TEDx Image

Like many people, I follow and love the TED videos and have for years secretly wished I was accomplished enough to be part of a TED audience. Well, last week I attended the first ever TEDxVancouver event at the EA Campus in Burnaby and in a way, got to be part of the TED experience (albeit in a slightly franchised format).

For those who don't know what TED is, it's a 25 year old gathering started by Richard Saul Wurman that brings together the world's thought leaders in the areas of technology, entertainment and design to share insights, inspirations and motivational ideas. The concept has morphed over time to extend beyond just the "T", "E" and "D" of the title, to include folks from all over the world who have, as their tagline states "ideas worth spreading" in many disciplines, from music to poetry to science.

To participate in TED, you have to apply and be accepted based on your experience and credentials. Attendance is by limited invitation only, making it traditionally a pretty exclusive room of CEOs, intellectuals, scientists, etc.

Well all that changed when TED extended their format into locally, independently organized TEDx events – over 200 cities worldwide in 2009. TEDxVancouver is the result. This local event is free, and must follow fairly strict guidelines for its format. Some of the requirements include:

  • The format must include a mix of pre-recorded TED and live talks — 25% of the event is video
  • Like the TED talks, TEDx speakers are limited to an 18 minute presentation
  • Organizers must record, stream and make available all TEDx content for free
  • The event has to be not-for-profit

My impressions were, that despite being sick as a dog and having just returned from a week of work travel, it was worth it to crank out of bed at 6:30am, take a bus out to Burnaby and give up my Saturday. Why?

  • Some of the speakers were amazing — especially interesting were Kevin Carroll with his Red Rubber Ball project, Alden Habacon of CBC, and the two musical performers Cris Dersen and Shamik
  • It was an impressive event for a freebie, thanks to their big sponsor, EA (comfiest chairs at a conference EVER!)
  • It was great to see some folks from the user experience community that I haven't seen for a long while
  • Having organized an event or two, I can see that it would have taken some serious effort to pull this off

There were some challenges for sure:

  • They took a *lot* of flack about the lack of diversity in their speaker list (only one woman!)
  • There were some logistical challenges I think relate mostly to production experience (running late, dealing with streaming issues, not enough food / drink)
  • The pauses between sessions / breaks were too long
  • Some of the video presentations stole the thunder from the live ones (especially the guy who swam the north pole in a Speedo!)
  • The speaker list was launched after the application process closed which meant you didn't know whether it was worthwhile filling out a 45 form or not

Will I go again? Maybe — it was great to see an event aimed at inspiration rather than tactics, and I'm sure they will iron out a lot of these initial bumps with the next TEDxVancouver. I would recommend checking out some of the archived TEDx video segments.