TEDxWanChai: an intern behind the scenes

6 08 2011

TEDxWanChai: Rehearsing the day before.

Today’s inaugural TEDxWanChai on the theme of charitable impact was nothing short of a big success…but that’s not what I’m going to write about. (You can find out all about the event through tweets tagged #TEDxWanChai.) This is my take on TEDxWanChai from behind the scenes as an intern.

I’ve learnt so much throughout the two weeks leading up to today’s event. Perhaps I could put it into a nutshell:

  1. People. With an event this big, you need people to help.
  2. Social network. You need a social network to find people to help you.
  3. People, people, people – it’s all about people.

But it’s not enough to just have people. The team needs to gel, cooperate and really just fit together like pieces in an intricate jigsaw puzzle – which is where the macro/micromanagement bit comes in.

There were a load of teams all working together, yet at the same time focusing on entirely different aspects of the event: registration and security. Food and beverage. Audio visual. Social media. Stage management. Event management. Production. Organisation. All these separate teams working in micro units to create a successful TEDx event on a macro scale – even the process of TEDxWanChai in the making is awe-inspiring, let alone the event itself!

Some of the TEDxWanChai crew

Experiencing the process of planning, organising and finally executing a TEDx also taught me to think along some important lines:

  • Think ‘brand’. TEDxWanChai is special because it is TEDx and not just any other conference – so we need to constantly show this. Hence, on goes the TEDxWanChai logo on everything you can possibly imagine! (including wooden clothes pegs. Yes.)
  • Think ‘extra’. Just as small things make a difference in the social enterprise context, the same applies to event management. We had bamboo steamers dotted around the venue to emphasise the local culture surrounding the event, and also made an ‘X-marks-the-spot’ bamboo structure for people to hang their ideas onto. Ideas worth spreading…ideas worth hanging – get it?

Ideas Worth Hanging.

  • Think ‘connection’. Twitter and Facebook – the usual biggies to help us spread the word about our event and also connect with fellow TEDx-ers from around the world.
  • Think ‘contingency’. What if there’s a technical error? A black out? Obviously you can’t just have the audience sitting there twiddling their thumbs, so we had games up our sleeves to keep everyone occupied…just in case! This would never have occurred to me until a black out actually occurred, and then I would have been left feeling extremely sheepish.

TEDx-ican Wave! photo by @hypercasey

  • Think ‘out of the box’. This is an age old cliché, I know, but the event has just reminded me of its importance once again. The thing is, our venue was a bit of a blackhole: no reliable WiFi, and no coverage for all but one phone network! How were we supposed to live-tweet and connect with the world without access to the Internet? Luckily, @JayOatway came to the rescue. We had people on the CSL network create hotspots to share with 4 others, and distributed network passwords out to those who wanted to tweet. Not the most straightforward situation, but it sure was an ingenious way around a frustrating problem.
  • Finally, think ‘luck’ – so much is beyond control and so much depends on it!

Photo by Casey Lau

What an experience. I’m sure I have unconsciously absorbed a whole lot more of information than what I’ve briefly summarised here – in fact, I’m looking forward to the debrief to see if I can pick up anything that I’ve missed out!

TEDx’s are extraordinary as they are, but to actually be at the core of the action, witnessing the making of something amazing? That’s……movement.

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