This past Saturday I attended TEDx Mile High’s event in Denver, Colorado, ASCEND. Well, I attended the first half and watched the remainder of it online. And today I’m reflecting on the overall efficacy of TEDx Talks, a growing phenomenon across the globe, in general.

Do TEDx Talks lead to real-world action and change?

TEDx Talks are more regional extensions of TED Talks, whose slogan is “ideas worth spreading.” They’re usually inspiring and controversial, but controversial in a comfortable way. And they cater to a select audience– an audience I’m not so sure is ultimately interested in embodying and acting on the messages conveyed during the talks.

I wonder: are TED Talks inspiring and effective enough to get attendees to act and effect change in the real world? I’m not so sure. I truly want to believe they are because they cover remarkable, valuable topics that make you think about remarkable, valuable things and people.

I find it incredibly problematic that you have to pay a steep fee to attend one of these talks. Sure you can watch them online later for free, but in-person access means something and offers something online access doesn’t. Sure, I get that TED is a nonprofit organization that needs to raise funds to put on these talks. But charging such a steep fee limits the type of audience they attract and entertain. They attract people with more disposable income who can actually afford to not act on the information they’re coming across during the talks in real life.

What are you supposed to do after attending a TEDx Talk anyway?

Many TED attendees will likely be inspired by what they see and hear at a talk. But how long will that inspiration last? And will such inspiration lead them to do anything in the real world? If so, what exactly should they be doing?

For instance, if attendees hear about how local businesses are polluting their nearby water sources and how it’s affecting local communities of color, will they actually do anything? Should they feel obligated to do anything? I don’t want to be cynical, but a majority of attendees likely feel good enough about themselves for simply attending a talk, and then mostly forget about everything they’ve heard in a few weeks or so afterward. But is that okay, or morally reprehensible?

Is attending a talk enough to effect change? How many attendees would have to act on what they hear at a TED Talk in order for TED Talks to be considered efficacious? Or is that not the point of them at all? If you only continue to share the ideas you encounter while at a TED Talk with others, is that an act that’s good enough or powerful enough to effect change? Probably.

Personally, I get overwhelmed with everything I hear at TED Talks and don’t know where to start effecting change afterward. There is a lot that needs attention, immediately, it seems. During talks, I don’t always hear clear calls to action either. And even if I did, there would be too many of them to heed at one time, and it’s challenging to know where to start.

Now, what do you think about TEDx Talks?

I suppose for now then, spreading ideas I encounter at TED Talks will suffice until I am clearer on what I should do about what I see and hear while attending them, in the real world. Or perhaps spreading such ideas via writing is my way to act as a writer. That seems correct and valuable.

Are you a writer? Have you ever been to a TED Talk before? Share your thoughts in the comments below to start a dialogue. Or tag @kereighton on Facebook.

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