Yesterday evening I participated to the first TEDx event in Italy: TEDxLakeComo. It was organized by Gerolamo Saibene, Francois de Brabant (CEO and President respectively of Between Spa, sponsor of the event ) and Teresa Saibene. The event was supported by Between, the Como division of Politecnico di Milano and Universicomo, with catering provided by Birra Peroni and the collaboration of Peverelli Interior Design.
TEDx is a new program that enables local communities such as schools, businesses, libraries, neighborhoods or just groups of friends to organize, design and host their own independent, TED-like events. (read more)
What to say? In a few words the event’s live sessions were generally interesting and informative but not at all at the level of a TED event. Why? The presentations were rather descriptive of a static situation (galaxies, Africa, animal DNA & human history, etc) but never discussed an inspiring work-in-progress project that is aiming to change (a part or the whole) world. That’s it! It was an event about information and not about inspiration.
The big gap was evident when original TED videos were interpolated to the local program. Watching William Kamkwamba describe his project, listening to El Sistema’s youth orchestra directed by Gustavo Dudamel (a “product” of Jose Abreu’s project –awarded with the TED prize 2009) to take Venezuelan kids off the streets by teaching them music) or Pattie Maes showcasing the MIT Media Lab sixth sense project was breathtaking, at times moving, and most importantly: inspiring. You could renew your hope in the intrinsic good of mankind and touch with hand near future technologies that will soon pervade our lives.
Nonetheless it was a good start as the first TEDx in Italy and it gives the opportunity to build on top of it and improve further editions (e.g. TEDxMilan will take place in February 2010). Congratulations to the organizers of TEDxLakeComo for opening the market for further events. I hope this article helps to make following editions better.
When Mr Saibene asked who knew about TED conferences before receiving the invitation to TEDxLakeComo, few people raised their hands. Though initially surprised by the answer, I see this as a positive thing as TEDx’s goal is to expand message of TED, that is “ideas worth spreading”. I didn’t count the amount of people present but it could have been around 300.
The average age was rather high… my guestimate is above 55 y.o. and the “looks” of the attendees was homogeneous (overheard during the event “it looks like a Rotary dinner, no pun intended”). This was surprising too. I expected a more heterogeneous audience, would have liked to see young(er) entrepreneurs, artists and students.
As I said before, the presentations were mostly interesting. Speeches seemed more of a University presentation than a TED talk. Age was elevated on stage too (at least 4 speakers out of 7 were over 65) and curiously the young ones were relegated to the end of the event… a mix between younger and older would have helped to increase momentum. Topics were varied, a good thing.
Paolo Ciuccarelli (Design Professor from Politecnico di Milano) was the best storyteller of all and used an innovative visual presentation to support his speech on the visualization of complex information.
Quality was good though the process a bit chaotic, something not unusual in Italy (don’t be surprised if a respected woman from high society digs her elbow into your stomach to get first to that small plate of risotto!).
Signage and Support Material
Was accurate and essential, present in the right places and with the exact dose. I would have printed the agenda on the back of the badge, but that’s a small detail.
Some organizational/logistics recommendations (small stuff, the organization was in general well done and flowed smoothly):
- a clock-down screen on stage, it prevents the speakers from looking at their watch to see how much time is left
- open internet wifi for attendees: it helps to spread the event’s voice on social networks (though I doubt many of the attendees were familiar with Twitter) and towards TED. *EDIT* You will hardly find anything if you search for #tedxlakecomo #tedxcomo (previous hashtag was incorrect). The conference room was covered by wifi but delegates didn’t have access to it. Those that had a 3G mobile connection could tweet.
Follow some photos from TEDxLakeComo, more are available on Flickr.