I recently had the privilege of speaking with Mark Mzyk, organizer of a TEDx conference in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina earlier this year, about all things event related. TEDx conferences are offshoots of the well-known TED conferences. The following transcription is a paraphrased interview.
[Z] How did you arrange speakers for your conference?
[M] We had a committee of people to brainstorm names of speakers and other people in the industry that might be helpful in finding speakers. This might not scale well. Having another way to find speakers would be great.
[Z] How did you look to get feedback about the event?
[M] We didn’t use any formal method for obtaining feedback. We had an after party where we talked to people and got some more informal feedback.
[Z] If you were able to use a formal system of getting feedback, what elements would be useful to get feedback on?
[M] What people thought of the overall event and what their takeaway was. Did they gain insights? Did they feel that they had easy access to the speakers? (Attendee access to speakers is a big part of TEDx.) Feedback on venue, food, pacing, and thematic grouping. I would lean towards having a customizable form with targeted questions and open-ended answers.
[Z] What kind of relationship do TEDx conferences have with the TED organization?
[M] TED and TEDx have a pretty loose relationship. TEDx organizers have to get permission from TED to put on the event and then they have a set of guidelines to follow. Other than that, there’s not a very strong relationship.
[Z] What was the biggest hurdle in preparing for and managing the conference?
[M] Our biggest hurdle was managing the lineup of speakers and getting responses from them. It was especially difficult when speakers dropped out at the last minute and we had to fill their positions.
[Z] Did you consider taking call for proposals (CFPs) to engage speakers?
[M] That’s something we considered but didn’t have the time for since we were starting our search later in the game. If we were to take CFPs in the future, our concern would be managing being swamped with them and determining which speakers are serious.
[Z] Thanks so much for your time Mark, your answers have been very helpful. Good luck on any future endeavors with TEDx conferences!