Finding Thought-Leadership at TED2017

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the TED2017 Conference in Vancouver. Most people are probably most familiar with the TED organization – a nonprofit devoted to “spreading ideas” – through their eponymous TED Talks, thousands of which are available to view for free online. The annual conference is TED’s flagship event, the stage on which the best speakers from other TED events around the country, along with other leading figures, have the chance to give a TED talk in front of an audience of 2,000 attendees from 70+ countries.

TED speakers tend to be some of the world’s best and brightest thinkers. This year, that roster included Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, Pope Francis, Nobel prize-winning molecular biologist Elizabeth Blackburn, chess Grandmaster Gary Kasparov, just to name a few. All spoke about topics related to this year’s conference theme: “The Future You.”

Getting the opportunity to hear ideas from some of the world’s foremost luminaries first-hand is only one part of the TED experience; the conference also attracts a diverse and elite assembly of attendees. In the audience this year were Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, Microsoft co-founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Hollywood director and producer Steven Spielberg, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer and many others. For leaders such as these – whose most valuable commodity is often their time – their willingness to block off an entire week of their schedules to attend TED is among the strongest testaments to the conference’s value.

My experience at TED found all the attendees very eager to get to know one another, share their own ideas and experiences, and make connections that would endure well beyond the end of the week. During my time at the conference, I sat next to the CEO of the largest bank from one of the world’s 15 top economies at lunch, where we discussed connecting in the digital age. Sitting in the conference auditorium before a session of speakers began, I struck up a conversation with the founder of one of Silicon Valley’s premier venture capital firms who happened to sit next to me. The speakers themselves were also accessible and keen to engage outside of their presentations; I spoke with several following their talks, in the hallways and at social events that are part of the conference.

This combination of fascinating ideas, smart speakers and a concentrated crowd of attendees, who – despite the rampant overuse of the term in Washington – could righteously be described as ‘influencers,’ makes working with TED a truly unique opportunity for other organizations looking to effectively reach high-level audiences. An extensive range of partnership opportunities for brands and other organizations are offered by TED. These include having a presence at TED events like the conference, through options such as sponsoring interactive activations set up around the facility, or underwriting private lunches centered on a specific topic.

TED also offers a number of custom event opportunities, which range in scale and required investment.  At one end is the TEDSalon program, where one or two TED fellows will speak as a single segment within a larger program or event. At the other end is the flagship TEDInstitute program, which includes the development and execution of a full-scale official TED event hosted by the partner organization and featuring speakers and content sourced solely from within the partner’s ecosystem. The partner can also curate their own audience, whether they be employees, current and prospective clients, vendors, recruits, media or others.

Additional opportunities – such as advertising around TED media channels like TED.com and the TED Radio Hour on NPR, custom content creation, professional development and more – are also available.

Organizations that want to have an impact in Washington (and beyond) and establish themselves as authentic thought-leaders in a particular industry or on a specific topic should always be searching for new, innovative ways to reach the audiences that matter to them. With the reputation and experience at bringing together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, the TED organization offers opportunities to participate and partner at a level that has few peers.

Applications to attend the TED2018 conference (entitled “The Age of Amazement”) next April are already open. Will you be there?

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