For the past 10 years i have attended over 100 conferences in India and abroad. In most cases while others paid hundreds of dollars to attend. I used Juggad and almost always got in for free mostly being a speaker. The format for attending such conferences became quiet standard. Before the conference you setup number of meetings with people you know. Attend the keynote speech where you meet many random but sometimes important people. Setup more meetings with them.
Its almost like a jungle where different animals are looking for different prey. Startups looking for investors, established companies looking for business, many looking for jobs, everyone seems to be having a different agenda and the conference is just an excuse for everyone to get together under one roof.
Most sessions have thin attendance, mostly consisting of journalists organizers people from your company and few competitors .huge round tables with few chairs around them are kept to make the room feel full.. I think some of them have also started using recorded applause
the only place were you meet people is the cocktail party and dinner reception but soon realize that there are six such parties going on and most people are juggling between the parties to hunt for prey.
The sessions itself are boring and mostly nothing but corporate marketing pitches and the panels get really bad when each of the panelists makes a ppt slide instead of discussing the topic at hand.
When i heard about ted happening in India for the first time. I was all excited another big conference circus. When the official website was launched i couldn’t believe what i saw..it had little info on the speakers or content.. A huge photo of infosys ex.ceo nandan and they were asking for applications based on which they will decide to let you in and the cost.. A whooping $2500. This officially became the most expensive 2 1/2 conference in India. The $2500 included food airport transfer and stay at infosys campus in mysore.
I first thought it was a mistake and some one added a zero to $250 well how much could food and stay cost in infosys campus in mysore. (assuming they gave it free) and the organizers are gone nuts..
However having watches the ted videos online. My simple ideas was if these videos which i have watched for free can give me so much knowledge and inspiration, getting to meet some of those speakers and being able to exchange notes with even one of them would be worth $2500
reluctantly i filled a 3 page form with all kinds of questions and soon got a seal of approval from the organizers and i finally paid the $2500 with no idea what to really expect. I convinced myself by Calling it a gamble..
Fast forward to when i reach the Infosys campus on day 1 of the event. The registration process was super fast and smooth i checked into my room fast and in no time was roaming in the Infosys campus.
I must say there was something about the atmosphere which was electrifying i could see hundreds of people from different counties, some in formal suits, some in t-shirts and shorts all intermingling with each other. While the softbot army of Infosys was zombie marching across the campus..guided by smart guards with whistles.
The night started with a gala dinner at some palace where we were taken in buses. Saw a lot of familiar faces there mostly venture capitalists, successful silicon valley entrepreneurs, consultant and investor banker types, successful Indian entrepreneurs, senior corporate executives, you could not miss the huge Google presence, industrialists and people from the media. But the striking difference was when i saw many bloggers, twittes, newspaper tycoon, startup entrepreneurs, artist types, professors and musicians.
Now that was different.
The dinner was nice the wine was flowing and i had quality interactions with prof hans, a classical piano player, an industrialist who wanted to use gaming for developing skills in illiterate peope, abhay deol who bashed me on why film contracts are one sided , Chris Anderson the organizer of ted & a young film maker from Cairo. Now that was some time well spent.
You will soon be able to see videos of about 50 sessions which were delivered at TED online but what you will not see in those videos was the electrifying energy in the room, the sparks which were flying amongst the Potpourri of people from very diverse backgrounds. I started by thinking oh i will attend a few sessions but ended up attending each and every session 100% during the course of the 2 1/2 days. In each session I made sure I sat next to a new person and once again managed to spend time with a technologist, a wine expert, senior bureaucrat, an entrepreneur, a doctor from New Zealand, a MIT graduate, a social entrepreneur just to name a few.
The dinner events made a good setting to interact with many others net net… unlike other events where you meet the same set of people talking about the same boring stuff, at TED India it is fresh…I met new people, made new friends, gained knowledge from bells, to bees, to snakes, to planet, to technology, to women’s liberation, to arts, to architecture, to world economics, to bottom of the pyramid, to top of the pyramid, to technology in rural India, to technology from MIT…..all in a short span of just 2 1/2 days. And believe me when I say that no a single sales pitch…everyone just interested knowledge sharing and brainstorming.
The 18 mins format of TED is like Twitter where you are forced to communicate your pearls of wisdom in 140 characters similarly TED makes smart people communicate their years of wisdom in 18 mins…. with lots of entertainment and light moments thrown in.
If University is like Test Cricket, 1 Month Executive MBA Programs like One Day Match, TED is the 20-20 version of going to the best university in the world and learning from the best teachers all in 3 Days….. though I missed the Cheer Girls
My journey way back was also equally eventful with me and Film Make Shekhar Kapoor having a flat tyre in the middle of nowhere and missing our flight. Now that’s a different story to tell.
So why am I calling TED a absolute waste of time and money…simple because I learned from a professor Hans at TED that people like to read negative stories. The actual headlines should have been from 14th July 2026 all Schools and Colleges will switch to TED Education System and the people who did not attend TED even though they could afford it would just read the headlines and move on…