TEDx Exeter, 12 April 2013


Earlier this month I attended a TEDx for the first time at the University of Exeter. I was underwhelmed. It wasn’t the speakers – they were inspirational in all sorts of ways – but the format. First of all the theatre venue was quite depressing – dark with the audience in full auditorium style. Great for packing people in but poor for audience interaction. The lack of natural light was also a problem. Ideas are much better shared under sustainable natural light. It seems that most TED events happen in the dark – maybe it’s to do with the fact that everything is videoed for putting on the web. Each speaker speaks for 18 mins, they share some slides (it seems important that they stand in the red spot), the audience claps and if the talk is really good there is a standing ovation (we had a couple of those). There is no opportunity to ask the speakers any questions at the end and therein lies the big issue with the TEDx format – apart from the clapping there is no audience interaction all. Zilch. I left early. This is my audience interaction. To finish on a positive note I was inspired by:

  • Matt Harper’s poetry
  • Tom Crompton on the ‘The Conscience Economy’
  • Kirsty Schneeberger’s Question – ‘How old will you be in 2050?’
  • The TR14ers’ dancing
  • Keister Brewin’s celebration of pirates

More: http://tedxexeter.com/events/tedxexeter-2013/

Next year I might give TEDx a miss.

Update 23 April: Over the years I have attended hundreds of conferences and though in the main I have found them positive, sometimes I come away feeling that the real beneficiaries are the organisers and the sponsors (and even these stakeholders struggle to get value sometimes). For a conference to be successful it needs to balance the needs of many stakeholders and this is always a challenge. I’ve been contributing to a collaborative effort (based in the Westcountry) on re-designing the conference – “How do you design the Ultimate Conference Experience?”   I’ve also attended a couple of ‘Unconferences‘ based on Open Space technology. Clearly the Unconference is quite a radical disruptive approach and I can’t see many professional conference organisers going down this route any time soon but maybe it’s time to at least introduce some ‘ideas worth spreading’ into the conference format. I’ll leave the last word to TED.

TED isn’t a typical conference. The TED audience has high expectations of the speakers; the TED speaker team works with speakers well in advance of the conference to help shape a presentation that will succeed on the TED stage. TED is the place to give the talk of your life.

Related stuff:

  • http://twitter.com/JohnSBaxter John Baxter

    Yeah… I don’t get why people are so keen to go to TED events, not why the volunteers are so keen to put them on. And sponsorship is super light too.

    Ted videos,I get…

    There are heaps of ‘alternative’ formats to conferences. You won’t find an ultimate. Most of the Art of Hosting is understanding the needs of people to gather, and formats differ appropriately. And by the sounds of it, you want something more conference-like than that… Which makes it a super grey area. If you narrow it down to ‘best format to deliver content’ then you might be able to create an optimum. But that’s a pretty boring niche of gathering.

    • johncurran

      I did an ‘unconference’ recently and I’ve also attended Open Space and World Cafe type events. My fave idea at the moment is a blog walk. Might actually organise one in the Autumn.

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