Timbo: I reckon you are going to love this fireside chat I had with TEDx Melbourne curator since 2009, John Yeo. Now I first met John about two years go. He picked me up from a train station actually, and I went to speak at his local chamber of commerce. That’s the very first time I met him. I didn’t see him again until I recently went to TEDx in Melbourne and met John again, and I didn’t kind of draw the fact that I’d met him before. Someone introduced me to him and said, “Here, meet John. He’s the boss here.” And I didn’t pick up the fact that that was the John that – I’m hopeless at that type of stuff. Usually pretty good with faces, hopeless with names. Usually pretty good with faces, but sorry, John, didn’t recognize you that time when I med you at TEDx recently.
Anyway, now John’s position at TEDx is voluntary, believe it or not, as the curator. He’s been doing it since 2009. When he’s not doing TEDx stuff, he actually has a business focused on productivity and engagement in the workplace. Very, very passionate business guy is John. And we cover a lot of ground here. We talk about what TED is, in case you don’t know, in case you have been living under a rock. Okay? And if you don’t know what TED is, go to ted.com and check it out. Or specifically to John, Google TEDx Melbourne and check that out. We explain exactly what TED is early on and how it came to be so successful.
We have a really good chat about branding, about getting bums on seats, about the power of public speaking as a marketing channel, and so much more. And I started off by asking John what his favorite TED talk was, and why.
John Yeo: Ooh, that’s a great question. It’s quite tricky that one. It’s kind of like asking what your favorite child is. But one that always stands out is, it’s always the ones that really are tight and pithy, and Derek Sivers’ video called Weird But Different is definitely one of those. It’s about 2 ½ minutes.
John Yeo: Yeah. One of the reasons I like it is a lot of people have great ideas, but what Derek’s talking about in that particular video is actually one of the assumptions we make about the world we live in. And why I like that one is all great ideas have come from someone thinking about their current situation in a slightly different way. And the talk talks pretty much to that.
Timbo: Is that a TED talk or TEDx talk?
John Yeo: No, it’s a TED talk.
Timbo: Well let’s talk about what is TED. Because interestingly enough, before I hit the record button, we were talking about, you know, is TED, is there a saturation out there in the marketplace? Has TED still got growth left in it? I reckon there’s a whole lot of listeners out there who don’t know what TED is. In fact, I thought all TED talks were 18 minutes, and you just told me your favorite is 2 ½ minutes. So what is TED, and what’s the premise?
John Yeo: Sure. TED began as a conference about, just over 30 years ago, based around the premise of ideas worth spreading. It began mostly as a private – well not a private event, but just a regular conference, like any other conference. But what differentiated it in 2005 is they decided to take all the recordings that they had from those events, and put them on a website. And that was phenomenally successful to the point where, this year, I think there’s about a billion viewers of TED videos, and there’s 480 million unique people watching TED talks on any given moment. So that’s Ted as a brand. Just to answer your question around TEDx Melbourne as well, I guess I should clarify that.
TEDx, where the x stands for an independently organized event. So we’re all volunteers, including myself. And we get to curate and put together TED-like events in our local town. So my job as curator is to find all the speakers and explore these ideas worth spreading in a Melbourne context [inaudible] [00:17:41].
Timbo: So before we leave TED then and go into TEDx Melbourne or TEDx, does TED stand for technology education design?
John Yeo: Entertainment and design.
Timbo: Oh, technology entertainment design.
John Yeo: Yes, technology enter – so the guy that noticed it was realizing that there was a fusion between those three areas, and essentially gathered some friends to talk about it.
Timbo: And it was originally amazing that he had filmed all those talks prior to even thinking about putting them online as a website. And were the first ones Cupertino or Oxford?
John Yeo: So it began way back when actually in Monterey, California. So yeah, he did have a lot of vision. In fact –
Timbo: A lot of vision.
John Yeo: – yeah, in terms of recording them, absolutely.
Timbo: Who was he?
John Yeo: His name was Richard Saul Werman. And he sold it to a guy called Chris Anderson in 2001.
Timbo: Why do I know the – who’s Chris Anderson?
John Yeo: Chris Anderson is the current curator and owner of the TED –
Timbo: Maybe I just know him because that’s – he’s that. Seems like I know him from elsewhere.
John Yeo: Yeah, there’s another Chris Anderson that does Wide Magazine, or something like that.
