Reflecting on #TEDxWarwick

I attended TEDxWarwick yesterday along with about 1200 others – a massive event with some big name speakers. I thought it would be worthwhile to put together some thoughts on what I heard and how the event was run. I hope what I say will be helpful to those who are running next year’s event.

First of all the speakers: they were excellent. Each person will have had their own stand-out moments, but none of the speakers did a bad job, each one showed enthusiasm for their subject. I was most impressed by the talks from Doug Belshaw, Andy Stanford-Clarke, Kevin Warwick, David MacKay, John Kay and Simon Moss. A diverse set of talks from digital literacies to environmental issues to charities and development. Perhaps I’ll muse some more them when the talks have been uploaded.

A few talks achieved less than seemed to be promised – Giselle Weybrecht, for example, seemed to spend the whole time telling us that it’s important for Business faculties to teach and understand sustainability without once telling us How to Make Anything Sustainable (as the title suggested). It’s disappointing when the talks are really just adverts for the training sessions that the speaker does.

Organisation plays a massive part in events as big as TEDxWarwick. The staff at the Warwick Arts Centre and the student volunteers did a great job in directing us delegates around. The technical side was pretty well managed too, with video mostly working well and good sound too. In fact the only let down as far as I was concerned was the host. We found out at the end of the day that he had stepped in at the last minute after the person booked to host dropped out, but I don’t feel he really added  to the day. Hosting is a performing role, one that needs a confident and naturally funny character, and David seemed a little forced at times and underwhelming overall. Reading from cue cards quite so obviously, tapping the microphone as he came on stage and waving it around randomly whilst talking did not give an air of confidence. It’s a shame that someone who’s a better fit for the role was not able to fill it.

On the organisation front, I’d like to make some suggestions. I appreciate that in a room full of over a thousand people it is difficult to do Q&A, but some of the talks could have benefited from a few minutes drawing out some thoughts further. An able host might have been able to ask some relevant questions, while a couple of roving mics might have been able to take questions from the front part of the hall.

However, I think real discussion sessions would be much better than Q&As after each talk. Having three less talks over the day would allow a whole session dedicated to discussion the talks. I realise it would be require a lot more rooms to be available, so more organisation for the TEDxWarwick crew. With nine speakers and over 1000 delegates it would still be far from an intimate audience with each, but it would give a far better opportunity for the day to lead to real dialogue.

I hope the TEDxWarwick team will see this and think about implementing them for next year’s event. Please leave me a comment here or tweet me @jonrogersuk if you do.

Other delegates from TEDxWarwick 2012, I want your comments too: what were your favourite talks, what changes would you like to see for next year?