The core and content of every TED confer-ence is simple:
“Ideas worth spreading.” Forcorporate meeting professionals, the idea mostworth spreading could be the idea of TED itself.The annual conference, held at the Long BeachPerforming Arts Center, brings together diversespeakers and listeners for four days of presentationsand networking. And it has one advantage thatcorporate planners may never have: TED choosesits audience. “Without an amazing audience, wecouldn’t attract amazing speakers,” organizers say atTED.com. “Our speakers aren’t paid—they attendbecause of the audience.”That’s not the only meeting tenet flipped onits head by TED. The conference is driven towardcomplexity on one hand—its attendees representa broad swath of disciplines, its topics a world of ideas—and toward simplicity on the other—thereis but one thing on the agenda: presentations,none more than 18 minutes long.You may have seen some of those presenta-tions, in fact. They’re now known as TEDTalks,and most are on YouTube, where they’ve garneredhundreds of millions of views. Expanding itsaudience is another thing TED does well. Three years after it began posting talks, TED posted, ina way, its secret sauce. June 2009 saw the launchof the TEDx brand—local TED-like events thatfollow strict guidelines. (See www.ted.com/pages/tedx_rules) In less than two years, more than1,500 TEDx events have been held worldwide.“We created TEDx in the spirit of TED’smission of ‘ideas worth spreading,’” says ChrisAnderson, curator of TED and founder of theSapling Foundation, which acquired the TEDConference in 2001. “The program is designed togive communities, organizations, and individualsthe opportunity to stimulate dialogue throughTED-like experiences at the local level.“With a license for a Corporate Event, corpora-tions can organize private, employees-only [TEDx]events ... to highlight ideas within corporationsand to foster a culture of passion, inspiration, andcollaboration—to enable employees to step outsideof their daily routine and be inspired.”A closer look at TED could inspire you tothink outside your day job, too.
Here are fivebig ideas that might help you think about yourmeetings in a new way:
In TED-spek, meeting pln-ners re curtors. Or shouldbe. Point number one in theTEDx orgnizer guidelines:“More thn nthing else,the content is wht defines TED event.” If ou choosepresenttions tht “provokeconverstions tht mtter,”ou’ve done our job.“Just s museum cur-tor hndpicks works to mkeup complete nd meningfulexhibition, I work with ourtem to identif ides worthspreding,” ss TED CurtorChris anderson. “We selectour spekers nd tlks bsedon their relevnce, newness,innovtion, impct or potentilimpct, nd interestingness.”avid TED wtcherRuud Jnssen, founder ofarlesheim, Switzerlnd–bsed The New ObjectiveCollective, which helps org-niztions crft live, digitl,nd hbrid event experi-ences, hs orgnized twoTEDxBsel events. He seesthe content t TED s “biggerthn life, with overrching[topics], nd chllenges thtseem impossible.” But whenou put “different silos towork on one thing,” s hp-pens t TED, the impossiblestrts to look doble.While one hllmrk of TED gend is this cross-culturl, cross-disciplinr,cross-pollinted mshup ofrt, science, reserch, ndtheor, nother is its simpleformt. as the TEDx guide-lines put it: “No pnels. Nobrekout sessions. Usull:No podium. you m not pour spekers to present.”and there’s tht time limit—18minutes—which, more thnnthing else sends the mes-sge tht ou better hveour stor stright nd beble to deliver it efficientl.Wh not think bout ourentire meeting messge inthose terms? “We often gettied up in complicted meet-ing objectives,” ss MrkSheron, executive vice pres-ident, enggement strtegies,t TBa Globl in New york.“TED’s mission is simple:Ides worth spreding. It’s sounderstndble. Tr to distillwht ou wnt our event todo. Don’t hve 10 objectives. you don’t hve to reduce it toone objective, but how boutthree?”In orgnizing theTEDxBsel events, Jnssengot to tht distilltion bnswering one question.“When we strted tlkingbout ides nd themes,ultimtel we sked, ‘Dowe know wht we rellcre bout?’ When ou findtht, when ou touch thosechords, tht’s the mgic.”
By Alison Hall