Q&A

How to organize a TEDx in 3 weeks: Quick Q&A with Dave Troy of TEDxOilSpill

Posted by: Emily McManus

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TEDxOilSpill organizers Dave Troy, left, and Nate Mook at the TEDx Hosts mini-conference, Monday, July 12, in Oxford. Photo: TED / James Duncan Davidson

Just before TEDGlobal, several dozen TEDx organizers met at Keble College to run a mini-workshop on making great TEDx events. We’ll have a longer report tomorrow, but tonight we wanted to highlight Dave Troy of TEDxOilSpill — he’s the co-organizer of the conference that produced today’s TEDTalk from Carl Safina.

The TED Blog’s first question: How can you organize a full-day TEDx event in three weeks?

Troy: I got my first email about the event on May 28, and the event was June 28. The main thing is, we reached out to a lot of people. We developed a relationship with National Geographic, with NPR, we had the blogger from Time magazine — we just reached out to as many folks as we could, and about 80 percent of them said yes. It’s in part knowing the subject just well enough to know who we might want to ask. It was kind of a stone soup, with whoever we could get to respond on that timeline.

The event didn’t feel like a stone soup — it was very well sequenced. A couple of us were saying: We kept waiting for the topic to repeat itself, but you kept finding new angles on the oil spill.

Well, Nate and I thought a lot about this. We looked at all the proposed speakers, watched them on YouTube if we could find them, read their writing. The last thing we wanted was a one-sided story. We wanted it to be intelligent and well-balanced. With every proposed speaker topic, we asked, “Is it forward-looking? Is it a contructive thing to say?”

We set out to build a very deliberate story arc. To start with a sense of nostalgia for how things used to be. Then to show how we’re going to fix it, with policy, with conservation. Then, forward-looking mode, alternative energy, alternative fuels.

The TEDxOilSpill Expedition also came together quickly

Yes, Duncan [Davidson] was shooting a conference in Baltimore, where I live, on that last week in May, and I said, “Come over, let’s talk.” We knew we wanted to send someone down there. Duncan, Kris [Krüg] and Pinar [Ozger] did amazing work. I told Duncan, “You have to go down there. If you don’t see this for all of us, who’s going to?”

Watch Carl Safina’s talk from TEDxOilSpill >>

Learn more about TEDx >>