Timbo: Yeah, there is.
John Yeo: Yeah, yeah.
Timbo: Uh-huh. So TEDx just grew, and it went through some just crazy growth. And listeners, just go to ted.com and you’re just going to be blown away. As a resource, as an alternative to TV, as a way of honing your speaking skills. Because even though your favorite talk, John, was, is a 2 ½ minute talk, correct me if I’m wrong, but is the premise of pure TED talk 18 minutes?
John Yeo: So they’re known for their 18 minute talks. But talks go up to 18 minutes. So what I’ve noticed, particularly in the last 12 months, is actually the videos that have actually got more popularity are around the 9 minute mark.
Timbo: Yeah, well our attention span is like that of a gnat.
John Yeo: It’s definitely shrinking.
Timbo: It sure is. So there is not a – you are not required to deliver an 18 minute talk if you’re invited onto the TED stage?
John Yeo: No. Look, the premise I like to have there is what do you want to say? And how long do you think it will take to say it? If it takes 18 minutes, it takes 18 minutes. If it takes 9, let’s do up 9. But –
John Yeo: – wouldn’t you rather a talk that had amazing impact that was 9 minutes than one that was 18?
Timbo: Like the life lesson there, John. I reckon half the business books that are written could be written on an A4 piece of paper. And I’m not underplaying the power of the ideas. I use Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink as an example of this, where, love the book, love the idea that when you see or meet – see something for the first time or meet someone for the first time, you know whether it’s the real thing or not. There you go. There’s the idea. Didn’t need 400 pages.
John Yeo: No, no. In fact, I was actually – I had the pleasure of actually meeting Jack Canfield, and I asked him – it actually came up in conversation, he actually believes that the reason why his Chicken Soup series was so successful is that none of the stories are longer than 4 pages.
Timbo: So true. And the interesting thing about that is that it’s really hard to be simple.
John Yeo: Yeah. Oh yeah, absolutely.
Timbo: It’s easy to complicate things. So getting back to TED –
John Yeo: Sure.
Timbo: – so the premise – okay, so it’s not 18 minutes. It’s up to 18 minutes. Another premise, I guess, is that it has to be one idea worth spreading as the basis of your talk. Correct?
John Yeo: In particular, the worth spreading bit. A lot of people forget – I mean it’s easy to come up with an idea, not to disparage ideas, but there’s a load of ideas out there.
Timbo: Not a shortage of them.
John Yeo: But what are the ones worth spreading? What’s going to cause someone to – again, when I’m speaking to my speakers, I ask them, “At the end of your talk, someone ideally leans forward in their chair, looks at the person next to him, whether they know them or not, and says, ‘That guy on stage there – or gal – they’re either brilliant or they’ve got rocks in their head. Like what is that?’” You know? If they’re not going to talk about it, it’s not going to be viral and it’s not going to spread.
Timbo: So true. The one that – my favorite – it’s probably not my favorite – it’s really hard to pick a favorite TED talk because there are so many. But the one that always comes to mind is the bloke who invented the shark-proof wetsuit.
John Yeo: Ah yes. Good old TEDx Perth.
Timbo: TEDx Perth?
John Yeo: Yeah.
Timbo: Not even a TED talk?
John Yeo: Absolutely.
Timbo: Like I’m listening to that, I’m going – because I’ve always laughed kind of at the fact that wetsuits are generally black and make you look like a seal, which is sharks’ favorite lollies. So this guy’s invented a suit that reflects water, that is not – one of them isn’t – it’s hard to see in water. It’s like what was Brian Singer thinking at Ripcure when he did invent the seal costume?
John Yeo: He probably – you know, I’m guessing way back when, they probably just ordered big sheets of rubber and just stapled, sewed them together – sorry.
Timbo: Well he did. In fact, I’ve interviewed him on this show, and yeah, a great story. It would be a great TEDx – well, no, would it be? No, it wouldn’t be a great TEDx story because it’s a story of a business. But he bought a World War II sewing machine and set up a little booth, a little house in Torquay and started making wetsuits for his mates down at Bells Beach because it was just too cold. It’s how all great businesses start, isn’t it? Just like [inaudible] [00:23:30].
