TEDx Salford – The power of WHY

I am fortunate to have been part of the largest TEDx event in the UK i.e. TEDx Salford. On the 10th November 2013 I was part of the team that organised a full day conference; attended by around 1800 people seeking inspiration and motivation by hearing from the leading individuals in their respective fields. TED is a global foundation with the motto ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’. TEDx was introduced by TED in 2009, granting individuals or groups a licence to host local, self-organized TED-like events around the world.

The idea of organising a TEDx event in Salford came to Mishal Saeed. The first event was held in January 2012 and attended by around 160 people. In just 9 months the second event was organised which was the largest independent TEDx event in the UK with approximately 1600+ attendees. A record we have successfully built on with our latest event.

So what has driven that initial event idea to become so successful? Having been part of the team I believe it is the passion and motivation behind it. A passion that has come from understanding ‘why do we want to do this?’ This understanding of WHY has inspired the belief of the team and driven us all with passion and motivation to volunteer ourselves and organise a TED-like event for our local community.

Being part of this for almost 2 years, I have found TEDx Salford an enlightening and inspiring experience in many ways. I have been fascinated to observe attendees leaving with lasting impressions and increased personal motivation. The motivation one gets by learning from people who have successfully materialised their ideas and achieved great success, can shape an individual’s future.

What made those 19 speakers stand out from the crowd and be on stage while 1800 people listen to their inspiring stories? I have managed to crack the secret code of their success after meeting those speakers in person, having conversations over the dinner table and listening to their stories. Their success resulted from their understanding of ‘WHY they wanted to do it / WHY it was important for their idea to be materialised?’. Taking the example of Thad Starner with his wearable computing projects including Google Glass, one could see his strong belief in the potential of his research and product developments. This is because he knew why his idea of wearable computing was so important to humans and the whole ecosystem; having this belief in his idea is what drives his passion and commitment and hence all his success.

Now the question is ‘How does this all relate to marketers and business leaders?’ The experience of working with TEDx Salford, recently as Marketing Director, has helped me develop as a marketer. The essence of the learning for marketers is to understand the reason/goal/objective (i.e. WHY) for any marketing plans or activity. The question of ‘why we are doing this campaign?’ or ‘why choose a particular strategic direction for the business?’ When as a manager you have the answer and understanding of this, shared with the business team, then a team is developed that collectively believes in an idea. This inspires and drives passion and commitment to materialise your ideas and marketing goals.

As we look forward to our 2014 marketing plans, review our strategic direction, look forward to geographical expansion or consider consolidation; remember to ask yourself ‘WHY?’. Understand the reason of your particular decision whether it is long term or short term, for why is it needed and what does it achieve. Get this understanding and belief across the team, get them on board and enjoy seeing your team deliver with passion and commitment. For me and our team, to see TEDx Salford grow from an idea to a successful brand and get a mention and coverage from BBC, has been a tremendous feeling of joy.

My take away lesson from TEDx Salford is understanding “The Power of Why” and how it can turn an idea into a success story.