce the fact that speakers will be held to a strict time limit (talks may never be longer than 18 minutes).

Work out the kinks

Here are some foibles and quirks to look for, point out, and eliminate from your speaker’s talk:

  • Talking about your talk
  • Apologizing to the audience
  • Asking questions when statements would be clearer
  • Introducing too much vocabulary
  • Redundancies
  • Repetition
  • Reading quotes
  • Whispering
  • Yelling
  • Nervous pacing
  • Awkward stillness
  • Failing to admit controversy
  • Overstating points
  • Utopianism
  • Dystopianism
  • Forcing emotions
  • Unnecessary slides
  • Making TED puns
  • Purely anecdotal evidence.

Know when to make a cut

This is a tough one. TEDx organizers often have to face a situation where one of their speakers is not prepared enough for their talk, or their talk is just not of good quality.

If this comes up, you have the liberty to cut that speaker from your program. It’s never a fun thing to do, but it’s the fair thing to do for your TEDx community and for that speaker.

Dress rehearsal and final prep

Dress rehearsal is a critical step in the preparation process because it allows speakers a chance to practice in a setting resembling the actual event.

General prep

A day or two before the show, run through the following with your speakers and performers at the site of the event:

  • Where they will get ready and be given their microphone
  • Where they will sit
  • How they will step on stage
  • How you will cue them when their time runs out
  • How to exit the stage

Make sure speakers have a chance to go through their talk or performance several times – onstage with their slides accompanying and a mock “host” introducing them.

Technical prep

What (not) to wear

Speakers and performers should not wear stripes, complicated patterns, or bright colors that could disrupt lights – or dangling jewelery that could interfere with microphones. Speakers should wear something comfortable that they feel good in. Nothing too formal. No ties. (Unless they’re cool ties!)

Slide control

Will your speakers have control over their slides? If you give speakers a remote for advancing their slides, make sure they rehearse with the remote multiple times so they can remember when each slide should change. Alternatively, a speaker can have someone offstage change slides using their script as a guide. This decision should be the speaker's.

Additional resources

For some memorization tips for your speakers, check out Joshua Foer’s talk on memorization.

Want some wisdom on rehearsals from the global TEDx community? Don’t forget to check out our Collaborative Learning forums to connect with and learn from other organizers.

TEDx Tips
  • Don’t push strategies onto your speaker that don’t seem to be working. Let speakers find an approach that works best for them.
  • Don’t forgot to give speakers positive feedback. You don’t want to overwhelm with too much criticism. Instilling confidence is key!
  • Use polite persistence. Get tough when needed. Don’t be intimidated by big egos.
  • From time to time, ask speakers to take a week or two away from the talk and from rehearsing. This bit of distance can bring a new perspective.
  • Many speakers will feel that their talk is never done. You can only make them feel comfortable with an unfinished product.