John Yeo: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
Timbo: So that was, yeah, my favorite. And very, very sharable. You know? Like it’s like again, you know, the founder of TED was just like ahead of his time because now, when I talk about marketing and I hear others talk about marketing, we talk about, is that shareable? You know? If we’re creating content – we talk a lot about content on this show and inside my forum – it’s like is that going to be sharable? Will people want to pass that on to one person or lots of people?
John Yeo: Yeah, exactly.
Timbo: And certainly TED talks get you to do that. So TEDx, John, did you buy the license and bring it to Melbourne? You’re a volunteer curator. How does all that work?
John Yeo: Sure, sure. So first of all, there is no license fee. But what actually happens is the moment you run your event, the license expires and based on a public survey that goes out from TED, the renewal is based on the feedback. So if they don’t like the feedback, you don’t get your license renewed.
John Yeo: That’s the first part of it. Having said that, I’ve run 12 events now, so I think I’m doing okay.
Timbo: You’re doing okay.
John Yeo: I think I’m doing okay.
Timbo: Were you one of the first TEDx in Australia?
John Yeo: Yes.
Timbo: In the world?
John Yeo: I think I’m probably one of the more experienced ones globally. Simply because of the number of events I’ve run, and I’ve been doing this for about five years now.
Timbo: It’s such an amazing brand. And obviously, it attracted someone like you to it, who’s an astute business person. What do you love about the TEDx brand the way TED – because it’s really TED that you bought into – knows about marketing itself.
John Yeo: Sure. TED as a brand attracts clever people. You know? Change makers, thought leaders, etc. And first of all, I feel that’s my tribe. So that’s a pretty easy one to sort of be part of, I think. The other part of it though is really strong on the attitude. I’ve never been to a TED or TEDx event where you could pretty much say your wildest, most craziest dream, and someone would say, “No, that’s not possible.” In fact, everyone has said, “I love that idea.” Or, “Have you also thought about this?” Or, “You should meet this person.” It’s very positive oriented.
And it’s somewhat addictive. It’s pretty – you know, to be in a space where everyone thinks you’re cool.
Timbo: Well, and by way of example of that, you know, I was at the recent TEDx event in Melbourne that you put on – and well done, by the way.
John Yeo: Thank you.
Timbo: A full room and amazing speakers. And you know, I go to the 40 a lot and you are expected to – at the 40, you know, when someone takes a mark, you cheer, particularly if they’re on your side. But there were people cheering for thoughts and opinions shared during people’s talks at the TEDx event. You don’t see that all the time.
John Yeo: No, absolutely. The goal for our event is to change the way people think and feel about the world they live in. And we’re not doing our job unless people are inspired or excited by the content that we put on stage, but also by the people that choose to be in the space. And how do we best serve them by creating opportunities for them to connect?
Timbo: So you’re into community building? I love the idea of community building. How do you do that? Like how do you get – let’s start with speakers. I imagine you’d get a lot of speakers putting their hand up saying, “I want to be on the TEDx stage.”
John Yeo: Yes. So we had – you were there – we had about, I think it was 14 items up on stage. About 300 applications to get there. So the competition’s pretty high.
Timbo: And how often does it run? Once a year?
John Yeo: Well we historically run a few a year, but we’re not going to do that anymore because as our events have got bigger – you know, we’re almost 900 people now – it’s actually got technically very difficult for our volunteers to manage.
John Yeo: So we’re scaling back the events in terms of large scale. But we’re actually doing something a bit clever next year, which I’ll talk about.
Timbo: Yeah, hold that thought. So let’s get back to – I’d love to know – so you got 300 speakers, you’ve got to get it down to 14, and they have got to be people who are going to get us all thinking, inspired, challenged. How do you do that?
John Yeo: So again, come back to the premise. Ideas worth spreading. Focus on the worth spreading bit. What is it that’s going to cause someone to sit up and go, “Whoa.” It can’t just be something clever or tricky. Yeah, you might remember the Andrew Gazon talk where he talked about the Criminal Code. Do you remember him talking about – and what was interesting about that particular talk, I think, was he originally came to me, he said, “Look, I tried to hand myself into the police, but they told me to go away.” Which is kind of funny in itself.
But long story short, rather than him talking about himself handing himself in, we got him to explore what the Criminal Code was. And it was essentially do what you say you’re going to do. If your brother is in trouble, always – you’ve got to back him up. Don’t exploit women. Don’t exploit children. Don’t take advantage of the poor. And so I said to Andrew, “What if we positioned it this way? Imagine a world where people did what they said they were going to do. If you ever got in trouble, you knew someone always had your back. And we lived in a world that didn’t exploit women, children or the poor.
