A TEDxAsheville Story
TEDxAsheville: How we got here…
Few would argue that social media has been one of the most significant “big ideas” of the past five years. So, it is apropos that ans event dedicated to spreading “ideas that matter” would be conceptualized, developed, and implemented primarily through social media tools.
The idea for TEDxAvl came out of some brainstorming via Twitter between Ty Hallock, (Founding Partner and CEO Top Floor Studio) and Jose Ibarra (Founder/President, Applied Solutions Group). Hallock and Ibarra had been tweeting back and forth about an Asheville area “TED-Like” event. During his research, Ibarra found that minimum sponsor requirements started around $50,000, which was not in the budget.
Around the same time, Hallock (also founder of Asheville Green Drinks) heard that TED was now licensing the TEDx name to cities. Soon after, a tweetup was held at the Dripolator. Ibarra, Hallock, Jim Barton and about 7 others showed up for a brainstorming session to review licensee requirements, clarify questions, and gauge what the interest level for such an event might be. Coming out of the meeting, the license process was started and the online tools were in place, but leadership remained a crucial question.
Barton was named interim director, but relinquished the position a day later. Hallock and Ibarra were both interested in being involved in a consulting role and both still are), but neither was prepared to assume a lead role in the event. Barton, Hallock, and Ibarra had a brief conversation about the need to name an interim director immediately. The three agreed that the best candidate for the job was Jennifer Saylor.
Saylor, a returning college student, had some free time on her hands after summer internships fell victim to a tough economy. Being a huge fan of the TED Talks, she accepted the position and immediately set about pulling together a team.
Staying true it’s roots, TEDxAsheville 2009 was organized, coordinated, and promoted primarily through social media tools. Most of the early volunteers core were recruited through online networking. Both Facebook and Twitter were huge in building momentum, buzz, and excitement around the conference. By May, Saylor was organizing the event with 25 volunteers, including graphic designers, bloggers, web designers, and videographers. Marketing Chair Gina Drew was handling fund raising out of Florida and the event began to get legs.
Despite having relatively little time to work with, TEDxAsheville 2009 exceeded all expectations. The event sold out the Orange Peel and literally hundreds were turned away at the door. The audience was wowed by one exceptional speaker after another, including a surprise appearance by stephainesid, performing a song that had wrote just for the event.
Saylor said “… an all-volunteer team pulled off a well attended regional conference valued at tens of thousands of dollars—with no budget, not experience and no paid positions—in three and half months. A ragtag team of relative unknowns put together a conference featured (in promotional videos) at multiple TED events, one that wowed the whole city. We became an institution overnight.”