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The 2011 TEDxKC event was Thursday, August 18, and based on the tweets and blog posts during and after, it was a tale of two TEDxKC experiences at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. For those who arrived very early and made it into the Nelson’s auditorium to see the presenters live, it was the typical idea-enriching TEDxKC experience.

For everyone else who had to view the 2011 TEDxKC event via video in an “overflow” room in the Nelson’s Bloch building, the evening was a huge disappointment poor audio / visual performance, ineffective seating, slow response to issues (which were quite apparent if you were watching the #TEDxKC hashtag), and audience defections.

A Disclaimer

Much of the rest of the week on the Brainzooming blog will feature very positive recaps of the outstanding 2011 TEDxKC program. I received my personal ticket to the 2011 TEDxKC event courtesy of VML, the primary sponsor and organizer. Having worked with VML as our agency for many years, I have a number of relationships there, and think that Mike Lundgren, who has spearheaded the Kansas City TED events, and VML have performed an incredible public service by bringing TEDx to Kansas City.

Because the TEDxKC programs have been so strong, the resulting buzz and popularity of the events have outpaced the support resources (venue, production, surrounding logistics, and activities) being applied. The challenges were not from what was happening on stage at the 2011 TEDxKC event; it’s what was happening (or wasn’t) beyond the stage that created negative sentiment this year.

The 2011 TEDxKC Experience

“Don’t Meet Me There, Beat Me There”

We’d invited several people to attend TEDxKC and arrived really early. That didn’t mean, however, we didn’t experience intra-line squabbles. A group (or groups – tough to tell because they all looked alike) of older women  hassled us several times, repeatedly accusing me of butting in line. I got the glares, the snide comments, the whispering – the whole nine yards. I guess festival seating still leads to poor behavior among older baby boomers, the same people who earned festival seating its bad rap in the 1970s.

Their reactions were ironic, because being known for working a line pretty aggressively for position, I was on my best behavior at TEDxKC, trying to play by all the rules we had been told beforehand. Amazing how mad people get when they feel you’ve invaded their $10 worth of space.

If Only Someone Would Say “Why”

The 2011 TEDxKC theme was “If only. Only if.” An intriguing theme, but one nearly unspoken from the stage. Any overarching explanation for why these presenters were chosen and some supporting context to the event was also lacking. Since TEDxKC is described (and rightly so) as a “curated” event, it would be helpful to have a perspective (delivered from the stage, contained on the lanyards, posted in the venue) that connects the theme, the presenters, and the thinking behind the program’s design. Maybe it’s in the iPhone app introduced for the 2011 TEDxKC. I don’t have an iPhone (as I’m sure SOME others in the crowd did not), so if that’s where it was, I missed it.

The Universal Service Recovery Tonic

Later on in the overflow room fiasco, the Nelson-Atkins Twitter account announced free beer during TEDxKC for the overflow attendees. It may have helped a little. In a later Twitter conversation with Chris Reaburn, he remarked that free beer is the universal service recovery beverage, communicating, “Hey we screwed up, but about a cold one on us!”

Gotta Be Moving On

It’s evident the Nelson-Atkins, while a grand location, is not working anymore as the TEDxKC venue. The post-TEDxKC reception was a madhouse in Kirkwood Hall. There was no apparent signage and the interactive aspects of last year’s event were obscured by the mass of people waiting in line for drinks at only two serving locations.

The Rest of the Week

The next several days’ blog posts will feature recaps of the TEDxKC presenters, including the two video presentations of 2011 TED talks. Rather than recapping the evening chronologically, the recaps are organized on the brief thematic explanation that was offered for TEDxKC:

  • Transparency (Tuesday)
  • Radical Collaboration (Wednesday)
  • Mind-set (Thursday)
If you were at TEDxKC, what type of experience did you have? If you’ve been to other TEDx events, how were similar challenges addressed? – Mike Brown
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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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2 Responses to “2011 TedxKC – A Tale of Two Event Experiences in Kansas City”

  1. Average Jane says:

    My husband and I managed to score a seat in the main auditorium, but only because my sister got there early and saved seats for us. It’s very clear that this venue is far too small for the event now (not to mention that the chairs are extremely uncomfortable). I liked this year’s lineup, but last year’s was even better and I fear I had raised my companions’ expectations a little too high.

    We stayed at the reception for about ten minutes before giving up on trying to even make a circuit of the room for networking purposes. I gave my drink tickets away and we moved on to a restaurant to have dinner instead.

    • Mike Brown says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Celeste. We stuck it out for the reception once we made it over there, but it seemed like we waited 30 minutes in line. Happened to see a few people standing around, but it was so loud and crowded, there wasn’t a good way to make it around the room to meet up with people.