What sort of world could we live in?” In which case, who’s the criminal? What gives us the right to point fingers at someone when they feel like they’re doing something that serves a higher purpose? I unfortunately choose to do it in a way that’s maybe not so positive as an outcome. But you can’t deny that the values underneath are still there. They just interpret it different.
Timbo: Absolutely. So you’re looking – and again, some of the speakers, listeners who were there at the most recent TEDx Melbourne – we had a lady who was one of 28 people in Australia destined to fly to Mars in, I think it was 2025, one-way trip. That was interesting, hearing about someone who can’t wait to hop on a plane and head out of the universe and never come back. There was a guy who figured out – I can’t remember what the term he used, but figured out he could – 1,500 different language indicators to figure out whether you were lying or not or whether – that was fascinating. Just, the list went on and on. So you were looking for people who not only had great ideas, but were infinitely sharable.
John Yeo: Yeah, absolutely. I mean these people are bold in so many ways. In their thinking, in their attitude, even being willing to give away what some people might see as their core IP.
Timbo: Oh yeah. People get worried about that.
John Yeo: And you know, sharing because they genuinely love the idea that this could really fundamentally change the world they live in, I think. And it’s that attitude which will always help, rather than I’ve got something I could promote, or I could position this – it’s got –
Timbo: Okay, so how do you – because of those 300, John, I am guess there is a large proportion who just want to be able to put TEDx on the speaker’s bio, right?
John Yeo: Absolutely.
Timbo: So therefore, they’re coming at it from the wrong place. Have any ever got through your filter? And how do you weed them out?
John Yeo: So none have got through my filter.
Timbo: Oh, you’re good.
John Yeo: I have a fairly rigorous process. Of those 300 people, probably 19 out of 20 wouldn’t, weren’t – either an idea worth spreading or seen as self-promoting. So they’ll be told. And I want to apologize – there’s a handful I haven’t got back to. But I’ll explain why.
Timbo: Ooh, do it now. Just do it broadly.
John Yeo: I will. Thanks. Thanks for your application.
Timbo: Yup, Connor was –
John Yeo: Which at this point, didn’t fit within either our theme or didn’t fit in with the context that we were trying to do.
Timbo: Yeah, trying to sell too hard, one of them was.
John Yeo: [Inaudible] [00:31:56], yeah. Look, I never say no to people. I just say, “Look, let’s keep exploring.” Because the moment you limit yourself, is the moment you start – that’s when everything goes to pot. So those people, even the 1 in 20 that do get through, 30 percent don’t make it through the speech development program that I’ve created.
Timbo: Ooh, what’s that?
John Yeo: So I’ve got a little – well, it’s not a little process anymore – it takes about eight to 25 hours. And it’s a speech development program that allows people to deliver messages with impact. And so I work with speakers all the time around this, not just in the TED context, to help people talk about what they love, but also deliver in a contextually relevant way, and in an engaging way. To make sure that people are on the edge of their seat.
Timbo: So that’s kind of like – that’s a speakers’ training program?
John Yeo: Yeah, kind of a speakers’ training program.
Timbo: I’ve recently read How to Deliver a TED talk. It kind of did my head in a bit. Quite complicated, that book.
John Yeo: There’s three books out there, and they’re all quite clever in technique. But maybe I’m sounding a bit self-promotion here, but I like to think mine’s better.
Timbo: Ah, well, if you don’t, who will? I know, past guest, Zara, Zara Swindels Grosz, past guest of this show, she did a TEDx talk. 80 hours’ practice for 18 minutes. How good was her talk too, by the way?
John Yeo: Look, it’s not unusual for speakers to do that. I can guarantee a standing ovation on my stage with the formula I have. I think it’s pretty rigorous, and that’s what Zara does in terms of the hours committed is definitely a significant part of that.
Timbo: Yeah. And she talked about Zara being my speaking coach, and she’s brutal. First thing she says is, “You’ve been practicing? You’ve got to do it two or three times a day, Timbo.” She’s just like – you know, I haven’t – John, don’t tell anyone, but I never did it three times a day practice in my off days. But I still – I have one keynote that I’ve delivered all year, and I still do my opening once a day just in my head when I’m driving, for sort of the first ten minutes. It’s great. I mean if you are speaking, and there will be people listening here who’d die to get on the TED stage, TEDx stage, practice is everything.
