In the second half of this exclusive interview with TEDActive host and TED Content Producer Kelly Stoetzel, she explains not only why she loves TEDActive, but answers the often debated question of what makes a TED speaker and explains how TED creates and curates the speaker line-up.
What exactly is TEDActive’s special draw? Why do you come back to host it again and again, and why is it so special to you?
It’s so intimate. You can connect with almost everybody, and you can see everybody, for sure, over the four days. You get to know a number of people on kind of a deep level too, and because of that I think people get really passionate. People get really engaged in what happens there and that just makes it fun.
Also, because of the environment, because we’re all at this resort together, there’ll be all of this stuff that you can do that you can’t do at a bigger venue.
Your other job is picking the program as we mentioned. What’s the process behind choosing a TED speaker?
We get thousands of recommendations through the form on the website. Really, thousands. We look into every single one. There are also so many people on the staff here that feel passionately about so many things, so we get great recommendations that way. A lot of us go and hear speakers a lot of the time, so that too. And, of course, reading. It’s a combination of all those things. And, trying to find people who are doing really timely things, and digging in and finding out what’s the best new things coming out of labs -- things that we’re not yet reading about, too. We sort through all that stuff.
Then, we really want to make sure that the person is a good speaker. It’s a lot easier to do that now than when I started doing this job five or six years ago. It’s so much easier to find video and audio online. But, sometimes you can’t and you have to take a chance. We get a good idea of what someone would like to talk about and who they are by having a phone conversation with them, and sometimes people are so passionate about their work that they don’t need to necessarily be a polished speaker. So, we do book speakers that fall into that category.
We book speakers all year. We’re constantly booking speakers, so that even when the program starts to get full, we’re still looking at interesting people for the next one. Later on, towards the fall, the program’s pretty full, but what we start thinking about now is what specific holes we might have and what things we might need to really round out the program. We might say that we need more about technology in this session, and so we start looking specifically for the best technologies people are developing right now. We spend a lot of time trying to get the flow of the program to feel just right. We put almost as much time into that as we do choosing speakers. It’s about this journey that you go on for four days.
Could you give us five or six key attributes of a TED speaker?
Passion, ability to speak well, having a great idea to communicate -- whether it’s cutting edge or something they’ve been working on for a long time, but something that ‘s revolutionary or inspiring, that could have an impact on the world or that no-one’s ever seen.
Truly, what it is, is that they have to tell a great story. A good speaker comes to TED and says, “Here’s my work and here’s why I’m passionate about it,” but a great speaker says, “This is my work, here’s why I’m passionate about it and here’s why it matters to you.”