TEDxDunedin 2015

Introduction

In 2015 I applied for the license to organise TEDxDunedin. No TEDx events had been run in the city for 4 years prior and I decided it was time to resurrect it. I was granted the license and work began.

The dynamics of the city immediately put pressure on us. As it is an eduction town, Dunedin sees 10,000 students and University staff leave at the end of the year which reduces the population by 10%. This would have heavily restrict our market. By the time our license was granted, we only had 3-4 months to organise the event because we did not want to put it on while people were studying for their exams. Even now I am amazed that we did it, and I chalk up our success to the amazing volunteers and event staff who were all very energetic.

Everyone on the organising committee was in their early twenties. Everyone had other commitments – I had a full-time job as did others, and many more had studies which were their first priority. This made scheduling meetings a nightmare, but we made it work.

The first thing I did was recruit a third-year accounting student who would manage the budget and make sure it was strictly adhered to. Secondly, I delegated my friend and co-organiser Jason Beck to curate the speakers while I managed everything else. I then started bringing in creatives, planners, team managers, designers, and more.

I must admit I was not prepared for the number of hiccups we would encounter. A little over a month in, our first choice for venue fell through and we had to hurriedly change plans. We even announced the event and started selling tickets when the venue decision was not finalised, and the event sold out. Great. After much public outcry, we increased the ticketing allocation by 50% and sold that out too. Great! This quickly impacted all of our previous planning, such as seating, logistics, food and drinks, staff and licensing.

Our venue was the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Due to their high cost, we could only rent it for one day. That meant that we had to prepare and rehearse everything in another location, and then on the day of the event at 2 PM, we would gain access to the venue, move everything in, and set everything up. It would be no easy feat.

The day of the event arrived and we held a team meeting in our staging area. It felt like a military operation. We had hired cargo vans to do the move and had about 30 volunteers with specific roles lined up to construct the experience. By the time 2 PM came around, I was jacked up on 4 Redbulls and almost fainted.

Amazingly, everything went well. The seating and stage were set up as were the projectors and screen. We had to get a cherry picker inside the building to set up the rigging, which took 10 people alone since we could not harm the wood floor. We hired a food truck to provide burgers parked and parked it in front of the venue, but wardens tried to move it on, so we quickly had to iron that out! The VIP red carpet was laid out, complete with a sponsor wall and professional photographer. The live streaming equipment and television cameras were all put in place and tested. Our tele-prompters were working well. The speakers were loud and clear. Everything fell into place without a second to spare. From an empty hall to completely set up in 6 hours, we opened our doors and attendees flooded in.

After the event, as is the case with all TEDx events, we sent out a survey to attendees asking them to rate TEDxDunedin. They gave it an NPS score of 68.

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Wearable Brochure / Name Tag

Seamless Planning & Execution

TEDxDunedin 2015 would not have been possible without a large amount of behind-the-scenes planning.

I began planning with a budget. This was strictly adhered to during the duration of our activities. I then set a gantt chart running down to the event, built a team based on requirements, and delegated areas of attention to leaders.

Marketing

I did not announce that TEDxDunedin would be happening until tickets went on sale.

However, in the weeks leading up to the announcement, we began posting various pictures of the TEDxDunedin sign being built and painted. The Facebook page began receiving many messages with questions, but we remained tight-lipped and rumours began spreading throughout the city. It was perfect.

When tickets went on sale I engage in influencer marketing which has always proven successful when marketing events and initiatives. For example, all the University business schools had email lists and social media pages that shared our event and offered attendees a chance to win a ticket.  See Startup Weekend for example of success with a similar strategy.

We sold the event out in days, increased the allocation by 50%, and sold that out too.

During the event, a live stream was displayed worldwide using my own live streaming equipment and  volunteer operators.

MC Jason Beck encouraged audiences to participate online and #TEDxDunedin2015 was #2 trending in New Zealand that evening.

A VIP Experience

I wanted every attendee of the event to feel like a VIP. That was part of the experience we designed.

When attendees entered the venue, they were greeted by a red carpet and sharply dressed ushers who gave them their name badges and led up to the photo shoot area. Standing in front of a sponsor wall, a photography team made each attendee feel important.

A food truck distributed freshly cooked food to attendees and free drinks kept conversations flowing. Our MC, co-organiser Jason Beck, made the crowd feel comfortable and relaxed. It was a wonderful night, made possible by an amazing crew, some of which are pictured below.

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