Giving a TED talk seems to be the height of popular intellectualism. Presenters with the most interesting, creative and thought-provoking ideas gather together in order to share those ideas with the world. TEDx, however, has a quite different reputation. “You gave a TED talk?” is often followed by “Oh, it was just a TEDx.” In some respects, it’s true. TEDx traditionally has a much lower entry level than TED, making it harder to compare the two. However, TEDx is not necessarily worthless as a result, instead providing a unique stage to better further TED’s mission.
The poor reputation, in part, comes from the public image of TED talks. I’ve often heard “How Schools Kill Creativity” by Sir Ken Robinson referred to as the quintessential TED talk.
And it’s hard not to love it, especially from the perspective of a student stuck in the current endurance-test world of education. TED’s international representation attracts the most intriguing speakers from around the world, who are carefully vetted to produce the highest quality content at every TED event.
In contrast, the process to give a TEDx talk is significantly simpler, with a far greater number of events, smaller audiences and more overall opportunities to speak. This is especially true at a small venue such as the University of Tulsa. This often leads to the assumption that TEDx talks are inherently less interesting, creative and overall of less quality than actual TED talks.
This assumption, however, greatly misconstrues the mission of TEDx. TED’s goal is not to produce the highest quality of content but rather to be a “community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.” TED talks are inherently limited: The organization can only put on so many a year, rarely generating more than a few hundred talks. This is where TEDx comes in.
By allowing others who are passionate about sharing ideas to organize their own events under the TED banner, more talks can be presented than ever before. Sure, not every TEDx talk will be as impressive as Sir Ken Robinson’s, but some of them will. And, with the power of the internet, the wonderful ideas can be spread across continents. The third most popular TED talk of all time, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” by Simon Sinek, is a TEDx talk.
This “accuracy by volume” approach is not the only benefit of TEDx however. It can also provide a platform for talks not in the traditional TED realm of possibility. For example, Look at Tom Thum’s “Orchestra in my Mouth,” where he recreates several songs acapella through beatboxing. It’s not something I could see on the traditional TED stage, but TEDx lets him take the stage and leave his audience with something to think about.
So, when TEDxUTulsa happens in a couple weeks, I encourage you to attend. It might not have Sir Ken Robinson, but I suspect that you will learn something over the course of those four hours.