Live from TEDWomen

A question worth asking: Babies at TED events?

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A tough and interesting question surfaced yesterday at TEDWomen — and not from the stage. One of our attendees brought a 5-month-old baby to the conference, and this raised the question: How can we make TED more accessible to parents with very young children?

TED has always had a “grownups-only” policy; we don’t allow kids under 16 to attend. This preserves the intense, immersive, full-attention experience that people have come to expect. So when the question arose yesterday, while the conference was in full swing, our registration team politely stuck to our policy and told the attendee that she couldn’t bring the baby into the conference viewing areas. (We offered other solutions, like help finding a local caregiver.)

They were doing their jobs, and in the warmest way possible. But we lost the moment to ask the bigger question: Is it time to change our policy?

So once the situation had filtered through to our full leadership team — and we had a moment to plan — we came up with a temporary solution and on-the-fly policy: To invite the attendee back, invite her to watch the conference in our central simulcast viewing area, and create a separate simulcast lounge she could use if the baby got fussy.

Although this particular attendee had already booked a flight home, she was very appreciative. Other parents at the conference checked in with us, and were offered to use the new viewing area today.

Looking forward to future events, we’re going to revisit our policy on kids, with an eye toward finding a creative, holistic solution — one that offers a solution for parents with infants and small children, while preserving the conference experience for all.