Wednesday, February 6, 2013

TED Moves to Vancouver

There was blockbuster news this week with the announcement of TED's move to Vancouver with TED Active in Whistler, at least for the next two years.  The choice of Vancouver is not all that surprising when you think about it.  Chris Anderson, TED's owner and curator, has a place in Whistler, so he's clearly familiar with the area.  Also, TED's logistics are managed by Vancouver-based Procreative Design Works, owned by sisters Janet and Katherine McCartney.

Of course, there is more behind it than convenience.  At the 2012 conference, there was quite a buzz of discontent: the conference was too big, it was getting somewhat impersonal, the seats were dreadfully uncomfortable (when the program run 8:30-6:30 for four days and you've paid that much to be there, a back ache is really irritating), the conference was dividing into two classes of citizens, those who'd paid the regular (stiff) price, and patrons, who'd paid double and got in before the doors opened, and got all the best seats.  In short, old-timers who'd been to Monterey were yearning for the old locale.  And for the first time in my memory, the 2013 conference was not sold out by the time the 2012 conference got under way.  Because you usually have to confirm for the next conference before the previous one begins, it creates a long lag time for feedback about abating demand for the TED team.

Clearly, on the 30th anniversary next year, TED is working to overcome that softening of demand.  The conference will have 200 fewer paid attendees, addressing one of the currents of discontent and incidentally creating fewer seats to fill.

Vancouver is well known as one of the most beautiful cities in the world and the convention centre, as you can see on the right, is new and gorgeous.  Moreover, they're building (with support from Vancouver apparently) a custom-designed-for-talk theatre to "maximize the impact of talks, permitting multiple configurations for sitting, listening and connecting with the speaker".  This could add destination pizazz.  Long Beach is not exactly gorgeous as Monterey was.  Chris says they're also inviting back the 100 best TED speakers of all time, which sounds pretty darned exciting.  Apparently we're going to be able to vote for who those 100 are.  I skipped TED 2013, but I think I'll be back for 2014.  I wonder how many others will be like me.

This is considered a major coup for Vancouver, as described in this Vancouver Sun article.  A senior Vice President of Canadian Tourism was summoned to Vancouver to participate in the talks and the agreement was kept under tight wraps until announcement day.   The deal is for two years.  I'm sure  the city will be fighting to keep the conference there beyond the two years.

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