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Fostering Change through Events: Insights from Monique Ruff-Bell, CPO at TED Conferences

"Understand why your event is needed in the marketplace. Ask yourself why" - Monique Ruff-Bell quote

Events are more than gatherings; they are catalysts for change, driving innovation, fostering connections, and inspiring action. TED Conferences embody this by presenting ideas that inspire profound shifts in thinking and behavior, making each event a step toward a better future. To illustrate this transformative power of events, we spoke with Monique Ruff-Bell, Chief Program Officer for TED Conferences.

In this blog post, Monique shares best practices on defining your event's purpose, building a unified team, adhering to licensing and legal standards for content repurposing, and designing events that truly engage your audience.

Her insights provide a roadmap for creating impactful, meaningful events that leave a lasting legacy.

Expert Insights

Understanding Your 'Why' in Event Planning

Before launching a new event or initiative, it’s essential to grasp its necessity in the market clearly.

"The events industry is a $1.1 trillion dollar industry. It is a viable industry. It makes a lot of money. However, it also takes a lot of work and money to launch something new and build a community. It can take three to five years to get to a profitable business model for an event if you are truly starting from scratch. So, you have to understand why this is needed in the marketplace. So why? Ask yourself why.” - Monique Ruff-Bell

Dig deep into your audience's actual needs and ensure that your events address a genuine need or interest, thereby increasing the potential for success and engagement.

Important steps to keep in mind are:

  • Define your event's unique value proposition.

  • Research industry gaps that your event could fill.

  • Align the event's purpose with your company's mission and values.

Building a Unified Team

Aspire to be recognized for leading teams that excel and outperform. Foster an environment where team members are encouraged to think and act strategically. Enable them through training, provide opportunities to present in key meetings, and showcase their work to the wider organization. By elevating your team in this manner, you enhance their capabilities and affirm your identity as an effective leader committed to collective achievement.

Here are some actionable steps to empower you to act as a mentor to your team members:

  • Ensure all team members can speak when needed and confirm important points to avoid misunderstandings.

  • Address confusion immediately and emphasize both speaking and listening.

  • Trust your team’s abilities and allow them to take charge when needed.

  • Regularly recognize and reward team contributions and achievements.

Balancing Control and Empowerment in Event Licensing

Embracing trust and relinquishing control is vital when embarking on a licensing program.

“Letting go of control is very hard to do, but it is a part of it when you do a licensing program.” - Monique emphasizes about TEDx local event licensing". - Monique Ruff-Bell.

Understand that your brand's success partially relies on others. Vet your partners thoroughly, set clear guidelines, and then step back to let them execute your vision within their own context. This doesn't mean abandoning oversight but recognizing that constant micromanagement is neither possible nor productive. Instead, focus on empowering your partners with the right ethos and resources to maintain your brand's integrity while succeeding independently.

Action steps for successful licensing:

  • Enforce the standards of your licensing agreement decisively. Have non-negotiables and be ready to revoke licenses or shut down operations that fail to comply.

  • Create robust feedback mechanisms for quality assurance involving organizers, attendees, and other stakeholders.

The Art of Repurposing Event Content: Legalities and Impact

Monique sees AI as the Wild West in terms of its potential to transform day-to-day tasks and enhance business. TED harnesses AI to improve its platform, including dubbing TED Talks in multiple languages to cater to regional audiences. However, she emphasizes the importance of discussing both the benefits and challenges of AI. Additionally, she advocates for repurposing event content to reach a broader audience while always respecting legal and ethical considerations.

Monique highlights the importance of having clear curation guidelines and content usage policies to protect intellectual property rights across different platforms.

Action steps for expanding reach legally and ethically:

  • Implement speaker release forms, review presentation materials, and secure necessary approvals and licenses for shared content, including music and entertainment.

  • Have legal counsel available to monitor presentations and address concerns immediately.

AnswerBite Tip for Maximizing the Impact of Your Event

Create custom content packages that extend beyond providing attendees with the full event recordings. Repurpose events into Summaries, Relevant Stats, and Playbooks that keep the conversation alive and create additional revenue streams through exclusive content sales.

They also offer insights and feedback for improving future events and driving website traffic. Furthermore, they facilitate learning and development while showcasing event highlights, which promote the event's success and attract interest for future occasions.

Embracing Vertical Specialization for Maximum Engagement

While generalist events cast a wide net, Monique highlights the value of starting with targeted, vertical events. This specialization allows for a tailored experience, better sponsorship alignment, and community trust-building. Vertical events can serve as a springboard for eventual expansion into broader audiences.

Steps for successful vertical specialization:

  • Start with a niche focus to hone your event model.

  • Gather targeted feedback to improve and refine your event.

  • Plan long-term growth with a roadmap for scaling your event vertically and horizontally.

With these insights, you can elevate your event planning and execution strategies to create meaningful impacts.

"We have to give spaces too, so it's not just about what it's doing for us, it's not just about how it's affecting our business, but also how we're putting this information out to the community so they can weigh in and help be change-makers for that as well." – Monique Ruff-Bell.

Take a page from 'Monique's playbook' and start planning events that not only bring people together but also foster innovation, inspiration, and change.


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