The TED Meeting Phenomenon – Chapter 2

In the previous blog I explained the history of the TED Meeting (actually the official name is the TED Conference) and how it has become a new genre of dialogue that has both grown and been copied around the world.

Richard Saul Wurman sold the TED Meeting to Chris Anderson, a British entrepreneur and publisher in 2001. Anderson bought it through his Sapling Foundation so that it became a not-for-profit.  Despite the high cost of admission, which was $6000 per person in 2007, demand for the event and related activities, including international meetings, continued to grow dramatically, and the prestige of having given a “TED Talk” grew with it (great for your resume).  Anderson was a creative marketer and came up with TED Prizes, TED Fellows and other initiatives which strengthened the TED community.

He continued to video the presentations as Wurman had done before, but decided to experiment with the idea of putting some of them online for free.  The response was so phenomenal that he decided to turn his concept upside down.  Since his vision had always been “Ideas Worth Spreading” he built a website around the talks.  The conference was the engine to generate the great content, but the website was the amplifier to take these ideas to the world.   In July 2012, a total of 1300 TED talks had been posted, with 5 to 7 additional talks posted every week.  In June, 2011, the number of views passed 500 million.  By November, 2012 it had exceeded one billion!   If you’ve watched a TED video you have to appreciate the production quality of each talk.  Multiple cameras, excellent audio and professional operators assure first class output.

Obviously not every talk is fabulous.  So, not every talk is posted.  But the real reason there are so many good talks is that Anderson introduced a new concept in 2009 called “TEDx”.

As the TED website explains,  “TEDx was created in the spirit of TED’s mission, “ideas worth spreading.” The program is designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level.

At TEDx events, a screening of TEDTalks videos — or a combination of live presenters and TEDTalks videos — sparks deep conversation and connections. TEDx events are fully planned and coordinated independently, on a community-by-community basis

The TEDx organizers are motivated to produce a high enough quality event that some of the talks will get posted on the parent TED website.  It’s the junior varsity to TED Long Beach.

The idea turned out to be even more successful than even Chris Anderson had envisioned. By the second year over 3000 TEDx meetings were held.  Yes, some were in college dorm rooms, but many were extraordinary and challenged the home team in quality.  Some meetings were small, but others had large crowds of over 1000.  It became cool for your University, Business, or Club to sponsor a TEDx event.  And having a talk or two from your event posted on the parent TED site is really cool.

Chris Anderson calls himself the TED “Curator”.  And that is what the individual TED organizers call themselves.  Last year over 600 TEDx Curators gathered in Dubai for a sharing of ideas on how to do it better.

The ability to ‘curate’ is very valuable, not only for organizing meetings, but for running companies, or any organization.  One needs to be able to integrate many tasks and personalities, manage time and costs, get talented people to volunteer their time and skill and, above all, create an experience which an audience will love.

The measure of success is that people will want more.

It’s an interesting phenomenon.  TED has created a movement of people around the world who want to make a difference.  People learn, share, solve problems and create great new ideas.   Thank Richard.  Thanks Chris.

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About John

“John Abele is a pioneer and leader in the field of less-invasive medicine, For more than four decades, John has devoted himself to innovation in health care, business and solving social problems.” He is retired Founding Chairman of Boston Scientific Corporation. John holds numerous patents and has published and lectured extensively on the technology of various medical devices and on the technical, social, economic, and political trends and issues affecting healthcare. His major interests are science literacy for children, education, and the process by which new technology is invented, developed, and introduced to society. Current activities include Chair of the FIRST Foundation which works with high school kids to make being science-literate cool and fun, and development of The Kingbridge Centre and Institute, a conferencing institution whose mission is to research, develop, and teach improved methods for interactive conferencing: problem solving, conflict resolution, strategic planning, new methods for learning and generally help groups to become “Collectively intelligent.” He lives with his wife and two dogs in Shelburne, Vermont.”

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