#TEDxAKL 2014 it’s a wrap

Today is the day after TEDxAuckland 2014. It is almost too soon to tell how good it really was. That may not make much sense but every TEDx talk has at least 3 lives.

These are:
1/ On the day – impressions & impacts from the live audience and secondary impressions from social and other media
2/ When the video clip gets published on TEDx YT channel and posted to blogs and other channels
3/ Other global ripples including potentially amplification by others in the wider TED family and maybe even on TED.com itself.

Attending an all day talk fest like TEDx is always a buzz. There are never any average talks and the paradox is everyone likes something different as we all filter experience based on our own perspectives.

So if you asked 2 attendees who sat next to each other what they thought you will get different impressions. Trying to pick the top talk is a trick question. Meaning comes from relevance and when it makes us (encourages us) to do something different or to change in some other way.

As someone who is involved in organising events what we all want is a “unicorn” or two. By that I mean some charismatic knockout performer who connects almost instantly – but like unicorns such creatures are myths.

What we are more likely to get are a few moments of truth and sometimes magic when a deeper connection is made with us personally. No amount of rehearsal and coaching can produce those moments but I’m grateful that TEDxAuckland speakers get really professional feedback and coaching from Vaughn Davis who is a master at word-smithing.

Talks on the day are a bit like making a one-take movie. All of the prep and production help but there is only one take to deliver. If it was a movie you can rerun the scene with variations and see if there are any other sparks in there but TEDx is one take only on the big day.

The Loop Crew do an amazing job at live production. The lights, screens, camera and live vision mixes are not easy to do well but it is a task that when it is done well it is invisible. In my view it was a faultless production on the day and I am sure the clips will look great when they appear in 3-4 weeks time.

I have seen a lot of talks and been to many events around the world. Sometimes that contributes to a diminishing returns kind of outlook but because TEDx is focussed on ideas it somehow doesn’t do that.

My theory is that people who would invest a day of time in going to an ideas festival are more “eyes wide open” kind of people than the general public. The TEDx format attracts the curious and those who like to explore ideas which requires a certain amount of openness.

Having said that there will be talks which resonate more with some that others. For example I was listening to Rachel Callander talk on the Superpower Babies project and I shed a few tears when I realised that Rachels daughter had died and yet she was able to flip that around and see the positives for others.

I would expect that talk may have connected more strongly with parents in the audience. It may be different for women but until I became a father myself all of that parenthood talk sounded to me like a parallel universe in a galaxy far far away.

But yesterday I was there with my darling 13 year-old daughter and I was moved by the Superbabies talk and the photos. The other talks in the first set were all good but for me the Callander talk was an early highlight.

I also connected very directly to Mike Allsops talk of plane crashes and Everest but for me it was very much about having a plan and his approach of consciously giving back and leveraging his adventures for the greater good.

New Zealanders are famous for being under stated especially when compared to the U.S and I wondered how some of the talks might have been quite different if the speakers where from Texas…

I especially liked Vaughan Rowsells quite personal talk on the challenges he set for himself. About how he wanted to give up but kept putting one foot in front of the other and made it across the next hill and the one after that and so on.

I love big ideas but that is not enough. We have to commit and to step up to the challenge (whatever that is) and I think the real sub text that came from TEDxAKL this year was precisely that.

As I said on twitter

Execution is the real deal. Greatness comes from executing well and doing good work. Having Luke Nola talk first about invention really set the tone for me. Invention is mostly execution. Luke showed a picture of a rat powered bike. It turns out it takes 18 rats to make the wheel move and while that invention didn’t really have any commercial value there were some that did.

The John Boone interactive music was a surprise. As a contrarian I dread conformity and I naturally want to do the opposite whenever an audience piece like that comes along but it was done so well. What I loved was that John directed the piece by gesture and performance rather than explaining anything to start with.

Later on he did talk about the process and how he had tried to develop a template but it was much more about “reading the audience” and templates don’t work. What does work – is allowing everyone to take part and the drums were a metaphor for that. However I do wish he had walked off stage after the performance part and hadn’t explained what he was doing. That would have taken the drum sequence to another level entirely.

I loved hearing Luke Hurley sing three songs straight after Johns set. Disclosure: I work closely with Luke and he is a personal friend but it is always great to see others hear him for the first time.

Again a theme is that there is greatness all around us but we don’t always recognise it. I loved that Luke took a couple of crowd shots from the stage.

And that is really what TEDx events are really about the audience. At some point being in a TEDx event is like being part of a hive mind that is a living thing.

What happens next is up to all of us but if each person picks an idea they liked and develops that one step at a time the impact will be huge.