Making a Run at TED2013

I’ve admired the TED Conference since I discovered videos of TED talks online five or six years ago.  Each presenter gets 18 minutes to express his or her “ideas worth spreading” in the most engaging way possible.  A genuine “stand up, make sense, and sit down” presentation format that does away with the stuff that doesn’t matter and puts the important stuff out front.  I think that my favorites thus far have been Jill Tarter and Mike Rowe.  I’ve become aware through TED of people who have since become heroes of sorts.  And I’ve come across ideas that I’d like to think that I’ve internalized and used to fuel much of what I’ve done, whether professionally or avocationally.

The TED approach has had a lot to do with the way in which I’ve approached Airspeed over the last six years.  After all, what else could be to blame for a suburban schlub who’s talked his way into military aircraft, flown with some of the best airshow performers out there, and become a competitive aerobatic pilot himself?

So you can imagine how exciting it was when I saw the announcement for TED2013.  At least half of the program will be crowdsourced.  Auditions will take place in 14 cities around the world.  Applications open for the New York auditions on March 30, they close on April 19m and the auditions are on June 7.  The application allows the applicant to submit a video.

I’m so on this!  Taking what I’ve learned and what I’ve done with the TED ideas and bringing them back to TED would be a capstone to much of what I’ve done with Airspeed.  And I’m just full enough of crap to fancy myself a worthy TED presenter.

But here’s the thing.  I need to develop a solid basis for an 18-minute talk that’s TED-worthy or I’m not even going to make it to the auditions.

TED is looking for inventors, teachers, prodigies, artists, performers, sages, enthusiasts, change agents, storytellers, and sparks.  I see myself as primarily an enthusiast with elements of performer and sage mixed in.  TED is expressly not looking for “product-hawkers, jargon-junkies, dullards, wafflers, motivator wannabes, self-promoters, spouters of new-age fluff.”  Check out the TED2013 FAQ for a more complete explanation.

So here’re my initial thoughts about TED angles.

1.  The next step in media production is collaboration among non-expert peers.  I’m by no means a movie director.  Just ask Will Hawkins.  I suppose I might call myself that when I get Acro Camp out.  And, when I do that, it will be because I’ve managed to Tom Sawyer resources from all over the country to help make a project like that happen.  We were able to get together to make Acro Camp because we found out about each other through new media and social media.  We managed to do impossible amounts of work on minimal sleep for nearly a week because we were big fans of each other’s work.  Acro Camp will surely prove that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  The same goes for lots of other projects and collaborations.

2.  The new currency for new-media coverage is access.  Gary Vaynerchuk (Crush It) and Tim Ferriss (The 4-Hour Work Week) are selling the impossible.  The money model just doesn’t work for most people online.  They’re not able or willing to sell hokey dietary supplements, outsource their operations overseas, or wait to be noticed by some market maker.  But there’s a growing population of literate and able storytellers and mediators of experience for whom access to the things that they love is more than adequate compensation.  Here’s the experience of one such mediator and how that access translates to great messaging for the opportunity giver and great experience for the mediator.

Good so far?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Here’s the thing:  If I proposed to try to do this TED thing without looking to my audience for feedback and essentially crowdsourcing a part of the process, I’d be rejecting the very thing that has made Airspeed great.

So jump on the comments and let me have your thoughts.  What am I missing?  What am I getting right?  Am I visionary?  Or just full of crap?  If I’m full of crap, how do I fix it?

And, by the way, please feel free to be critical. If I’ve done anything over the past six years of the show, I hope that it’s been to show you that I’m pretty thick-skinned and willing to accept objectively-stated criticism.  Frankly, the criticism is going to be most helpful.  One doesn’t go after opportunities like TED without being at least a little full of himself or the victim of his own self-erected (so to speak) echo chamber.  If my head is up my backside, please say so (and give specifics that I can use to pull it out of there).

Thanks in advance!  I really want to at least be invited to audition in New York in June.  I see your feedback as being essential to achieving that goal.

And, lastly, there must be at least a few people in the Airspeed audience who have stories or worldviews that are at least as TED-worthy as anything that I might come up with.  Perhaps the best thing that I do in this exercise is to inspire someone better than me to audition and make it to the stage at TED2013.  Sure I’d be disappointed if you and I were on the bubble and you knocked me out.  I’m competitive that way.  But it sure wouldn’t be the worst outcome.

Okay.  Let the process begin!  The application window for the New York auditions opens on March 30.  I want to be as far ahead of the curve as possible.  (And so might you!)



About Steve Tupper

Stephen Force is the superhero alter ego of mild-mannered tech and aviation lawyer, commercial pilot (glider, with private privileges in ASEL, ASES, AMEL, IA, and DC-3 (SIC) type-rated), and Civil Air Patrol lieutenant colonel Steve Tupper. Steve writes, records, and brings you the inside story about everything that really matters in aviation. He's flown with the USAF Thunderbirds, he's and airshow performer and air boss, and he's one of only five pilots ever to earn a FAST card in the glider category. Follow Steve's ongoing quest to do all that is cool in aviation at or on Twitter as @StephenForce.


  1. John G. Harte says:

    Do it. Just be your enthusiastic self, with a touch of your judgmental self critical, can’t believe I’m doing this stuff, and therefore, even you, the listener can do also attitude … Maybe crowd source your audition.
    Push the outside loop to inverted!

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