does the perfect TEDx exist? | trying to unpack #TEDxNYED


Like a lot of people in the Twitterverse, I'm really looking forward to when the talks from TEDxNYED are posted online. It's not because I didn't catch it, or even because I wasn't there, but rather because I was so privileged to be one of the ten organizers of the event and spent much of the morning running around trying to get things working with our video ingest machines. I missed most of Andy Carvin's, Michael Wesch's, and Henry Jenkins's talks, and I can't wait to watch them. 

Two of the criticisms (there are others) that I've been catching up on (as thrilling as it's been to watch the nice words about the day get published, I'm an eternal pessimist and gravitate towards the criticisms) is that the day may have been somewhat of an echo chamber and, as we're all left with the inevitable post-conference slide to reality, we're left with a call to action that may go unanswered. They're valid concerns, and I think they start with the fact that this was a TEDx event, not TED itself. 

We were counting on the breaks that we built into the schedule as the time for attendees to make connections, but I think that this might have been somewhat of a hard sell to some who came with colleagues or knew others in attendance. I'd imagine that if you travel 3,000 miles to TED and you're in the middle of a four-day mind-blowing excursion, you're absolutely going to connect with everyone you can. As I've been able to gather from TEDxNYED curator Dave Bill (, the whole point of TEDactive, where one watches TED in simulcast, is to make these connections. But remember what the origins of this conference were. As arvind grover ( wrote in a comment in his own Posterous posting, "We're basically a group of independent school educators who decided to put on a conference, and one of us registered to have it be a TEDx." We all work about twenty blocks from each other, and I think that we originally had in mind that NYED would really be for and speak to the New York education community — maybe even more specifically the K-12 part of NYED. As our amazing speakers agreed to travel to our shindig one by one and word of mouth took this way beyond our expectations (oh, hello, 20,000 Livestream viewers!), this all clearly became more than any of us could have hoped for. Add to that the fact that we were one of the first, if not THE first, education-specific TEDx, and, well, we've got a lot to think about if this becomes a yearly event.

Back to those concerns I mentioned earlier. What do we do to make this less of an echo chamber and really kick people into action? Borrowing some from recent NEIT ( tradition, maybe what we needed was a break from the TED talk/lecture format toward the Unconference model. What if, at the end of a day of exhilarating talks, we took some time to figure out what we wanted to do with all these ideas worth spreading next? I'm picturing a second "action day" of the conference where we essentially pitch ideas and let our interests guide the day. We all want to DO something with what we just took in, but what if we could actually sit in the same room, maintain those new connections, and work through some of our ideas, maybe getting some help in the process? What if, at the end of an amazing day, we had fifty TEDxNYED projects — real world projects that would bring some modicum of change to our institutions and communities, all under the conference umbrella? What if even ten of those were sustainable projects to work on until next year came around, when we held TEDxNYED v2.0? 

Is it too late for the TEDxNYED event that we just had? No! Continue to light up Twitter with the #TEDxNYED hashtag, add to the Facebook discussion groups, contribute to the wiki ( My hope is that at least something will get legs and we'll have a starting point for the conversation next year.

5 thoughts on “does the perfect TEDx exist? | trying to unpack #TEDxNYED

  1. dancohen

    Thanks so much for helping to organize and run TEDxNYED. I agree that an unconference is the way to go. May I suggest the model of Considerable knowledge exchange occurs in a non-hierarchical way, and new projects often get launched from specific ideas.

  2. Basil Kolani

    Thank YOU for sharing your amazing talk! At the end of the day, I’m very proud of the event we put on, but I just keep trying to think of ways to not get stuck in the “what now?” debate. And I’m not trying to take anything away from the TED Talk format either, instead trying to facilitate an action component or at least a way to break out of the passive listener model.

  3. dcinc66

    Basil, you bring up some great points. This event does have legs and can make a huge impact. We can and must smooth out the edges but like Dan Cohen suggested and we have discussed, we can implement a THATCamp model to ensure the engagement issue.

  4. DouglasCrets

    I think it would be great to be invited to something like this. It often looks like Ted is for people who know each other. What if you had people who are doing great things but are kind of on the outside of this universe? No dig against Ted, and maybe I just don’t understand how the gig works.

  5. Basil Kolani

    Just to be clear, TEDxNYED wasn’t TED, but instead was an independently organized TED event. As this was the first time doing this, we put the word out in as many different ways as we could but there was no invitation process. We had an application process that was open to all, though we only had so many seats we could fill at our venue.

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