This week I had a great Skype conversation with Chris DeBruyn, a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Mongolia, who is currently teaching in Iraq. Together with another former PCV, Kevin Johnstone, they are doing some amazing things with projects like Development Now and they have even bigger plans in the works. Chris is an inspiring guy and I look forward to seeing where his projects take him!
TEDxUlaanbaatar, which we are organizing here in Mongolia, and asked "How do you start a TEDx event?" I thought you all might enjoy hearing what I said in case you want to start your own TEDx event. Note: It's a lot easier and way more awesome than you imagine!
- Get Motivated
- Advertise Your Intentions
- Gather Around Incredible People
- Be Open To How Things Might Unfold
- Stay Enthusiastic
1. Get Motivated
Early in 2010 I thought about my dreams for the future and I made a long-term goal that I wanted to speak at the worldwide TED conference. I've been a huge fan of TEDTalks for several years and I hoped some day, maybe in my fifties, I would have lived an enlightened life and have something worth saying up there on the stage. Throughout the year, however, I kept seeing TEDx talks mixed with TEDTalks. TEDx events are independently organized events that happen all over the world, in little grass huts with a dozen audience members and university auditoriums filled with hundreds of people. The more I read about TEDx, the more I thought this was something we should do in Mongolia.
2. Advertise Your Intentions
I joined the TED.com community by creating a profile, with a little bit about what I do here in Mongolia, and searched all the profiles to see who else was in Mongolia. Then I messaged everyone from Mongolia (about 35 people) and said I was hoping to do a TEDx event here in case anyone was interested in helping. All that probably took about 30 minutes. Then I posted an update on my blog and started a small facebook group called TEDx in Mongolia. I got several responses, including one from Mende who I then met in November, and one amazing meeting led to another. When you put your intentions out there and tell people about your dreams, I find that people are generally very supportive. Be clear about what you want, how people can help and you'll be amazed at how people will come out of the woodwork and find you.
3. Gather Around Incredible People
Once you meet some incredible people, hold tight. This goes for anytime in life really. If you are already around a great group of students, colleagues, and friends, ask them to get involved in on your project. A TEDx event involves organizers, speakers, production staff and people with a wide variety of talent. If someone has a heart for the project, they will have plenty of opportunities to add valuable support. Meet with these people regularly, start to figure out what types of roles and duties people fall into, and keep each other excited.
4. Be Open To How Things Might Unfold
There are some guidelines that need to be followed which you can read about on TED.com (including applying for a free license and so on) but it's important to remember that a TEDx event can unfold in unexpected ways. You might picture it happening in a small meeting room and it evolves into an auditorium event, or the other way around. Details change, plans evolve and unexpected opportunities present themselves all the time, but the idea remains the same. TEDx and TED are about ideas worth spreading: inspiring speakers, innovative ideas, incredible stories and bringing together people who want to change the world for the better. The specifics of how that happens are usually just icing on the cake.
5. Stay Enthusiastic
As people get involved and as things like a website or formal team start to materialize, be sure to stay guided by your original intentions. Watch videos on TED.com to remember what great speakers look like and sound like, talk with people who have never heard about TED before and see their reactions when you share videos with them, and get back in touch with why you wanted to do an event in the first place - read things you wrote down, talk with the first people you met who inspired you.
Going down the road of starting a TEDx event is very rewarding, I can't recommend it enough. Regardless of how things turn out, you will meet incredible people and make awesome connections. Good luck and let me know how I can help anytime!
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