The Power of TED

The Power of TED

I’ve been a big fan of the TED conferences for a bit — we host “MiniTEDs” with the digital team in London (credit to Tori Winn) and we bought the stream to the first Oxford TED conference and dedicated the Fishbowl conference room to it and invited the whole agency for the week last year (further credit to Tori Winn).

It is an amazing conference and even more laudable since they make all of the content available online.

Here is a nice intro to the power of the event from Contagious‘ co-founder Paul Kemp-Robertson that sums it up nicely.  Full Article

‘We spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need to impress people we don’t care about.’

It’s not always easy being an Adland native in the crowd at a TED
conference. If you haven’t saved the world or don’t own enough liquid
capital to die trying, then the whoops that greeted this jibe from
economist Tim Jackson can make you feel like a dumb jock who’s accidentally
stumbled into the Chess Club Christmas party.

But maybe that’s just my insecurity and the nagging suspicion that my soul
has been stress-fractured thanks to 20 years of commentating on the
mechanics of mass consumption. When the biggest task you’ve recently
completed is a speech on ‘advertising as a conversation’ and you’re
suddenly surrounded by AIDS activists, women’s rights campaigners, MIT
brainboxes and people who’ve spent their retirement fund building an
eco-school in the middle of a jungle, it’s hard not to feel just a teeny
bit marginalised and shallow. But then, I guess, such abrupt
introspection is actually part of the value of TED. The compressed
intellectual energy of the 18-minute speeches certainly dragged this
editor out of his corporate cocoon and berated and beguiled him in equal

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and I’m proud to
have played a role in building the Contagious brand during a period of
intense change and fragmentation. But commenting on the ad business as
it confronts the challenges of a new century feels like reading road
signs in the fast lane. What TED is good at is dragging you away from
the rut of routine and forcing you to confront concepts and issues that
hover on your peripheral vision. AA Milne put it much better than I ever
could (and props to Arup’s Chris Luebkeman
for reminding me of this quote): ‘Here is Edward Bear, coming
downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind
Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming
downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if
only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it.’

To paraphrase another speaker – rational optimist Matt Ridley
– TEDGlobal is where ideas have sex. (It’s also the kind of event that
introduces people with job titles like ‘rational optimist’ or
‘retronaut’ without a snigger.)