TEDxOshkosh – Craig Burnett – Co-Organizer

In Collaborating by Mark Sylvester


The Hack: Bring in strong leaders, who will bring in a great team.

Craig Burnett is one of the co-organizers at TEDxOshkosh, located in Wisconsin. In 2012 he saw Dan Pallotta’s TED talk, and it changed everything for him. Craig likes to explore conflicting ideas, a perfect trait for a TEDx co-organizer.

TEDxOshkosh does something fun at their event which is to ask each attendee to sit in a different seat for each session. They get a little push back, but hold their ground, as this is a great networking ploy.

Oshkosh is proud of their heritage as an event city, as evidenced by a talk about the Oshkosh AirVenture which brings 500,000 people and 100,000 airplanes to their town of 60,000. They had an excellent TED talk about the AirVenture. TEDx fits a niche that the community has warmly embraced and provides a perfect venue for ideas worth spreading.

TEDxOshkosh photograph courtesy of Phil Weston

A great thought begins by seeing something differently, with a shift of the mind’s eye.”Albert Einstein, quoted by Craig during our conversation

The Lightning Round

  • Tell us a bit about your background and your TEDx origin story.

    The TEDxOshkosh licensee, Michael Rust, grew up in Normal, Illinois, and when he heard how great their TEDx was, he decided to do one in his new home in Oshkosh. Craig was recruited soon after.

  • How many TEDx events have you worked with or produced?

    This is his second year. Their event his year is in the Fall. It’s held in a 134-year-old opera house that once hosted Mark Twain.

  • What makes your TEDx unique?

    The small town of Oshkosh is well known as an event city, and TEDx fills an untapped need for an event centered on ideas. They have local speakers to talk about the variety of subjects relevant to the community. Their desire for controlled growth relates to being careful about taking on too many ancillary things (outside of the TEDx core experience) too soon. They’re looking forward to filling the Opera House (approx 660).

  • What’s your Superpower?

    Collaborating and building a strong team. As a Rotarian, he knows about how to recruit from active networks.

  • What was the biggest surprise while working on your event?

    How many people don’t know about TED, much less TEDx.

  • Every event has its challenges, what was the biggest dragon you had to overcome?

    Speaker management is the biggest challenge, though candidly, he feels like things go pretty well and wonders, “what are we missing?”

  • What’s one piece of advice you have for veteran organizers? For first-timers?

    Keep your energy up and keep your eyes on the prize – the Talks.

  • Looking forward to your next event, what excites you the most?

    The 2017 slate of speakers. They have more fantastic candidates than they have slots.

  • What’s a TEDx event that you’d like to attend?


  • The show is called Hacking the Red Circle, so what's your best hack?

    Bring in good leaders, who will bring in a great team.

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