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Organizing a conference is a very complex process. And success could very well be the most complex thing to manage of all.

At first you are small, different, unheard of. Then you become big, and tough decisions show up at your doorstep. You slowly become a "social trophy", a place where people do not come to push for the original vision, but because they want to be part of the cool crowd.

How many participants go to the +World Economic Forum to "improve the state of the world" (the WEF's mission statement)? How many go to be seen around +Bill Gates and +Larry Page?

Balancing these opposites is the complicated part. Too many dreamers, and the event will have no connection to reality, no CEOs or politicians that can take those decisions that really "improve the state of the world". Have only suits, and the big ideas will not come out, because big ideas are bom from chaos, diversity, serendipity, surprises.

Every conference has that problem, and TED is no exception. The danger is, as Nathan Jurgenson puts it in the article below, to "stop [...] collecting smart people and instead collect people trying to be smart". It will be interesting to see how TED deals with what +Bruce Sterling, shaking my hand after Lift 2007 (the last "amateur" event before Lift turned pro), described as "the toxic side of success".
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Rich Fisher's profile photoHugh MacLeod's profile photoLaurent Haug's profile photoOlivier Glassey's profile photo
4 comments
 
I also felt that it has lost its edge. Do you think that smaller events like TEDx and friends helps refocus the vision of TED?
 
Perhaps they need to segment it more. Categories? Areas of interest?
 
ALL my favorite conferences suffer from this... Plus traveling gets harder, the older and busier I get.
 
I think it is really about creating diversity, and not drinking kool aid too much. As +Hugh MacLeod says, it is a problem every conference goes through, even if we don't all deal with that the same way.
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