How TED and TEDx are writing the future of conferences

12 01 2013

tedxA friend recently shared this great article on TED from Wired, The Big McThink! How TED Became a Consumer Franchise, I’ve blogged about TED in the past (I’m a fan, although never attended!) and I’m sure most people are familiar with the trans-formative effect they have had on many issues. But I think Bill Wasik in this recent article highlights some very interesting aspects of this success, including:

  • Putting video online is only the start – It transformed TED as a brand from a conference to a media company and created the worlds first truly global virtual conference, but it’s still only part of the story. It lets the online talks and real world experiences feed off each other and grow. It primes the audience but it’s clear looking at the numbers that people also want to attend the event!
  • TEDx’s growth (1,300 events in 134 countries, with more than 800,000 delegates) – The licensing model adopted by TED for TEDx is risky and revolutionary, taking TED from it’s somewhat humble beginnings to buck the industry norm, often the way you win big!
  • The TEDxer’s (if you can call them that) – Are engaged in their communities, highly entrepreneurial, and driven to deliver a quality experience beyond the $100 entry fee. Their passion for the event guarantees they find true leaders in their fields that deliver a unique, passionate presentation.
  • Speaker acquisition and coaching – the local TEDxer’s are helping coach new speakers on sharing ideas. I also believe TED does significant coaching of speakers. Just being an industry expert or holding the key job title is no longer enough, speakers need to be coached in the art of presenting.  Check out the acquisition process for TED.
  • One fundamental rule – no sponsors logos on stage, no one can sell anything during the ‘performance’. Sponsors play a huge part in many events, how they engage with the audience needs to change.
  • Bill also highlights some research by Joseph Lampel on how conferences can help focus the mind from the onslaught of information we all receive today. He also points to some very interesting older research on how ‘events’ can shape industries.

It’s a great article, well worth the read, and insightful look into how our field might develop. No doubt, speaker acquisition, induction, and training for most conferences needs to improve, the relationship with sponsors and the audience also needs to adapt, we need to find more ways to engage the crowd in producing our events and video can help reach beyond the room to drive deeper awareness.  As William Gibson said, “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed”.




3 responses

13 01 2013

Hi Jason,

Can I play the d’s advocate here? Is TED really a conference? Is it not just a cirque du soleil for clever people? Is it not just the X-factor for entrepreneurs?

Don’t get me wrong – I love TED – I wish all conferences were as inspirational and informative as they are, I am just not sure we are comparing apples to apples. TED proper is more a show for intellectuals, TEDx is the We’ve got Talent for communities.

But how do I translate this into the framework of a set of international conferences, whose local appeal is define by the industry niche not the geolocation? Am I making sense with the question?


14 01 2013

Hey Lefty,

Great question as always! No doubt there’s some grey area’s here but to me, yes TED is a conference (people pay money to hear presentations, at a venue and sponsors pay money to help make it all happen) albeit with a broad remit that has a wider audience than say one of our niche conferences. I’m not saying every event needs to be TED, but I think TED has created a new bar by which all events will be measured, but more importantly its given us a road map to how you really engage people.

I think that’s even more important for Niche industry events. Particularly on two levels:
1) Speaker selection – We have to find speakers in their field who are driving change, setting the benchmarks, who deliver their presentations with passion. I think this also means engaging the crowd in finding these leaders (Maybe even using our own IQ Communities to find them). They may come from vendors, universities (lecturers or students) or local business, not just the fortune 100. (I think we also have to do a better job training speakers).
2) Using the web/video/social to go beyond the conference room like I discussed here: I think ensuring your event reaches beyond the room is the key marketing tactic for 2013. If your niche event on say… temperature controlled supply chain in pharmaceuticals can empower, educate, inspire an exec on the other side of the world, it will make it much easier to promote next time!

So how do we translate this to niche events:
– Find innovative, passionate speakers (& train them)
– Use video to expand our audience

Cheers, J

19 01 2013

Training speakers… I’d like that.

Video: I’ve been chasing the MMs to shoot vids at the events with their phones. You can talk to anyone for 30 secs: one question – one answer, and it does make a difference. The other day to prove the point I shot one in the office and in 5 minutes it was up on my blog. (Vids are also easier to optimise for keywords, anyhow…)

I guess the most powerful feature of the video is that it is personal. You can write a post as a company, but you appear on a video as a flesh&blood human. And we are moving into an ever more social, and in this respect personal world. Hence 3 enthusiastic people speaking for a minute on a video will be worth an awful lot.

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