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Talking TEDActive with Sarah Shewey

What comes to mind when someone mentions the TED Conferences?

Do you think about a specific presentation – like Bill Gates presentation on malaria?

You know the one – where he opened up a jar of mosquitos in the auditorium. Then he said – malaria doesn’t need to be a poor person’s problem (watch video).  Or do you think about an endless supply of smart people sharing great ideas? Or do you think of cool, inspiring videos that are free to watch and easy to share?

Regardless of what comes to mind first – you eventually draw the conclusion that TED is awesome!

Have you ever wondered how they create this magic? Have you ever wondered what they are doing that you aren’t?

Recently, Mike McAllen and I got a glimpse inside of TEDActive from Sarah Shewey of Pink Cloud Events (pictured above).  Sarah joined Mike and I on a recent installment of Meetings Podcast Going Digital to talk about what they are doing to make the TEDActive Simulcast an awesome experience.

(Listen to the podcast)

For those of you that want the highlights from our conversation – Read on.

TEDActive is Much More than Watching TV

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TedActive is the simulcast event that is tied to the main TED Conference. TEDActive attracts people that are ready to create action around the ideas at TED. This event is much more than watching TV. They weave real talks (that are given by real people), social activities and collaborative activites into the experience. These activities help TEDActive participants establish community and create a unique experience of their own – beyond watching the simulcast.

The main conference room has a ton of different seating options.  There are beds, bean bag chairs, lounge chairs, and tons of screens all over to watch the TED Talks. The environment is designed to breakup the big room into smaller groups of 4, 8, 20 or 60 people. If you get a bed – your simulcast screens are on the ceiling (Pictures). The event attracts more than 500 people.

It’s a simulcast and a real event at the same time. Pretty cool, huh?

Participants Create Something Together

The attendees at TEDActive get to determine 1/3 of the content and workshops. In 2010, the attendees and a group of musicians created a music video during the event. Attendees were given a piece of paper and asked to make drawings that matched the event’s theme – What the World Needs Now. Then, a group of singers on the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus took recorded a track to go with the pictures and a production team created the video. You can watch that video here:


Why are TED Videos So Engaging?

TED works with speakers to create awesome presentations and to have stage presence. Then, they use about 8 different cameras to film the videos. The shots are positioned so that they will be engaging to people watching online. Sarah makes a point of saying that they use closer shots to make things more intimate. They rarely use the long shots.

Why does the Simulcast Event Work?

We asked Sarah why the simulcast worked. She shared the following reasons:

  1. Live host is the glue for the simulcast.
  2. Localize the event with other activities/experiences and create community.
  3. Coach the Speakers on their delivery.
  4. Video Production (see above).
  5. Broadcast the Video and the slides.
  6. Treat the simulcast as a special event.

Of course, she didn’t talk in bullet points – she elaborated on most of these points in detail. You should go listen to the podcast to hear what she had to say.

Bottom Line

TED rocks! But, you knew that already.

Written by

Samuel J. Smith is the Managing Director of Interactive Meeting Technology, LLC. He wakes up every morning to save the world from stuffing attendees in chairs for hours on end at events. Oh, and he has small children who usually want some breakfast.