TEDxTC and TEDActive 2010

Having attended TEDActive 2010 in Palm Springs, CA and now experiencing my first TEDx event at TEDxTC, I thought I could provide some unique insights for TED fans. From my perspective, there is nothing better than getting to experience TED firsthand through either TED Long Beach, TEDActive, TEDGlobal, or any number of the localized TEDx events. As amazed, inspired, and informed as you are watching your favorite TEDtalks on YouTube or TED.com, those experiences are typically a singular event where you stumbled upon a talk or received an email from a friend (or if you are lucky, you view them on your friends’ Facebook posts). Attending a live event allows you to connect with other TEDsters in a shared experience where you can engage in intelligent conversations after each session. If you are like me, you watch a talk, feel inspired, and want to share it with others in order to discuss the insights you discovered, however, you usually don’t get the type of engagement you’d ideally like to have by just sitting in your house…or chatting on Facebook…

(In hindsight) Having experienced one of the larger events first, it felt to me as though attending the TEDxTC event would have been a great way to dip my toe into the TED environment before jumping right into one of the major events of the year (though either route is perfectly fine). While the larger events last for 4-5 days, TEDx is limited to one day, but packs just as much ‘wow’ factor as you’d come to expect from anything TED. The reasoning behind TEDx is to allow thought leaders in different geographies to come together and engross themselves in an open-minded environment with their peers. Not only do you learn a ton, but the people you meet are astonishing. As Richard L. Brandt wrote in his book, Inside Larry and Sergey’s Brain, “It started at TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design), an organization run by the private, nonprofit Sapling Foundation. Its annual conference attracts luminaries on a par with the World Economic Forum” (p. 216).

Attending a TED was definitely the epitome of delayed gratification since I originally stumbled upon my first talk by Sir Ken Robinson on YouTube while killing time in college. Little did I realize back in ’06 that one day I would actually be participating in and witnessing the power of what TED stands for and delivers on. It is truly amazing to have seen it progress over the last few years.

TEDActive 2010

TED room at the Riviera in Palm Springs, CA

TEDActive basically acts as the overflow event for those who did not get invited to or accepted into the main stage event at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. I’m not sure how many people Long Beach can hold, but I heard it had sold out more than a year before the event went down. The Long Beach crew consists of the major heads of industries and top celebrities interested in ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’. Realistically, it is the primary doers and influencers of the world that attend the main stage event. 100 miles away, TEDActive has been held in Palm Springs, CA for the last two years and adjusted its name from TED Palm Springs to TEDActive to reflect the energy and active motivations of its participants.

The TEDActive experience involves living with fellow TEDsters for a few days at the Riviera Resort and Spa (Sinatra’s old hangout). Your days consist of attending sessions with a few hundred people in the primary conference room to watch livestreams of the speakers presenting to the Long Beach audience. One of the most interesting overall things I learned about TEDtalks was that there is actually a rhyme and reason to each of the talks you see online. The talks at a particular event are put together as an overarching theme and each talk is grouped into a sub category like ‘Play’, ‘Imagination’, or ‘Provocation’ – all related to the higher level theme. The speakers in each category/session present for 18 minutes and sometimes receive questions from Chris Anderson (TED curator) regarding their talks. Some of you may have seen talks where there were small Q and A sessions immediately following the talks. Each of those subcategories reflect the different sessions that occur throughout your day. You end up attending around 3 sessions per day, each with anywhere from 4-8 speakers per session. Over the course of 5 days, you hear live talks from well over 50 thought leaders from all different kinds of industries, interests, and walks of life. Acknowledging that fact beforehand, I figured attending TEDActive was more valuable than a semester in grad school…One last note, the speakers that you usually see online are those who gave the traditional 18 minute talks, but during the larger events, fellow attendees and others are invited to hop on stage to give shorter talks to the audience.

As you can see in the photo above, seating in the conference room consisted primarily of bright red bean bags and plush leather couches (depending on your style – I recommend the bean bags myself lol). There are even a few beds that you can rest on and watch the TV’s hanging directly above you. The hosts pull out all the punches to make sure attendees have a great experience – this includes relaxed seating, great food, fun events, amazing people, and some really cool gifts from the sponsors. In addition to Long Beach and Palm Springs, others around the world experienced the live talks through the TED Associates program, which allows TEDsters to watch the live talks in their homes or offices (often times with friend and family).

TEDxTC stage 2010

The main stage

TEDxTC was centered around the ‘Extraordinary Capacity of Our Youth”. The event was held at the Science Museum of Minnesota and consisted of 3 live speakers, two published TEDtalk videos, and two amazing live musical performances from local virtuosos. Just like the Long Beach event had it’s Palm Springs live cast, TEDxTC had an adjacent overflow room where members could watch the talks via livestream.  The auditorium setting provided a very intimate experience for attendees.  There was an entirely different dynamic to seeing the TEDtalks since we were in the presence of the presenters.  I found myself paying a lot of attention to the high quality presentation skills each presenter/performer possessed and missed a few of the primary points each presenter was delivering. It was interesting to see how each presenter was in the zone while they spoke to us. TEDxTC did not have any Q and A periods after each talk, but attendees had the chance to mingle with each other and chat with the presenters at the end of the night.

I highly recommend anybody reading this right now go to tedxtc.com and register to find out when the next TEDxTC event will occur. For those of you interested in a more immersive experience, take a shot at applying for TED2012 in Long Beach (that’s right, 2012 – the 2011 conference is already sold out and accepted applicants are being offered the Palm Springs simulcast if they still want to experience TED).

I will admit, watching the talks on a jumbo-tron with a few hundred strangers on bean bags might sound kind of odd, but there is something unexplainable that happens when you get in a room with like-minded TEDsters and simultaneously witness astonishing talks and performances by some of the world’s most amazing people. They say college and your first job have the ability to affect the most change in you, but honestly, I would say that attending a live TED event has more influence than either. It truly is an Experience – You literally feel changed when you leave. I cannot quite nail down what it was, but whatever it was, it consisted of intelligent conversations, amazing presentations, unique insights, and a relaxing type of environment that you seek on a regular vacation. In closing, I would like to point out that if you are interested in hosting your own TEDx event, there is an application process and you do have to attend a live event via Long Beach or Palm Springs in order to host your TEDx franchise. Good luck and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. If you’d like, I can write more about both experiences. Thanks for reading!

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~ by Adam Maikkula on May 6, 2010.

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