John Yeo: That’s the level of commitment required.
Timbo: Oh, it is, it is. And then I – in fact, I was listening to a podcast the other day, Dave Hughes, the comedian was being interviewed by Osha Ginsburg, Andy G. – used to be Andy G – and he was interviewing Dave. A really good interview. A good in-depth interview, you know? And Dave was talking about – he just left TV and radio about a year ago, and he’s gone on the road with this stand-up routine, and talking about how he agonizes, and sort of he being all good comedians, you know – agonize over words and the way you deliver words.
And they could agonize over a word for – one word in one sentence for a week, just to get that nuance right.
John Yeo: Yeah, not surprised. Chris Rock does a Chris Rock video on YouTube, and it literally shows maybe 40 or 50 separate gigs that he’s done, and what this guy’s done is spliced random parts of that – of each of those videos into one video. And the conversation and the sentence continues the entire way through. And the only way you can tell that it’s a different scene is he’s wearing something different.
Timbo: Unreal. That’s clever.
John Yeo: Yeah, it’s a really interesting – go watch it. I can’t remember what the URL is, but I’ll try and dig it up.
Timbo: I will – please send it through, but I’ll look it up. I’ll put it in the show notes for this episode. Okay, so your filter’s rigorous, 14 out of 300. You then put them through a speech development program, eight to 25 hours. Do they – is that something they need to pay for? Or does that come with becoming a TEDx speaker?
John Yeo: Well, if they’re on my stage, that’s the expectation.
Timbo: Yeah, right.
John Yeo: If they’re not going to do that, then they don’t get on my stage.
Timbo: Like Max Walker was on your stage. He wouldn’t need to do it. So do you tell people, “You’ve got to do it? You don’t have to do it?”
John Yeo: Actually –
Timbo: Oh, get out. You’re going to say Max did it.
John Yeo: Everyone commits.
Timbo: Love it.
John Yeo: Everyone commits because they understand what we’re trying to create. This is not just a speech.
Timbo: Is this a bit cookie cutter? Are we going to all – are they all going to sound the same?
John Yeo: Well do you think they sounded the same?
John Yeo: No, exactly. See, part of that is understanding one element is understanding your own personal style. So there’s nine elements in this, which I won’t go into now. There’s nine elements. One of them is your personal style –
Timbo: So that’s so important.
John Yeo: – and how do you make sure that that is – exactly – how do you make sure that that’s reflected in what you’re doing?
Timbo: Like Marketing 101, 102, 201 – like that is so important. It’s like – I think I’ve said this in a recent episode, but I’ll say it again because like people want to – every business wants to differentiate themselves. And I have a lot of business owners listen to this show, and they all want to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace. The USP’s dead in terms of your product is not different to your competitor’s product or service. So one way, one way of differentiating yourself is being yourself and really honoring your personality in the brand that you’re trying to build.
John Yeo: Yeah, absolutely. If they’re not honoring themselves as an individual and letting that permeate through their message, then it’s got an air of incongruency –
Timbo: It sure has.
John Yeo: – and you can sniff it a mile away.
Timbo: Yup. It was actually interesting – because I feel very strongly about that point. Toastmasters announced the winner of their – and I’m not a big fan of Toastmasters – sorry, Toastmasters, but they announced their public speaking winner of the year a few months ago. And I went and had a look at his talk. I’ve got to say, it felt so – I don’t know whether you’ve seen it – it felt very –
John Yeo: I have not seen it.
Timbo: – manufactured. You know? He was just ticking all the boxes. You know?
John Yeo: Yeah, and that’s what they do. That’s what a lot of these things do. They do talk about ticking boxes. And what we’re doing is crafting an experience. As a brand, we’re a brand experience. As a speaker, they’re a content experience. It’s no different. How does that all interrelate? How do we get that to connect with the audience? How do we make that relevant and engaging? You know, they’re just 101 type things. But if you do them consistently, that’s where you get to grow as an individual and as an organization. We started off with 53 people on our mail list, and we’ve got – last year – sorry this year we had 2 million mentions on social media.
Timbo: TEDx? TEDx Melbourne?
John Yeo: Yeah.
