collaboration illustrated

TEDxGrinnell and What Happens When Teams Aim High

TEDxGrinnell team, photo by Laurie Polisky

Grinnell College is an important place for us at Collective Next. It’s where I met our CEO Matt Saiia many years ago. TEDx events are important for us, too. In addition to curating TEDxBoston, we’ve supported TED events in California, Texas, and elsewhere in Massachusetts.

You can see where I’m going with this. Last weekend, Grinnell sponsored its first-ever TEDx and I was lucky enough to help out as a coach to the seven presenters. The talks were outstanding, as candid and thought-provoking as you’d want from a TED event. (In the weeks to come, TEDxGrinnell will publish videos of all their talks. We’ll update this post as those videos go live.) It was fun being part of the crew the day of the show, working backstage with a headset hearing the audio and light cues, getting the presenters ready to go on stage, being part of an impressive team.

When you go deep working with TED speakers, you realize how their talks are more of a risk than they are for our clients. We help our clients give talks in professional contexts, where what they talk about is not necessarily as close to who they are as a TED talk. Story and authority are still important, but authenticity rules here as nowhere else.

What I took away most from the event was learning how important it is to put people in a position where they can aim for something incredibly ambitious. TED events are notoriously difficult to manage, even for professionals, and this one was largely put together by students. The primary organizer and the stage manager won’t even graduate for two more years and I believe that their show holds up against any professional production in terms of execution and content. This shows how important it is to give people great opportunities and let them shine rather than dole out scraps of opportunities. That’s true everywhere, not just on a TED stage.

(photo credit: Laurie Polisky)

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