TED began life in 1984 and is a non-profit organisation devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TEDx events are independently run events to help share ideas in communities around the world.
Via a contact’s LinkedIn post I saw that TEDx was coming to Bristol and a few months before I arranged to meet with TEDxBristol’s curator to discuss options on how I could get involved and share my expertise. Her vision was to curate a show-stopping event, sell out the whole of Colston Hall and inspire the citizens of the city and beyond.
On joining the merry band of volunteers I started off as a Speaker Liaison working on communicating with speakers, giving information and briefing them on requirements. As the event grew and the complexity increased my role evolved to be that of Logistics and Facilities Manager. In a nutshell everything which took place outside of the auditorium was my responsibility.
The whole of the TEDxBristol team worked on a voluntary basis and quickly evolved into a fairly full-time role. The responsibility of the Atrium elements of the event were a huge undertaking as it involved everything from defining the space for the various elements, liaison with Colston Hall and risk assessment.
TED sets out very strict guidelines on what can and cannot be done at a TEDx event and I had to avail myself of these rules very quickly especially as we had some great ideas for using the huge atrium space for lots of elements to keep delegates engaged during the day and during the breaks.
We really wanted to make the speakers accessible beyond the constraints of their 18 minutes. Many speakers were talking about projects and research they had been involved in and we seized this opportunity for them to showcase their projects in the large space and talk directly to delegates in smaller groups personalising the experience.
2015 was also the year Bristol was European Green Capital so the team came along to talk delegates in the break about their green aspirations. In conjunction with this we also had card-only name badges, we recycled lanyards, produced generic signage so it could be used again, partnered with local companies and did away with goody bags. One of our sponsors was Ecosurety who were providing all attendees with a keep-cup – I still use mine to this day! First Bus even shuttled delegates from points across the city to Colston Hall on their ‘poo bus’.
Working with Colston Hall we coordinated staffing, public access to the atrium (the box office is open and doesn’t get closed while events are on), the safety of the number of delegates in attendance and how the catering outlets would be able to service 1,800 people in the breaks (I even had to ensure the keep-cups would fit in their café coffee machines).
The other main element I has responsibility for was the design and print of name badges, programmes and print signage and branding. With the exception of the printed large-scale programmes, I made the decision early on to make the rest of the signage and banners to be date and event neutral so they could be used again. To save on printing name badges and individual programmes we combined the two – name on one side, programme on the other and as they were one-time use we made them 100% recyclable.
TEDxBristol 2015 was, at the time, the largest TEDxBristol event undertaken, the most ambitious and complex. At that time it was certainly my biggest project and whilst it was sheer hard work it was without doubt a career high working with an amazing team, all pro bono, to deliver a world-class TEDx event and I am proud to have been a part of it.
Photos © Tom Glendinning and Paola Davis