John Yeo: Yeah.
Timbo: What was the split, out of interest? Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn? Sort of that way?
John Yeo: Yeah, yeah, that’s probably the right ratio in the right order.
Timbo: 2 million?
John Yeo: Yeah.
Timbo: And you do follow that via people hashtagging?
John Yeo: Yeah, it’s use of the hashtag.
Timbo: Yeah, yeah. Wow, that’s so significant. So let’s talk – one of the discussions that I’ve got going on in the Small Business, Big Marketing forum at the moment, John, is about getting bums on seats. I’ve got a member who’s starting some events up in Brisbane, and she’s going, “How do I get bums on seats?” which is the ongoing question for anyone who wants to put on an event. And unfortunately, there’s a whole lot, as you say, the marketplace is getting crowded. There’s no shortage of events to go to these days. Many are free because someone’s going to pitch you something at the end.
And so therefore, people’s kind of – people’s radars of like, no, I’m not going to go to that because I’m going to get pitched at, are quite sensitive these days. You got 900 into a room at the Melbourne Convention Center recently.
John Yeo: In about two weeks.
Timbo: In what?
John Yeo: In about two weeks. It took us two weeks to get those numbers.
Timbo: That’s nuts. I think I paid – what did I pay? Did I pay 100 bucks for the ticket, 150 bucks? What was it?
John Yeo: 145.
Timbo: 145. So tell me, are you there for – do you rely – just sit back and rely on the TED brand to get those bookings?
John Yeo: God, no.
Timbo: No? Okay. Then how do you do it?
John Yeo: Well, it comes – there’s some fundamental pieces which I started to mention. So you have relevance and engagement. If we’re not relevant and we’re not engaging, the brand will never go anywhere. What people expect and what they experience will never be in sync. So we’re acutely aware that every single touch point that we have with someone, we’re constantly adding value. We’re constantly having an engaging question with them, if you like, or something that’s going to get them to think about the world they live in. And even Melbourne in particular, there’s a bit of rash – we just mentioned before the interview – there’s been a rash of events in the innovation space.
And we’ve constantly had to be in front of that, thought-leading in that regard. So one of the ways you can do that is making sure you understand your community really well. So you might remember – the application form for coming to our event, it’s not just what’s your name and your contact details. You might remember it had things like, what are you proud of? What are three websites that represent you as a human being? We’re able to get some deep insights into what I call the psychographic of our community. What excites them? What’s their hopes and dreams and aspirations?
We also ask the causes they support, their hobbies and interests, so that we get a contextual understanding of who’s in our room. And by doing that, we can understand things like, well, if we were to do this particular theme or this particular topic or have this particular speaker, would they find that relevant? And then I work with the speakers to work out, well how do we make this engaging for them? And if you’re constantly mapping these together in as granular way as possible, then rather than speaking at them, you’re having conversations with them.
And that’s a key differentiator. We [inaudible] [00:42:47] better job of doing that this year. I think we did a really good job last year. But in terms of we’re not just saying, “This is the event. This is the qualifications of our speakers. This is the topic they’re going to speak about.”
Timbo: [Inaudible] [00:43:01].
John Yeo: We’re saying, “Why do you even want to be with us? How can we serve you, achieve things both within our event that you might find interesting? But how do we also engage with topics outside of our event that are relevant to you? And how do we help you connect with those people? How do we help you solve your life’s problems, if we can call them that, in a way that moves beyond just come to a conference?
Timbo: So you do a whole – and what’s amazing about that, John, is that it’s all voluntary, and I just wonder – I guess this is across all of TED and clearly TED’s not being held back, but I’m going to say it anyway – is TEDx being held back by the fact that you’ve got all this amazing [inaudible] [00:43:44], you’ve got the opportunity to engage via social media at probably a pretty amazing level, by being able to speak with versus at your tribe. Yes, you’re all volunteers, and you’re all running your own businesses outside of your TEDx stuff. So I’m guessing you could be doing a whole lot more – scary really, given you’re getting 900 bums on seats in two weeks.
John Yeo: Absolutely. Look, you know, I reckon – I guesstimate we’re working within maybe 40 to 60 percent of what we could potentially do with a fulltime organization.
Timbo: Oh. And the marketplace is becoming more competitive. So is it now time – has the world caught up with TED? And is it time for TED to make the next bold move?
