March 19, 2011

TEDx Observer

Today the Observer put on a TEDx event down in London. It was live streamed to a number of other cities around the country and I made the five minute walk round the corner to LIPA to watch it there.

Given my recent ruminating on conferences, and especially because this was a stream rather than the event itself, I almost didn't bother signing up. And when I did, it was more to see who else would attend the local screening rather than to watch the talks.

As it happens (and I'll come to that in a moment) I didn't meet very many new people but did find some of the talks really interesting, so it wasn't what I expected, but I enjoyed it all the same.

A Curate's Programme

There'll be video from the talks available on the TEDx Observer website soon (so it says) and in lieu of a proper review I'll just list the talks that I think are worth watching. Russell Davies was excellent as ever, talking about pretending; Mark Solms story about his South African farm and the almost-slaves that came with the land was eye-opening; Goldie's life story continued a thread running through the event of triumph over adversity; Jason Drew had a great way of framing the over-fishing problem that shows the sort of approach we need more of in environmental issues; and Vivienne Westwood gave an impassioned argument against consumerism, in favour of culture, and most of all a call to take action for what you believe in.

My least favourite talks were those from the celebrities with a charity or cause to promote. In this post-Cluetrain world (which I readily admit might be inhabited by a minority of us digerati, but an ever growing minority) the lack of passion and the "I'm an important person, so you should pay attention to my cause" approach seems to stick out like a sore thumb against the genuine, first-hand experiences related by the other speakers.

Room For Improvement

On the whole, I enjoyed the day - if I hadn't then I wouldn't have stayed for all of it; I certainly hadn't planned to at the start. However, with a bit more thought the streaming experience could have been much better.

First off was the signage or welcome to the event - although there were quite a few stewards who seemed to be there for the event, when I arrived in the morning there weren't any obvious signs directing me to the right part of LIPA. There was just a security guard on reception, and although he confirmed that I was in the right place when I asked, he didn't do much beyond point me through the first set of doors. Luckily it was early and so homing in on the only voices I could hear in the building led me to the right place. Placing some of the stewards at the entrance, or putting up some signs would've made the first impression much better.

My other complaint is the lack of effort put into making the showing into an event in itself. Watching stuff on screen is much more like visiting the cinema than attending a conference, and so without any other guidance people treat it in the same way. At the end of each session people filed out and went their separate ways as if the credits had just rolled at the Odeon.

Ideally there would've been tea and coffee available in the auditorium, or in the courtyard just outside, but obviously there's a cost involved with that. Regardless, there needs to be a clearer encouragement to people to linger in one area between sessions and talk to each other. Just having a compere for the day locally would probably do the trick - they wouldn't need to do much, just reinforce the timings from the main event and adding "so nip to the toilet, or grab a coffee from the cafe and come back for a chat about the talks with your fellow attendees" would have done the trick.

There were plenty of things to talk about from the presentations and it's a shame that I didn't get chance to meet and discuss them with the other locals, particularly given that there was hardly any overlap between today's audience and the usual event-goers for things like Ignite Liverpool.


Posted by Adrian at March 19, 2011 09:27 PM | TrackBack

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Thanks for the recap Adrian. I wasn't in town yesterday, so hopefully some of the talks you highlighted will be online.

Posted by: Rachel at March 20, 2011 04:56 PM
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