Many people think that conferences are a dying format, and will soon go away entirely. After attending TEDx, what I now think is that they've set a standard for the 21st-century conference. While more than 27,000 people watched the event live, and potentially millions more will see the talks once they are posted online, there was something amazing and energizing about attending live. So, here are seven things your professional conference should learn from TEDx.
1) People have to apply. They had a limited number of seats, but also they want this to be an event with intention. Having an application process creates not only a feeling of anticipation, but focuses the participants' intent on what will happen after the conference. You had to fill out an online application, which included explaining how you would spread the word about TEDx and what you learned afterwards. I heard that they received hundreds of applications. I know that I felt honored (and special) to be accepted. Before we left, we were asked to fill out commitment cards and turn them in.
|Yes, I filled mine out. I pulled an extra to bring home.|
3. The service was stellar. The all-volunteer event was staffed largely from folks at Sharp Healthcare in San Diego, a company which is known for redefining the patient experience. A phalanx of friendly hosts awaited us, outside and in, and circulated throughout the day offering assistance.
|My first impression.|
|Once through registration (lickety-split), delicious snacks & more volunteers awaited.|
5. Speakers were dynamic, well-managed, and given presentation guidelines. We talk a lot about death by PowerPoint but very few conferences actually do something about it. TED has instituted the TED 10 commandments, which include giving a talk you haven't given before, not selling anything from the stage, and being humble. I think they must also give speakers guidelines on visuals, as nearly all the talks were visually stunning (or, radical notion: no slides at all—a fantastic speaker telling us a story.) They also give strict time limits... some people have 8 minutes, some 16. This helps break up the day, keep it moving, and encourages speakers to edit, edit, edit. Speakers were organized roughly by theme into sections, with 30-minute breaks in between. Slides provided a countdown (e.g. 5 minutes left in the break), while a well-chosen TED video provided the buffer to get people back to their seats.
6. They included live performance. Why don't more conferences do this? While your conference might not be able to kick off and end with global phenomenon Jake Shimabukuro on ukulele (yes, you read that right), surely you can find some local talent who would be happy to play, dance, or paint in front of a live audience. Flamenco ukulele. Bluegrass ukulele. Schubert ukelele. Wrap your brain around that at a conference.
7. They gave you guidelines for interacting with other attendees: Meet at least six new people. Ask people what they love to do, not what they do. Put down your devices and be in the room. Change your seat at the end of each break. Approach people with this idea: "How can I serve you?" instead of, "What can you do for me?" They also gave us long enough breaks to actually interact.
Anthology... It was a life-changing experience.