John Yeo: I think we’re already doing that. I mentioned the adventures. It’s a classic example.
Timbo: The adventures?
John Yeo: Yes. So –
Timbo: Is this your 2015 plan?
John Yeo: Plans, yeah.
Timbo: Because you just – in the context of that – listeners, by the way, I’m speaking to John Yeo, who is the curator of TEDx Melbourne and has been since 2009. John, you’ve literally just got back this week from an even in Christchurch.
John Yeo: Yeah, the National Organizers’ Conference, which is pretty much everyone in Australia and New Zealand sharing best practice and ideas.
Timbo: Okay, so 2015, what’s the step up?
John Yeo: Well, we noticed that we had a whole bunch of scenarios – and I’ll give you one that’s kind of a favorite at the moment. We’re working with a car manufacturer. They have a situation that obviously, in Australia in particular, all the manufacturing for cars is leading. They expect a talent pool shrinkage within five to seven years. And they have this lab, and what’s unique about this lab is it’s one of the few labs on the planet that can design a car and build a car. And I said, “Ah, cool. Can we get in that lab?” And he said, “No.” He said, “Why not?” He said, “People in our company can’t get in that lab.” I said, “All right, so you’ve got this scenario where you’ve – five to seven years?”
He said, “Yeah.” He goes, “Well, we work with an amazing bunch called Robo Girls. They encourage girls in Years 7 and 8 to do science, engineering, technology.”
Timbo: Robo Girls.
John Yeo: Robo Girls, yeah. And I said, “Well, what if we got – what if I work with Fairfax, our local newspaper, and do a story about your commitment to science – not only science, engineering and technology, but girls in particular?” And they liked the idea. So long story short, we have access to that lab. And you can only get access to that lab if you’re part of the TEDx Melbourne community. So the partner benefits, the community benefit, and we benefit because we can create unique experiences that you can’t get outside of our space.
Timbo: And that lab, is that a physical lab? Like with people in white coats running around?
John Yeo: Yes. Yeah, it’s in Melbourne, yeah.
Timbo: So – God, that’s cool. So TEDx Melbourne – as a TEDx what? What am I? Am I a TEDx attendee? Am I a –
John Yeo: Yeah, you would qualify, and we could work out a way to get a select number of people in that lab. Because the lab’s actually physically not that big.
Timbo: Mate, let’s just – let’s do a show from that lab. What would the show be about? The Small Business, Big Marketing? It’s a car manufacturer?
John Yeo: It is a car manufacturer. We’ll have to – let’s talk. I don’t know. I really don’t know.
Timbo: We’ll play bullshit Bingo, and I’ll say, “We’ll take it offline, John.”
John Yeo: Okay, let’s do it.
Timbo: Hey, mate, in my experience, speaking to people who get involved with creating amazing content, and I quote Melissa Maca, a housecleaner from Toronto – she has a business called Clean My Space – she’s embarked on an amazing video marketing strategy. She now sits on a board at YouTube in New York. Amazing things have happened to me, having started this podcast five years ago. I’m interested to know what amazing things have happened to you, or the most amazing thing that’s happened to you since becoming involved with the TED organization?
John Yeo: Oh, I have to pick one?
Timbo: Well, top of mind, and as you share that one, another one will come to mind, and you can share that as well.
John Yeo: Okay. I’ll give you my very first experience when I first went to a TED conference in the U.S. They – at the time, this was three, four years ago now – they fly in international award-winning baristas and their machines and their beans, to caffeinate the attendees. That’s cool in itself.
Timbo: That’s cool.
John Yeo: But of course invariably, there’s the long lines to try all the different coffee vendors. And the person that I was standing behind was – and we struck up a conversation – was the strategy director for Amazon. And the guy behind me was Morgan Sperlock from Super-Size Me. So you can imagine the conversation we’re having. And that’s sort of the power of that type of networking. You can’t put value on it. You know? And that’s not even on stage. These are people who are just hanging around in the foyer.
Timbo: They just wanted coffee.
John Yeo: Yeah.
Timbo: That’s cool.
John Yeo: Yeah, it is cool. And you know, if we can create that serendipitous type of opportunity for people who come into our space, I think we’re doing a good job.
