Monday, June 13, 2011

Conference engagement: 11 tactics to steal as TED's online talks turn 5

June 27 marks five years since the TED conference took its talks online, and in that time, it's broken barriers and set the bar for conferences that want to engage audiences beyond the ballroom or auditorium. Here's the thing: The actual TED conference is small, exclusive and expensive to attend. But all the engagement options listed here are generous, wide-open and free. The combination's compelling.

Even if your meeting or conference doesn't do everything TED does online, its list of engagement options is well worth reviewing for ideas you can steal, options to try and just plain social-media inspiration. Here's the list to work against:

  1. Make the talks fit a length that automatically works for online video: All TED talks are firmly kept 18 minutes or less, and speakers are assigned time increments that range from 5 to 18 minutes,  the perfect size for sharing online. It's a time-saver for production, speeds the path to publishing online--and probably pleases the in-person crowd at the same time.
  2. Post them all online: As of yesterday, that meant 965 online videos posted by TED. This is another area where a highly selective process to begin with helps. Viewers know these videos have passed a litmus test and aren't usual conference fare. But making sure they're all online allows TED to play to specialist interests and group its videos into themes, which in turn lets users browse based on topic.
  3. Help people find them: TED talk videos succeed by being everywhere you want to be. In addition to posting the TED talks online, TED shares them on RSSTwitterFacebook, YouTube and other social networks; makes it possible for TV stations to broadcast TED talks for free; and helps you keep track of them with this simple, updated spreadsheet of all the TED talk videos. Want to play the TED videos without having to get online? TED gives you a free, open-source player pre-loaded with talks; it updates itself to include the new ones.
  4. Make them shareable: TED talks get share buttons for social media sites, as well as provide embed codes that let bloggers and others make the talks part of their posts. TED talks are copyrighted under a Creative Commons license that allows for showings and sharings, and it offers these usage guidelines. They encourage sharing with Ways to spread TED.
  5. Make them accessible: TED offers subtitles in a variety of languages, interactive transcripts, and a cadre of volunteer translators (the latter a useful way to engage your audience to help others in the audience). Those "ideas worth spreading" go further when they can be accessed by a global audience.
  6. Show what happens behind the scenes:  Lots of speakers imagine that prepping for a TED talk is a challenge, so TED made this short film to show how two speakers got ready, demystifying the magic.
  7. Encourage speakers to apply: TED selects speakers, but makes it easy for aspirants to nominate speakers, with a form, FAQ and guidelines.
  8. Make the real conference a community of its own:  TED's online talks only appear well after the conferences, which makes the live experience exclusive and exciting--and in fact, you have to apply to attend. TED refers to its conference attendees as community members, offering them a book club (with Kindle or hardcopy options) to continue building on ideas from the conference, and livestream access for associates who aren't physically there but want to see the talks in real time. And the real conference, with its high-powered speakers and attendees, makes for out-of-this-world networking.
  9. Get beyond the videos:  With its new TED Conversations, online watchers and non-attendees can chat with speakers, share ideas and debate points in the talks. It doesn't just further the engagement, but brings it back to the TED website. TEDx events let others replicate TED's live experience by organizing mini-TEDs in other locations and sometimes on focused topics, within strict guidelines.
  10. Build your own pipeline of future speakers:  TED Fellows are idea-shapers from all over the world who win the chance to attend TED, and perhaps to speak at a future conference; TED's recent first-ever public auditions allowed a wider group to try out live for future slots.
  11. Offer running commentary:  TED's blog not only helps roll out the videos, but gives watchers a heads-up on what's coming, behind-the-scenes insights, and views of things you can't see in the videos, like TED's recent first public tryouts for new speakers.
How does your conference engagement stack up to that list? Share your examples in the comments.

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