The Hack: Focus on the joy of creating something together.
Ralph Talmont is the organizer for TEDxWarsaw, an Australian with Polish roots who has built one of the flagship TEDx events in Europe. In 2009, three groups applied independently for a TEDx license for Warsaw. When NYC saw this, they suggested that the three combine to create one event. Since that time, a group of people built around that initial team of six TEDxWarsaw organizers has been doing Salons, the Main Event, Youth, and Women shows.
Ralph says that their first event was one of the first outside of the US – #59, but who’s counting? Now, eight years and some 25 events later, their main event is just as popular as when they began, plus the community is being served with regular smaller events. They have experimented with different audience sizes, from 300 to 1,400 and Ralph says that they could easily fill the largest venue in the city for the main event, but they don’t want to lose the intimacy that smaller venues provide.
There are no recipes for the perfect talk.”Ralph Talmont, Organizer, TEDxWarsaw
The Lightning Round
Tell us a bit about your background and your TEDx origin story.
Ralph has been involved with TEDx since 2009 when they received their first license. Since then, they have produced events for Youth, Women, and Salons which tend to be overbooked by 3 or 4 times their capacity. To have built a brand that will reliably attract this size of an audience is a testament to the need for spaces where “normal intelligent people” can talk to each other.
How many TEDx events have you worked with or produced?
“Personally I have done about twelve, I guess. We work closely with our friends in Kraków, both at TEDxKraków and TEDxKazimierz. We also invite organizers from events in other regional capitals to workshops and meet-ups that are regularly scheduled in Warsaw. We have great friends in Vilnius, Minsk, Prague and Berlin, for example.”
What makes your TEDx unique?
“As the flagship Polish TEDx, we put a lot of effort to span the chasm between the global and the local in the capital city of Warsaw. We are the largest, and the longest-running TEDx in Poland and feel a responsibility to keep the event top-tier. We also feel an opportunity to address issues appropriate for a world stage, with connections to what is happening in our city and country.”
What’s your Superpower?
Curating. “Working with the speakers is the most important part of the event to me. Helping them achieve clarity is of prime importance. Tying all the talks together with threads that run though the entire program is a challenge which I love, and which the team relishes. I’m in the idea business, so this crazy hobby of working on TEDx events provides me with many opportunities to extend my professional capabilities. Having an amazing team of self-starters, of dynamic, creative people makes this a real joy.”
What was the biggest surprise while working on your event?
“When we started, we only had six people to pull off the event, and we did it. The biggest surprise was early on when we saw just how huge the demand for such events and conversation spaces was. Now, it’s a consistently pleasant surprise to do NO marketing and sell out the events essentially from word of mouth. There’s a real hunger to connect with other intelligent humans, which drives the desire to attend.”
Every event has its challenges, what was the biggest dragon you had to overcome?
“Thou shalt think long and carefully about thy sponsorships. TEDx events are very attractive but, at the same, hard to classify. This makes finding sponsors a challenge.”
What’s one piece of advice you have for veteran organizers? For first-timers?
For first-timers? “It’s not about your speaking. It’s about the people listening to you. It is about whether you can transfer what’s in your head into theirs.”
Looking forward to your next event, what excites you the most?
“Altering the approach to the central theme. We have had a lot of very “top-level” themes. I am looking forward to something “down-to-Earth.”
What’s a TEDx event that you’d like to attend?
TEDxAmazon (Rio de la Plata). “Plus I look forward to finally seeing an event in my hometown, Melbourne, which I have not seen in twelve years.”
The show is called Hacking the Red Circle, so what's your best hack?
“The passion everyone brings to the project is the true hack. The leader’s role is in part to help people focus on the joy of creating something together. The genius of the TEDx model lies in the all-volunteer license. We all do I as well as we can, for the right reasons.”
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