Timbo: Yeah, well – and to that point – and I’ve spoken about this before to my listeners, we’ve got to get out of our comfort zones. I had stuff on the day TEDx was on. Yeah, but it was stuff. And there’s some things in our business life and our personal life we can’t move, but there are other things where we’ve really got to ask ourselves the question, “Where should I be that I’m going to get the most value today?” Or some question like that. And for me, canceling what I had on, buying that TEDx ticket and seeing some of those speakers was wonderful. I happened to catch up with a couple of people that I hadn’t seen for a long time as well.
Serendipitous? Maybe. But it was just so – such a good thing to do. And the more we can – and it’s like – and I’m sitting there listening to a lady who’s going to be going to Mars, a guy who can figure out if people are lying, a schoolteacher who hands permission for the school – a school principal whose school is run by students. And it’s like, well, how is this benefiting my marketing? But whether it does or not, it opens up your mind.
John Yeo: It does, absolutely. First of all, thank you, thank you for taking that special consideration and coming to our event.
Timbo: I’ll do it again.
John Yeo: Brilliant. Awesome, awesome. We should run those more often. But you talk exactly to our point. There’s an – the mind-expanding experience and the perspectives you get, that cause you to think about your world in a different way, and therefore go out and be a different person, is what we’re after. Because if you go to a conference and go, “Yeah, that was a good idea,” and go home again, everyone goes to those conferences. We know that.
Timbo: Well, and John, I’ve spoken in eight countries this year at about 60 conferences, and I’ve been to a lot of conferences, mate. And I’m sure you have too, and I’m sure many listeners have. And they can become a little bit the same. And they don’t challenge. And they do just tick boxes. So how many learnings – when you look at something – again, I look at TED – I’ve always looked at TED in two ways. One is a place to go and learn and be entertained and see interesting things. But I look at it through the eyes of a marketer and a speaker, and there’s so many learnings as well. So hey, John, well done to you, mate, for being involved, bringing it to Melbourne for furthering it.
Because I think – wow, 40 to 60 percent, you think you’ve optimized it so far, I can’t wait to see what it looks like in five years’ time.
John Yeo: Mm-hm. I’m looking forward to it myself.
Timbo: Good idea. Thank you, John.
John Yeo: Thanks, Tim.
Timbo: Well, team, I hope you enjoyed that interview as much as I enjoyed bringing it to you. How clever is John? How good is TED? If you haven’t made it to TED, get over there and have a look. And TEDx as well, of course. I’ve got a top five this time, thanks to Net Registry and 99designs.com/sbbm. My top five – I couldn’t keep it to three. There was too much marketing gold, driven, driven from the ceiling. No. 1: be relevant and engaging. So important, you know? Be relevant and engaging with your audience, your prospects so that they think, yeah, that business gets me. They understand me. To that point, No. 2: understand your prospects really well.
I love how John said get a contextual understanding of them. Where they are at now. Where they’re looking at to be in the future. Get inside their head and don’t just understand them demographically. I’ve got a whole section inside my forum where we go through the brand character. And one of the questions helps you get inside the head of your prospects. But that’s a great tip. Tip No. 3: that I took from John’s chat, don’t speak at them, speak with them. Here, how many brands speak at us? At, at, at. Buy now, buy this, do this, closing now, now. Forget that. Speak with me. And that’s why social media’s so good.
That’s why podcasting, blogging, video marketing’s so good. It gives us the tools and the mediums to have a two-way conversation. That’s why I love seeing the comments in the show notes of each episode. That’s why I love having a forum. There’s nothing more powerful than being able to have a two-way conversation with your prospects about them, about where they’re at, and how, in my case, how I can help you move forward with your marketing. So that’s a great tip from John as well. Tip No. 4: just go to a TEDx event, of if you’re lucky enough, go to a TED event.
But get out there. And don’t look at a TEDx event, for example and go, “Oh, why would I want to hear from an astronaut? It’s got nothing to do with my business.” Just hearing from other people, share their ideas and stories opens your mind. Okay? So get out there. Google when the next TEDx event is in your area, and they are everywhere, and book a ticket. And No. 5: do a public speaking course. I can’t encourage that enough. Speaking has grown my business exponentially these last 18 months. Even if you don’t think you’ll ever speak from stage, do a public speaking course because it’s great for your confidence. It’s great for articulating your message, and it’s great for being able to get rid of all the unnecessary verbiage around your sales messages.
And it forces you to cut to the chase. Okay? So encourage you to then look out for public-speaking courses.