Love TED Talks? Like organising things? Then why not consider hosting your very own TEDx event?
TED is a non-profit movement devoted to spreading ideas that anyone can get involved with. You could organise a full TEDx conference, a university or youth event, one within your company or organisation or just a viewing party around an official TED event.
With everyone giving up their time for free, it’s a great way for individuals interested in becoming event organisers to further their experience. Meanwhile, you can bring together and inspire your community.
Of course, working with such a prestigious brand as TED requires that you adhere to some strict guidelines, but the organisation also offers plenty of support.
Step 1. Choose an Event Format
TED offers a variety of event formats for you to choose from. Which you choose will depend on the type of organisation you represent (if any) and your ability and appetite for organising.
- Standard event – up to 100 guests, covering a range of topics, from two hours to one-day in length, tickets may be priced up to $100 each (approx £76). Standard event rules also apply to most other event types.
- University event – to be hosted at a college or university, and organised by current staff or students, to share the innovation and ideas their community is creating.
- Youth event – organised by, or catered toward, kids. Applicants under the age of 18 must have an adult co-organiser.
- ED event – educators, students, administrators, and others gather to discuss the future of education.
- TEDxLive event – a community viewing party to watch the official TED Conference through a live webcast. No limit on attendee numbers.
- TEDxWomen event – organised around the official TEDWomen conference, featuring at least one streamed session. Free entry or a small charge if there are live speakers.
- Business event – Employees organise and attend in order to share ideas that are core to your company’s mission and values. Licence fee applicable.
- Internal event – for non-profit organisations, government entities and hospitals to promote internal idea sharing and cross-departmental collaboration. Employees only.
Library event – hosted by librarians at a local library. Often held weekly or monthly.
Step 2. Devise an Event Programme
Before you approach TED to apply for a license, you’ll need to come up with a hypothetical programme for your event and give it a name. Look for research, discoveries, insights, theories, issues, and solutions coming out of your community, which has not yet been addressed in a TED or TEDx Talk.
You don’t need to have the speakers lined up, but TED does ask for at least three examples of ideas for talks that you would like to see presented. Talks should be diverse and not connected in any way. If you decide to have a theme for your event it should be abstract. TEDx events may not be used to promote spiritual or religious beliefs, political agenda or commercial products.
You’ll also need to think about the TED Talk videos you’ll show at your TEDx event. For events less than half a day in length, two TED Talks videos are required to be shown. For longer events, 25% of the total number of talks must be official TED Talk videos.
Says Shaena: “For devising the theme and content for this year, we had a workshop facilitated by Hyper Island where we invited external guests and the core team to discuss four major concepts and from there we broke them down into interesting themes.
“This year’s event is themed “Lighthouse” and we will have seven speakers covering talks on the topics of technology, entertainment, design, education, science, society.”
Step 3. Apply for a TEDx License
You can only apply for one license and it must be associated with the location in which the event will be held. TED also stipulates that you must live in the city for which you are applying for a license.
You need to apply in good time as TEDx event applications can take up to eight weeks to review. You will have 12 months in which to organise the event once you are licensed. TED advises that you need at least three months to organise an event, but starting earlier is recommended.
Says Shaena: “Organising of a large TEDx event starts about 10 months prior. The minute one event is over, we take a few months off to regroup and then start discussing the next year.”
Step 4. Recruit a Team
Put out the word to your friends, family or colleagues that you’re organising a TEDx event and see who wants to get involved. In addition, you can look in the TED Community directory to find local members who will be likely to want to help.
Every person on your team should be designated a role that fits their specific skill set. Often, team members take on more than one role, depending on the size of your event – just make sure that they have the capacity to get those jobs done!
Shaena: “The size of the team can vary. I’ve seen teams of 3-5 people and I’ve seen teams much larger. Like our Stockholm team which is 38 people. We’ve broken them down into sub-teams like communications, production, members, partners and advisory board.
“I’ve been working with volunteers on all types of events in my experience and the TEDx ones are the greatest! They are interested in TED, sharing ideas and helping. We would typically put out an open call on our social media pages and get a healthy dose of applications.”
Step 5. Select a Venue and Design Your Event
According to TED, the best venues for TEDx events with 100 guests or fewer are cozy and simple, such as small auditoriums, hotel conference rooms, theatres, “white box” spaces like art galleries, and private music venues.
