After the incredible show put on by TEDxPSU 2010 last year, I was compelled to volunteer for TEDxPSU 2011 this year. So over the past few months I had been in charge of organizing the student expo, or Xpo as we branded it. The goal was to showcase some of the groups and clubs around campus that do cool stuff to the attendees of TEDx before the main event starts. At first, I had trouble getting enough interest from clubs to want to participate in the Xpo. However, given enough time and persistence that changed. From there, everything was fairly straightforward. On the day of TEDx I show up, the groups show up, they present their work to the attendees, and they pack up, all while I simply supervise and take care of any problems that arise. The Xpo went so smoothly that I actually had plenty of time to help other volunteers with their jobs. After everything was said and done, the speakers had presented their topics, and Alumni Hall fell silent all the volunteers and I had the task of tearing down the entire hall (see below pictures!) in just over three hours.

Sure, some of that stuff is heavy!, but it was actually pretty cool seeing what goes into even seemingly simple stage design. So yes, volunteering for TEDxPSU is great and I would love to do it again next year, but let’s talk about the actual event from an attendee’s point of view.

Last year, TEDx in three different locations on campus and involved a lot of walking around. This year, the whole event was in one building on one floor. Yes, we took up a lot of floor space, but it made for a much more unified experience. In addition to that, the attention to detail for all the media was incredible! The programs, the staff shirts, the overall stage design, even down to the name tags was beautifully done. This definitively topped last year’s design by a long shot. But what about the meat of the whole event, the speakers? Well, let’s just say I wasn’t impressed. Don’t get me wrong, they were great, but compared to last year, they failed to capture a certain excitement. In fact, it seemed more like TEDx was being used as a way for professors from the University to advertise their work. Some speakers and the MC were obviously not prepared well enough, and some needed to clarify their speeches better. Granted, I could say the same things about some talks from TEDx 2010, but the thing that differentiates last year from this year in my mind in that there are a few talks from last year that still stand out to me and I remember them vividly. This year’s event ended a few hours ago at the time of this writing and already the whole thing seems like one big blur. Nothing stood out to me as it did last year and that’s the biggest criticism I have from this year. This year was still awesome and I can’t wait until TEDx 2012, but I hope that we can learn from our mistakes this year and pick our speakers more carefully next year. Presentation is great, but with a TED event, the quality of the speakers is many times more important than anything else. Spending a little less time on the media and more time on speaker selection would go a long way and that’s what the TEDxPSU team needs to focus on for next year.