The Craft of TEDx Speaker Coaching

As the TEDxSanDiego organizer for 3 years (2014 to 2016), organizer for TEDxMonumento258 (2015), and having attended 40+ TED/TEDx events since 2010, I’ve experienced a wide variety of stories and accompanying narrative styles. Like a fingerprint, each story is unique, as is each storyteller, and part of that uniqueness is related to the speaker coaching that happens behind the scenes, long before the speaker greets their audience to tell their story.

In my experience few TEDx attendees, or the viewers of TED/TEDx videos, are aware of the speaker prep that occurs in the months preceding an event, which is a shame, as the coaching process is such an important aspect of creating a memorable TEDx experience.

So how does that process work? Just as each speaker and story are unique, every coaching process is unique, as sessions are tailored to the speaker’s talent, experience, and narrative. In addition, no two speaker coaches are the same, with each having developed their own approach to the process. The intent, however, is the same. To maximize the speaker’s impact, and that only happens when a speaker truly connects with the audience with a talk that contains a relevant message.

Silhouette Speaker on Stage

Seeking that combination of connection and relevance is where I begin with a speaker. In the world of TED/TEDx, the mantra is Ideas Worth Spreading, and that phrase means that attendees in the audience, and viewers of the video, will find the idea compelling enough to tell their friends, family, co-workers and associates.

It’s never the job of a coach to write the story, that’s always the responsibility of the speaker, but rather to help define the central idea of the story, assist in the selection of assets which support that idea, and provide guidance on how best to thread those assets into a narrative that will both capture the audience’s attention, and convey the idea in a meaningful way.

Future blog posts will delve deeper into the details and mechanics, but in the meantime, think about the idea that you want to tell the world about, and write down why the audience would find value in hearing that particular idea. How would their lives change, how would they think differently, and most importantly, how would they act differently?