It will need to have:
- An ability to project and watch videos
- A stage for the host and live speakers
- A location for food and beverage setup
- Conveniently located bathrooms
- Exhibit space for sponsor materials, speakers, a bloggers’ lounge, etc.
- Party space for sponsored lunches and other events
In terms of design, every stage is required to include your official TEDx logo with your full event name. You should use props and visual elements to showcase your region, city, or local culture, and you’ll need to light the stage for video production. TED also stipulates that the event should be as environmentally friendly as possible.
Shaena: “We have guidelines on how the stage must be set up, for example, the red carpet on the stage and the TEDxStockholm letters in the background. We also have guidelines for high-quality video production and this is where a large part of our budget goes.”
Step 6. Confirm Your Speakers
Your speakers can only talk for a maximum of 18 minutes (you’ll have a timer on stage), but talks can be as short as five minutes. The talks can focus on one big, world-changing idea; one small, engaging idea; an under publicised issue; the amazement of science or discovery; a tech demo; artistic performance or a talk by an artist about their work.
TEDx speakers cannot be paid and cannot promote themselves or their products on stage (except where that is what they have been specifically asked to speak about i.e. tech demo or ideas in their book). Sponsors cannot be speakers and neither can organisers.
Shaena: “The great thing about TED is that speakers, volunteers, the team, are all like-minded when it comes to wanting to give back to the community so when it comes to finding speakers, they are on this wavelength about sharing ideas and providing value that is in line with TED’s mission.”
Step 7. Create A Budget
A TEDx event cannot be used to generate a profit, not even to raise money for a charity. While you may charge for tickets (up to $100 per person for most event types), this can only be used to cover costs and all excess funds should go back into the organisation of subsequent events.
You may seek sponsorship to help pay for things you need such as the venue, food and beverage, and audiovisual equipment. TEDx suggests seeking in-kind sponsorship and has existing relationships with some companies that provide products and services to TEDx organisers for free through the Sponsor Marketplace.
Sponsors should be viewed as partners who want to have an authentic dialogue with the TEDx community. These partners should be encouraged to be as creative as possible in order to devise value-adding activations.
Shaena: “We are allowed to charge for the event to cover our costs. We aim to break even and provide an exceptional experience for our guests. All TEDx events rely heavily on sponsors and ticket sales to make these concepts come to life. We need to make the event affordable as well as cover our budgets.
“A good tip is to try and find sponsors/partners that see the long tail scope of what you are building. If you plan to organise multiple TEDx events, sponsors that understand this and the audience you are attracting is a win/win.”
Step 8. Promote Your Event
To promote your TEDx event you can have a page on TED.com and get set up on a ticketing platform such as Eventbrite (check out these TEDx pages). You should also set up an official website for your event and its own social media pages. Check out our social media for events guide for more information about using social media.
In the run-up to your event, TED advises keeping a blog, emailing regular updates to guests, sending press releases and creating a teaser video. Aim to build a community around your event before it takes place.
Shaena: “What makes a good TEDx event, in my opinion, is having a diversity amongst speakers and attendees. Getting people to interact and build a community and relationships rather than just a “connection”.”
Step 9. Photograph, Video and Webcast Your Event
The whole purpose of your event is to spread the word, so it’s essential to capture the action on the day and share it. Webcasting is a great way to amplify the reach of your event and you can use Facebook Live, YouTube Live or TED’s own live stream channel.
Once the videos of your speakers’ talks are edited, you should upload your talks to the TEDx YouTube channel. You should also work out a marketing plan for promoting your videos post-event.
Step 10. Send out a Post-Event Survey
TED stipulates that you must send out the TEDx attendee survey within 48 hours after your event has completed; results will be emailed to you in a PDF four weeks after your survey is sent. Results are based on the Net Promoter Score system so you can easily compare the success of your TEDx event to others.
When it’s all over, you can apply to renew the event and TED will review your performance when considering whether to grant you another license.
By organising a TEDx event you can benefit from the use of a highly regarded brand to help you attract exciting speakers, an engaged audience and enthusiastic sponsors.
It’s not a money-making exercise but you can gain skills and recognition (not to mention inspiration) through this exciting opportunity.