It's been more than 3 weeks since TEDxXiguan, most excitement are gone. You are probably doing the same thing that our team has been up to - reflect on what we have learnt, absorb new ideas. It was a process of expressing for the team, and now it's time to take a deep breath. One thing we promise, is next TEDxXiguan will be even better.
Ever since the closure of the event I started tip-toeing on this idea of writing a piece about what we did and didn't do on purpose in creation of this event, and here it is.
Things we did
Relentlessly prepare and rehearse speakers
This might seems odd to some people yet at the same time, perfect normal for others. But let me explain.
How many times you have been in this kind of situation: a speaker goes on stage start by thanking everyone, then he or she goes into an endless ramble about what he or she has done in the past. And you walk away from such an event, not sure what you have learnt in return of your precious time other than some personal achievements of those speakers, and in most of times, they are not so great after all.
Although it's a standard thing for TEDx events to do, we still pushed the boundary. All of our speakers wrote at least 3 versions of their talks, and rehearsed at least 3 times each. (When I started to organize my overly scatted computer desktop, I found a script named Edit 6).
And we made it clear all the way through with all the speakers, the talk is not about them, nor about selling their company or services. It's about what they can give to the audience. An idea, a perspective, a piece of new knowledge. I can't say the end result is all perfect, it's a live event. But at least some of the work paid off.
We customized all attendee badges
At first we thought if we provide a template and a list of information, this is something our printing supplier would help us to do. We were wrong.
Our team ended up doing it ourselves. It was time consuming not only because we had to fill in all the information, for 600 badges. It also took time to sort all of them into some kind of order, so when an audience member came to register, their badge could be found in a timely fashion.
And it paid off too, we can't describe how happy we were to see all of our audience were chatting with each other, introducing themselves to new friends - because each one of the audience has a badge indicating their name, and what they’d like to talk about! I don’t have a data to share with you but I simply think there were more conversations and encounters happened in this event than average.
A conference is not only about those speakers - the audience is equally important, and what's better than taking away a few genuine conversations and some new friends?
We asked the audience to dress casually and comfortably
First of all there is no right or wrong in this issue, or in any issue I discuss here. Different events have different needs and requirements. We wanted to create a community and nurture its culture, a community of great ideas and real connections. Besides that, it's a full day conference after all, nobody needs to feel they have to wear suits or heels. When attendees are in their most comfortable outfits, genuine conversations happen.
Things we didn't do
We didn't create a WeChat group
How many WeChat groups do you have? And how many of them are "left-overs" from some events you attended? We simply believe it's not a right way of creating connections, and you may disagree. We don't want to just add one more group to your list and sometimes unnecessary red dots to the busy life you already have.
Instead we used TEDConnect, an app created by TED and (proudly) we were the first TEDx event used this app. I admit the result wasn't as good as I expected, but it's ok. We know this is a long term project and we are working closely with TED, to bring a better experience to all next time.
P.S. If you were one of the attendees, you can still use the TEDConnect app, browse all attendees and send messages.
P.P.S. I heard that there was a WeChat group started by the attendees - I am happy for that. Yes, it's up to you to take the initiative!
We didn't compromise any part of editorial control
First of all it's part of the rules all TEDx events must comply - the partners have no editorial control, sponsor may never present from stage. We also turned down many self nominated speakers. Our criteria were simple, you must have something worth sharing, which must be genuine and factually correct. If someone's intention is self-promotion or promote his/her business, it's very obvious and we will not give them stage time.
I am writing all of these not to say we have perfected in all of them, instead we still have a long way to go. So this is a gift we offer to all event organizers as much as a reminder we keep for ourselves.
Write to us and share your TEDxXiguan, or from other events' experience, good or bad. Hi@tedxxiguan.com
Jimmy Tan is Licensee and Curator of TEDxXiguan.