I sat in the audience waiting with an intellectual eagerness that had a good feel about it for this live oral performance.
The day was a cold Saturday in January and I was attending my first TEDx talk for a live oral performance. I had heard so much about TED/TEDx talks and in a moment of foolishness I googled ‘TEDx talk in London’ and handed over £50. At the time I rationalised the expense; now I think it was nothing short of extravagant.
With one small caveat that my assessment is a generalisation.
Not all TEDx talks or indeed TED talks will follow a similar format. Although it is fair to assume that as the TED organisation tightly controls every single thing done under the TED brand name, there is a strong chance they could all be similar. I naively thought the hype I had read would or should translate into an intellectually interesting performance of ideas, hopefully challenging and/or complex, being communicated orally on a live platform.
To the contrary, the TEDx talks I heard were anything but. I could have been forgiven for thinking I was attending the commercial equivalent of a ‘Living Well’ event at the Olympia London Earls Court.
Each speaker got up and spoke less than subtly about their product or expertise. And during the coffee breaks you could wander around various displays and the speakers were available to answer any questions about their wares. The term ‘trade show’ sprang to mind with slick PowerPoint presentations selling various products and services. A man with a dog was selling a book about a man with a dog, someone else was selling a pair of virtual googles, and yet another a self help programme for business, etc., etc. They were obviously skilled people but they were telling me the wrong thing about their topic – about what they know. I had paid to hear about ideas and their relationship, as the owner, to those ideas.
My disappointment springs from the lost opportunity rather than my time being wasted. What could your imagination do with the public speaking equivalent of a pop-up or speakers corner, indoors out of the cold where, to quote TED, we can experience the sharing of ‘free knowledge from the world’s most inspired thinkers’?