Please Take One Step (To Make Your Conference More Generous)

December 2, 2010

in Ideas, Interview

Mike Dickson (profile) is the author of Please Take One (web, twitter, facebook, amazon), a book that deals with the simple steps that we can take towards a more generous life, which in turn will help making the world a better place and make us happier.

The goal of Mike’s presentation at the TED Salon that took place in London on November 2nd 2010, was to encourage a few concrete actions that we can make in our everyday life and to start a global movement of doing simple acts of generosity.

The main reason for being generous? Being generous makes you happier. Enough said.

From the book:

“Fundamentally, though, generosity is not about money but about a willingness to share, unselfishly, with an open heart, an open hand and an open mind. It is a measure of your self worth, not your net worth. If you have enough of the stuff, it won’t do you any harm at all to regularly give away a little of your income, or wealth, to help people less fortunate than yourself. But there’s more to it than that. People who don’t focus on acquiring things don’t fear losing them. They are the people who value enjoyment, friendship and sharing”. [Please Take One, page 25]

In the video below Mike shares some of his ideas, the typical reasons people put off generosity in their daily lives, and how to overcome them and how he moves people to action during his presentations. We also discuss how conference organizers could stimulate generosity towards valuable causes.

Ideas for conferences – add donations to the registration process

Mike says that “the delegates of a conference have an unbelievable ability […] to do good, so if you think about the average conference individuals, [they] have a tremendous influence and so do the companies who are attending the conference”, so as event organizers we should do something to tap into this power.

While reading the book I came with the following idea  to encourage donations during a conference: to add to the registration form the possibility of donating a certain amount of money to a good cause. Often people postpone donating because of the whole bureaucratic process of filling up a form and paying. By including the possibility of donating right into the registration form you are bypassing those obstacles.

How big should the donation be? To which cause?

According to Mike these are no easy questions. He warns about choosing the cause carefully, maybe one connected with the themes of the conference.

Another thing that you can do during your conference is to use your “media-power” or give space for a presentation supporting a particular cause. Promote a good cause you believe in or invite the founder behind the project to make a presentation. Two recent examples of this:

  • Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and founder of Square, used his 34th birthday (also his 33rd one) as an excuse to raise a target of 34,000 USD amongst his network of friends & followers for Charity Water. This simple action actually produced 68,170 USD in donations.
  • During TEDxAmsterdam on November 30th 2010, the organizers encouraged the attendees to donate to Join the Pipe -present at the venue- in order to be able to install a water tap in the most famous square of the city and build a water well in Bangladesh. At the end of the conference  an auction was held to raise money to support another project (winner of the TEDxAmsterdam Award), coincidentally related to water too: Winddrinker. The auction collected 28,800 euro.

A conference can act as a resonance box for a good cause and Mike emphasizes that

“When you’ve got a cause and you’re passionate about it, you should tell others about it and try to encourage them to join that and be useful and understand that cause”

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