September 18, 2015 \ Geoff Birmingham
Producing a TED (like) Talk – Do you have an audience?

TED talkNot long ago, we were asked to produce a series of TED-like talks for an information services company, recording presentations delivered by several of their employees. Since then, we received another inquiry from a company that was interested in something similar.

I thought I would share a few thoughts based on the work we did with our client.

TED Talks come in different flavors, ranging from the rather grandiose to the more modest. So our first task with the client was to understand which end of the spectrum they were aiming for.

Initially, they seemed to be leaning toward the more grandiose. What they didn’t realize was that more elaborate TED Talks (see picture above) are not just presentations with a couple of cameras set up. They are major productions. There might be as many as five or six cameras running at the same time. The space is carefully chosen. It’s meticulously lit. The audience is lively and engaged. It’s all very highly staged and choreographed.

So let’s say you don’t have a budget of $75-100K to create your TED-like Talk. Then what? It can still be done but it’s just a matter of scaling everything back – simpler space, fewer lights, fewer cameras. With our client, there were three cameras. Instead of renting a theater space that would have had a lot of different lighting options, they rented an auditorium at a local university.

Even if you can’t create an event with an impressive stage, fancy lights, and a big crew, you can still give it that feel by having a lively audience. So it makes sense to devote time and resources to recruiting a crowd. The more people in the seats, the more important the occasion feels.

Audience recruitment is definitely the hard part, but it’s like any other event that a marketing team organizes – what can we do to entice people to come? A lot of it, of course, is having a good database of prospects to invite and delivering content that will be interesting enough to attract them. But can you offer a raffle to entice more people? Do you want to fill in some seats with employees from your company? Or even hire a few young actors (“extras” in movie lingo) to round things out?

Whatever you can do to fill your space with bodies (and then give your audience very explicit directions to look enthusiastic and interested) will make your talk stand out, even if you don’t have the other bells and whistles.