TEDx Rhein Main 2012: A bowl of cherries from Offenbach

(hier klicken für die deutsche Version)

TED is one of the strongest event brands worldwide. Since 1984, there are conferences labelled TED, since 2006 TEDTalks are presented online. In the beginning, it was just an annual conference in Long Beach, but in the meantime, it is a lot more than that: TED presents „Ideas Worth Spreading“ on various channels and at live events globally.

TEDx events are organised independently by local organisers – somewhere in the world, almost on a daily basis!

As an organiser, you have to apply for a TEDx licence. There is a long list of rules that you have to watch: branding, website, PR activities, social media, webcasting, video captures…

Darren Cooper holds the licence for the Rhein Main area in Germany, and on 2 February 2012 he and his team were staging the second TEDxRheinMain in Offenbach. The event was moderated by Internet pioneer Ossi Urchs. I took part in it – both live and on Twitter #TEDxRM. It was a great experience, very inspiring, with some fabulous speakers and ca. 250 participants.

My personal highlights:

  • Prof. Dr. Gunter Dueck about the fear of change vs the fear of everything staying the same: A heartwarming presentation! Favourite quote „The depressives are on Facebook, the schizos on Google+!“.
  • John Kearon, a market researcher from London, who is “trying to make market research more sexy!”. 18 very entertaining minutes – without a single slide! Not too bad for a market researcher…
  • Michael Hübl, founder of flinc.org, a smartphone-based car sharing agency. When was the last time that you saw a speaker blaming the audience to be „lazy and irresponsible“, and get kudos for it? A great presentation!
  • Marcus Brown, inventor of online characters, social media maniac, writer, storyteller… Hilarious!

When you‘re in the events business yourself, you always attend such a conference wearing your professional hat, too. So what have I learned from it, what are my take-aways?

Here‘s my bowl containing seven cherries from Offenbach:

  1. Content: How important is content, really? It‘s a good question… To phrase it like John Kearon, “the content of the speakers matters so much less than we speakers think. It’s about how you (the audience) felt during the speech.” Sure, attending TEDx feels more like going to the theater, it is not a business event. But what good is the best content when it‘s delivered in a dull way?
  2. Cause: Now we‘re talking. A speaker who has a passion for their topic, who burns for it… Then all of a sudden something magic and moving happens. Which brings me to the next point:
  3. Curation: As conference organisers, we should worry more about the ideal flow of an event, about how presentations build on each other. We should invite speakers not so much because of their capacity as experts, but rather for their excellence in presentation, for how they interact and connect with the audience.
  4. Orchestration: TED events care a lot about staging and the atmosphere that is created. In Offenbach, we could experience perfect sound, a beautiful stage, cool video intro clips presenting the speakers. The TEDTalks have been recording by several (Digital SLR-)cameras, I look forward to seeing them on their YouTube channel in a while.
  5. Venue: Could you stage such an event with the same impact in a classic conference center or a conference hotel? I very much doubt it. The atmosphere at the Capitol in Offenbach has done a lot for the flair of the event. Usually, they stage concerts or theatrical performances there. The Maritims and Marriots may hate me, but… we have to get out of those places!
  6. Echo: TED does not offer any Q+A sessions after the talks. However, you have a vibrant social media community. There was quite some buzz on Twitter, and there were 2 things that jumped to my mind: Social networks mirror what is going on on site, of course. They reflect positive as well as negative emotions. But more importantly, they amplify the impact of an event significantly. You don‘t really miss a Q+A session, because you can interact via social media with the other participants and the speakers. Maybe even more intensely than just in the live situation.
  7. Inspiration: A conference is successful when you feel somehow light and breezy afterwards. When your head is full of new ideas, new motivation. When you do things differently than before. That is what it is all about.

Kudos to the organisers – I look forward to TEDxRheinMain 2013!

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