November 16, 2010


TEDxToronto and TEDxIBYork
Making comparisons may not be fair but we routinely do. Previous experiences raise expectations but future events have the advantage of learning from the past. Which is better?

In this case, we're looking at two volunteer-run, non-profit TEDx events. If you're new to TED and TEDx, here's a primer and a summary of TEDxToronto, my first TEDx event.

Both events could have been very similar but weren't. By extension, you can give your events their own niche or personality too. Here are examples.


The two events had different focuses (foci?). TEDxToronto had a corporate feel and was much like a professionally run conference.

TEDxIBYork had an educational orientation. Many attendees were students in an International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Try spelling that five times fast without a spelling checker!
IB provides a higher level of high school education and has standardized exams in grade 12. The US Advanced Placement (AP) program also provides enriched education. The York School has a private IB program and hosted the TEDx event.


TEDxToronto was free (including lunch) and took place in downtown Toronto in the Glen Gould Studio. Thanks sponsors!

TEDxIBYork also had sponsors but charged for tickets to cover costs($75 for students and $100 for adults). The talks took place in the auditorium of the spacious Ontario Science Centre. Admission included breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Anyone could go to TEDxIBYork but TEDxToronto required an application. Maybe that's why everyone at TEDxToronto knew what TED was. At TEDxIBYork, the adults I spoke to rarely knew!?! They attended because of their children.

Each system has merits. I'd prefer to pay money and be assured of admission.


TEDxToronto encouraged attendees to give live updates via Twitter. That's the norm at many events, including Third Tuesday (see Dell's flubbed opportunity from last week). TEDxIBYork banned electronics. Maybe that's because students were attending? 


At TEDxToronto, you could keep the same seat for the whole day, and most did. At TEDxIBYork, you were forced to find a new spot after each break. Since both venues were fairly intimate, both approaches work. I prefer a fixed seat near the front.

The Big Difference

TEDxToronto had two celebrity hosts but they didn't have much to do since speaker introductions were pre-recorded. In the afternoon, one left but this didn't matter.

TEDxIBYork had one host, David Newland. I've seen too many MCs over the years and he's the best. He truly was part of the event, rather than an interjection like a commercial break. He worked from a thick stack of index cards. There may have been major mishaps behind the scenes but we never knew since the day flowed so smoothly for us. David was low-key but witty. He spoke like a late night radio announcer, but kept us captivated and alert (reminiscent of Augusta LaPaix on Brave New Waves).

I thought David had practiced for ages. Not true. He volunteered mere days earlier when the original host quit. I didn't appreciate the value of exceptional hosting before.

Which Is Better?

Do you see how there are enough differences between TEDxIBYork and TEDxToronto? Attending both is ideal and that's my plan for next time.


PS Visit on your next coffee or lunch break for ideas worth spreading.


  1. Not sure about the 'banned electronics' at IBYork. Myself (@shaw_tim)and many others were tweeting all day. At one point David asked if people were tweeting and commented that it is a great way to share with those outside of the walls. Either way it was a great event.

  2. Promod, nice comparison. I think you got it right that both events were great and quite different which is in essence the beauty of the flexible TEDx model.

    Look forward to seeing you at BOTH next year :)

  3. Thanks for the comment, Tim. The Conference Protocol for TEDxIBYork said "Turn your cell phones, Blackberries and iPhones off or to silent. Do not use them during sessions".

    Similarly, we were discouraged from using laptops because we "need to focus, and keyboards are distracting".

    It's hard to tweet without gadgets! Technically, it seems that Androids and iPads were allowed :)

    When David asked about tweeting, I figured he meant during the breaks.
    Based on what you observed, the restrictions weren't enforced.

  4. Thanks for the comment and pre-approval, Adil :)

    It's TEDxToronto that worries me. There may be restrictions on repeat attendees to give new people an opportunity to attend.

  5. Gosh, thanks so much for the kind words.

    I was a little unsure about working from the stack of cards; I prefer to go note-free for each speaker. But that was a long lineup and I had to respect the organizers' wish for certainty and clarity.

    Hope to host more TEDx events in the future.

  6. I watched David Newland as the panel moderator of the event last month.

    I completely agree with your assessment of his hosting abilities. I won't be surprised when the man gets his own Late Night Talk show

  7. @David you had quite a stack of cards at the start of the day! I hope you're back next year.

    @db I didn't know about MusicConnectTO until now. It looks like it would have been interesting. I'm glad you agreed with my assessment of David.