TED X – a year on

March 28th, 2014

Reflections on the TED X talk ‘Housing for Health’ a year on reveal some interesting results.

It would be easy to see the whole TED circus as a self promoting band of ego driven blabbers keen to promote their latest widget, fad or personal issue. In fact HH probably tended to think of TED this way when first approached to present a talk.

Assembling a talk with 18 minutes of content to distil 28 years of work by thousands of dedicated people is no easy task. And when a nervous, sleep deprived presenter made mistakes with names and when parts of the talk were not precisely defined … the result sits on line for all to observe and criticise. The whole process was demanding and difficult and afterwards the fear lingered that it could have been a pointless exercise in ‘vanity publishing’?  Weighing up the results a year on we have to admit …. we were wrong.

After the TED X event in May, the talk was placed on the Sydney TED X site and it received ‘modest’ viewings. When in June it was picked up by the US TED site, the numbers of views grew quickly, as did the responses. Some comments reflected delusions of the mad and angry raging against the content, politics or world view presented – but in the main, there were thousands of emails from people around the world simply giving their thanks for introducing them to the possibility of change. The simple examples in the talk demonstrated to students, young professionals, shack dwellers, families, grandmothers and board members that change was and is possible. 

The hard results and actions that have resulted from the TED X talk made the exercise worthwhile. Anonymous sponsors have donated significant cash for project work, companies have offered in kind support to projects, movies could be made, groups have joined together to offer funds and in-kind trade support of several international projects and the list goes on and on. 

To date the talk has been viewed over 1.1million times, and here are some random thoughts to put this number of viewings, as a method of spreading ideas, into perspective.

Imagine you were able to deliver the same talk, as a conference paper, to 500 people at a time. Now assume you were able to deliver the same paper to a new conference attended by 500 people every week, for 50 weeks each year (we are not slave drivers and you deserve 2 weeks off!!!). Then you would need around 44 years of this continuous routine to reach the same numbers of people with the message. 

In Australia, conferences attended by 500 people in the areas of architecture, design or health occur only a few times a year, so finding 50 conferences  a year of this size would be ambitious to say the least. The conferences could of course be international, but imagine the travel schedule, cost and greenhouse gases used in flights to meet a schedule of 50 conferences a year around the world. 

Thanks to the Sydney Opera House, TED X organisers, the TED site in the USA, the thousands of people who worked hard for over 20 years to develop the content of the talk, the millions of people who have watched the story and the ever increasing number of people from Australia and around the world who have acted as a result of seeing the talk to make change possible.