Saturday, November 10th found me on the University of Washington campus for the 2012 edition of TEDxRainer where passionate local speakers took to the red carpet to share their ideas. I was there as an attendee, but of course I had my camera with me to make a few photographs from wherever I happened to be sitting in the audience. I can’t help it.
Like many TEDx events, TEDxRainier featured a few performances to delight between presentations. One of these performances was by the New Old Time Chautauqua, a non-profit group which performs vaudeville, organizes parades, and conducts workshops across the Pacific Northwest every summer. I’m not sure I’d ever heard the word Chautauqua before, but was happy to learn it and I certainly enjoyed their enthusiasm on stage.
With so many TEDx events happening all over the world, it’s easy to wonder where the saturation point is. How many more TED-style events do there need to be? The jaded among us might argue that there are too many already. But when I see a local audience—most of whom see a single TEDx event a year at most—pay rapt attention to and enjoy a talk given by somebody in their own community, it becomes clear to me all over again that this revival of old-fashioned storytelling strikes a fundamental chord in people.
Sure, from the globally accessible viewpoint that the Internet gives us, it’s easy to see thousands of events a year as a cacophony. But that’s the wrong viewpoint to use. That’s like saying that we only need four websites on the Internet because at one point there were only four major broadcast networks. Or like saying there’s no need for local sports arenas because we have ESPN. Sure, we have TED and TEDGlobal, but only something like two thousand people get to see those live. TEDx events gives that many people a day a chance to see a TED-style event.
Here’s the thing. There’s the short 18 minute or less TED talk experience you get from watching one of these presentations online in the comfort of your own browser. And then there’s the experience you get from spending a day with a large group of people watching a sequence of presentations that flow together around a theme and then talking about the ideas with each other. It’s like the difference between watching a play on television and going to a live performance.
Just like there’s always room for another live performance of theater or music, there’s always room for another set of ideas passionately presented in a live setting and then discussed by an engaged audience, whether it’s a branded TEDx event or under some other name and in a different style. There can’t be too much of it in the world right now.
Thanks to TEDxRainier curator Phil Klein for the invitation and the lovely day.