TEDxPSU – Herbert Reininger

In Organizing, Producing by Mark Sylvester

The Hack: Use inexpensive stage design to set the event tone


Herbert Reininger is a Creative Director, longtime TEDster and has worked with TEDxPSU at Pennsylvania State University since they started in 2010. They are one of the first 100 TEDx’s and annually produce an event for 800 with 2,000 viewing online. He helped with the design of the event until 2014 when he took over the license.

Herbert works as the Faculty Advisor, with a revolving door of students each school year, on the team. Over the years they’ve developed a technique of interviewing, shadowing and mentoring that has the effect of providing continuity across years.

One of the benefits of working on this TEDx is that the entire team travels to TEDxMidAtlantic three months before their event to be inspired and study from a TEDx that is acknowledged as being one of the best.

It’s my accent. It makes people pay attention.” When asked what his superpower is.Herbert Reininger, Faculty Advisor, Licensee

The Lightning Round

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

    Herbert was hooked on TED in 2006 when the first videos went online (where have we heard that before?). In 2008 he started showing TED talks at pizza nights, and have students discuss the Talks, with him facilitating the discussions. This could be viewed as what the original TEDx mission was intended to promote.

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

    Seven main events at PSU and he has traveled to many TEDx events around the world. We met last summer at the TEDSummit in Banff. He spends a lot of time mentoring TEDx organizers during the year.

  • What makes your TEDx unique?

    He thinks that the way they’ve managed to optimize the challenge of a constantly revolving team has helped them systematize their efforts. He’s the licesnsee, but not the organizer. There’s a new curator each year. The curator comes from a team that’s previously produced an event. The teams pass knowledge and experience to one another over a two-week period each Spring. There are 15 people on the team each event.

  • What’s your Superpower?

    Producing – he’s a Creative Director and does the set design while overseeing the entire team as a Faculty Advisor. He’s also adept at Organizing. Don’t forget his Austrian accent.

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

    The continuing quality and passion of the speakers. This is significant as they’ve been dipping into the same well for speakers (PSU campus) since 2010.Another surprise was how a chance encounter, on a bus in Vienna at a TEDx event, with someone from the NYC TED team, led to a long-standing friendship. He found out just a few days ago that a talk from the 2017 TEDxPSU had been selected for TED.com even BEFORE it was posted to YouTube. This is rare. One of the goals of any TEDx organizer is to have one of their event Talks featured on TED.com. Congratulations to TEDxPSU. I asked Herbert what got them noticed. He’s convinced it was the title and the content which was about bio-ethics, from a professor on Campus. (Note: We’ll post the Talk once it’s online, this is breaking news.)

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

    “There’s a whole herd of dragons.” The biggest though is the annual hunt for interesting speakers.

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

    “If you commit now, think carefully. You can’t change your mind. There’s no going back.” Team members count on each other and need to know that your commitment can be trusted.

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

    Trying out two Curators.

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

    TEDxGlobal in Tanzania. He’d love to go to Africa.

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

    Stage design. Literally. He loves doing this each year. We talked about how you can do this with lights and simple geometric shapes.

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