You gotta kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight."
— Bruce Cockburn
— Bruce Cockburn
— Walt Whitman
Humans are notoriously optimistic, and in particular, we forget about all the things we have to do in order to achieve the things we want to do.
I used to harbour the “build it in a weekend” suspicion about everything, and then I started building things. The world is a damn mess, is what it is."
I’m a big fan of the skillfully named ideas. A good name can make a complex idea easy to share, and easy to explain.
A recent episode of the always excellent Planet Money podcast puts a great name on a concept.
The “t-shirt phase”, is the early stage in a developing economy, where the simplest of goods is produced. Ideally, it’s a short lived bridge to a better future.
Even before there were t-shirts, nascent industrializing economies cut their teeth on garments. England did it, New England did it, The Southern US did it, Mexico and China did it.
Bangladesh is doing it. The thing is, the t-shirt phase SUCKs. The trick then, is to get through the t-shirt phase as quickly as possible or to skip over it entirely.
I once heard that Adam Smith propose that the best way to make a decision is to imagine a disinterested third party observing the situation. (It turns out there’s way more to it, but it involves excessive amounts of logic.)
Naturally, this “disinterested observer” will have less clouded judgement about the right decisions to make.
Instead of asking yourself “should I get some excercise?”, you asked “would a Disinterested Observer think I should get some excercise?”. The answer tends to be much more straightforward.
Of course, for more complex decisions, you begin to wonder, “Who the hell is this observer anyways”?
Well, that one is for you to decide.
If your project or organization depends on knowing things that other people don’t know (but could find out if they wanted to), your days are probably numbered. Ask a travel agent.
Agents and brokers of any kind, in fact. Anyone who thrives when people are in the dark is in ever more danger of working in the bright light of transparent information.
Pretending that you offer the lowest price on a commodity, for example, is a lot more difficult when anyone who cares about the price can easily look it up. Fighting to keep the content of your course a secret, to pick another example, isn’t sufficient when a similar course is available online. The minute real estate listings went online was the minute that it was no longer sufficient that a real estate broker merely had information about real estate listings…
Information is in a hurry to flow, and if someone comes up with a better, more direct, faster and cheaper way for information to get from one place to another, they will eliminate your reason for being.
The alternative, while difficult, is obvious: provide enough non-commodity service and customization that it doesn’t matter if the ideas spread. In fact, it will help you when they do.
Today, I was hanging out on the 41st floor of the new Woodward’s building in downtown Vancouver; the cutting edge of Gastown’s gentrifi… ahem, revitalization.
This evening, I had dinner in the basement of an East Van house with an old friend whose been on and off the streets in his life.
I have friends who are farmers, tech entrepreneurs, engineers, anarcho-capitalists, anarcho-primitivists, world travelers and dedicated change makers.
I’m grateful for this. It’s a lucky side effect of a very diverse career, and a direct effect of being interested in (pretty well) everyone I meet.
Being born under the sign of Cancer, the one part of my horoscope(not something I’m big on) that about rings true is this almost chameleon like malleability.
It can be confusing, to feel at home in such different spaces. Always a bit of an outsider even while being an insider.
A mixed blessing. But I’m glad for it. Thanks to those that I’ve connected with in all the different place and ways I’ve been.
I get asked occasionally for advice from aspiring TEDx organizers, I just wrote this fairly lengthy answer over at Quora (http://www.quora.com/TEDx/What-are-the-essentials-to-throwing-a-successful-TEDx-event), so I thought I might as well put it here for everyone as well. I’m still happy to give some customized advice, but this should cover a lot of the typical questions.
TL:DR It’s a lot of work, but it’s possible. Keep it simple, start small, get sponsors to give you their products and services free, network like a mofo, have a network already, Promise and deliver great videos.
My first event cost of $2500 with money left over to seed future events. I now assemble events with $50k budgets.
Many of “——————-’s points are true about the challenges related to saturation of events and the general populace being much less sold on the TED name than the kind of person who puts on a TEDx event might expect. My advice will guide you on how to do that given this current environment.
1) You do not need to have attended an official $7500 TED event to get a license. You will however be limited to having 100 person attendees. This is a GOOD THING! Unless you have a large amount of event organization and marketing experience you would massively screw up a larger event. Start small and get it right.
If you’re super into it, and you want to do larger events, you then could attend a TEDActive event for $3500 in Arizona.
2) Give yourself time, and network your ass off. I thought that starting a Facebook page and doing some tweeting would quickly get me 700 followers and an eager team of voluneers from which I could pick the best. WRONG! I got some good volunteers and some dead weight. Fortunately I had people who could handle the technical side of the production, which I couldn’t, but I did have to learn how to market it myself. If you have a group of competent friends who are interested in helping, definitely bring them on.
This difficulty getting good people is why we’re going to talk about this next point.
3) Keep it simple! Since we’re limited to 100 people, you can now get a reasonably affordable venue. I got one for free in the suburbs outside my town at a Tech Park, because I asked them nicely. Look for something like that, try a school. Do a max three session, better yet two sessions of 75 minutes each.
4) Ya, finding good speakers is hard work, but you don’t need to have A-level talent. You do need to screen them and help them prepare though. Since we’re keeping it simple, I recommend a max of 8 speakers. You should have them all go through their presentation with you at least once, a minimum of two weeks before the show. The way to get decent speakers is to promise and deliver high quality videos. The prospect of having a good looking video on a TEDx stage and the vastly remote possibility of being featured on TED.com is a pretty big enticement.
5)These are the things you do need, even though you’re keeping it simple. In all cases, ask for a sponsor to provide you this item free or heavily discounted in exchange for promotion.
Food: If you only do two sessions, you can avoid a large meal. Refreshments will be adequate. I had a caterer agree to make extras of what they were already making for another customer that day.
Video: Here’s the crux, you promised good video, now you have to deliver! Most of my money went to a video production outfit who gave me a ridiculous discount on their services. Alternatives would be using a local college media department.
6)Niche it. This is the direction that TEDx is going, and you can see it with the ever expanding types of events: http://www.ted.com/pages/tedx_event_types
Consider a livestream event for the lowest possible effort requirement. It’s a good way to network your new series of events.
You have to choose a theme, most events, especially larger ones, choose a nice sounding, intentionally vague theme, so they can get any speakers that they want to fit that mold. That’s great, but you can’t do that. Pick your crowd, medical, tech, students, educators, creatives, business, social change types, foodies. You have to walk a fine line here, TED doesn’t allow overly focused events, but you can still make it clear who you’re targeting. This is the beauty of 100 person events too, they’re more intimate, if the crowd feels they’re there for a reason, for a broad view of a topic, they’ll be engaged.
I hope that’s helpful. Now go thoroughly read the organizers resources and get all excited about it: http://www.ted.com/pages/tedx_resources