Posts Categorized: News

How to Launch Your Big Idea – 5 Lessons from the Founder of TED

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by Joe Vennare, Storyteller


TED talks have become a global phenomenon. Stories of success and struggle. Inspiration and ideas. New technologies and innovating thoughts. People and far off places. There a seemingly endless collection of talks that stretch the limits of our imagination and abilities.

While taking in a live event or video online, few people stop to think – how did this happen? Where did these talks begin? Heck, what does TED even stand for? (FYI – Technology, Entertainment and Design)

In a recent interview with American Express Open Forum, TED founder Richard Saul Wurman dives into the details of the first ever TED event. In doing so he revealed more than who was there (i.e. Steve Jobs, the President of Sony showing off the first CD player, etc) and where it was (the Monterey Conference Center in California). Contained within Wurman’s interview, the story of how TED came to be, is a framework for how you can transform your idea into a global success story.

Be on the lookout for opportunities

In the early 1980s, Wurman say something others didn’t. He said, there was a convergence taking place between technology businesses, the entertainment industry and design professions. Not many people saw it. I did.

Lesson 1. If you want to build something big, I mean really BIG, you have to see opportunity where others see opposition. Or, in the places no one else is looking.

Think about failure differently

When recounting the first event, Wurman remembered, about 300 attendees came to the Monterey Conference Center, which held 500 people… I lost money on the first TED conference.

Lesson 2. If you’re not failing, you’re not trying. Yes, the first event was a risk. You might even call it a loss. Maybe a failure. Sometimes you can’t avoid it. Especially when trying to launch a big idea. We can’t avoid failure. But, we can think about it differently.

Go against the grain.

Wurman wanted TED to be innovative. Here’s how he did it – One path to true innovation is through subtraction. I looked at all the elements of conferences that were taking place at the time, and I removed some of the items to create TED.

Lesson 3. Innovation doesn’t occur when you do what everyone else is doing, the way it’s always been done. Different is good, especially when different creates a disruption in the status quo. In this case, less really was more.

Never stop learning

At the first TED conference Wurman asked attendees – to take a journey with me from not knowing to knowing. He told them – “Learning is remembering what you are interested in.” I hate education, but I love learning.

Lesson 4. If you want to be truly great. If you really want to do something spectacular, you have to be a lifelong learner. As Wurman points out, it has nothing to do with education. Just a insatiable desire to learn.

Know your strengths

Planning the lineup of speakers, Wurman chose speakers who were smarter and more talented than I was, and they brought the discussions to life.

Lesson 5. If you want to build something bigger than yourself, you’ll need people other than yourself. Be honest. What are you good at? Do that. Enlist other people to fill in the gaps. You can’t do everything all of the time. That’s a surefire way to burnout. Which is frowned upon when trying to launch a big idea.


Back to the original question – How did it happen?

How did Wurman create such a legendary brand, conference and business? He started with a BIG idea. He saw opportunity where others weren’t looking. Went after it and persisted despite some setbacks (read – failures). He didn’t compromise his vision, he was innovative. He wanted to help others learn, because he loved to learn. And, along the way, he looked to others who were smarter than him to make his idea a success. Wurman ran TED for 18 years before it was acquired by Chris Anderson.

It’s the framework you can use to launch your idea. To make it a success. Who knows, you might be sitting on the next TED. When you think about it like that, the real question is “what are you waiting for?”


Calling all Creators! Call For Speakers Now Open

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by Joe Vennare, Storyteller









Calling all creators!

Do you have an idea worth sharing or a story worth telling?

If you’re a maker, a doer, or leader interested in speaking at TEDxGrandviewAve 2014, we’d like to hear from you.

Speakers Wanted

With a theme of Dare to Create, we’re in search of speakers who have made the leap from idea to action by creating something, anything that inspires, impacts, or changes our region and world. We’re practically interested in showcasing the people and ideas that are redefining Pittsburgh, so keep that in mind when you’re applying.

Are You Interested?

We hope you are!

If the answer is yes, then you’ll need to complete the application process. (Go go ahead, click that link right there.)

The call for speakers is open until December 1, 2013, and we’ll get back to you by January 15th.


New to what we’re doing? Here’s some helpful FAQ’s:

What is TED?

First, TED isn’t a person. TED is a conference that originally dealt with Technology, Entertainment and Design, but is now a platform for ideas worth spreading on any topic!

How is a TEDx event different from a TED conference?

TED conferences are organized and run directly by TED. TEDx events are fully planned and coordinated independently, on a community-by-community basis.

What happens after I submit my idea?

TEDxGrandviewAve organizers will review all applications and send out confirmation emails upon decision. If we have any questions about your application, we will contact you to discuss any details.

How long does the presentation have to be?

Presentations can be from 6-18 minutes, but aim for 10-12 minutes.

Do speakers get paid to present?

To keep the program fully in the hands of the organizing team and community and per TED guidelines, speakers are not paid and sponsors cannot speak. However, speakers will get to experience an amazing event that might be life-changing, for them and the audience.

Can speakers seek funding whilst onstage?

Speakers are prohibited from both selling and seeking financing while on stage.

Have any more questions? Contact us at

Mark your Calendars for TEDxGrandviewAve 2014!

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Save the date

TEDxGrandviewAve is Pittsburgh’s platform for showcasing the ideas, individuals and innovations that are redefining the Steel City.

It’s an event, an experience, and a year-round conversation.

2013 marked the first annual TEDxGrandviewAve event. On February 23rd we hosted 9 speakers and 100 attendees. The speakers took us on a compelling trip to the edge of innovation. And, like the city we call home, the TEDxGrandviewAve attendee list was diverse and inspired.

Since the response to and turnout at TEDxGrandviewAve 2013 was so amazing, we’re going even bigger this year!

On April 26th, 2014 we’re hosting over 400 attendees at the New Hazlettet Theater in Pittsburgh’s Historic North Side. We’ll be turning the mic over to the local doers and change-makers who have taken the leap from idea to action.

We know that the speakers are sure to inspire, but you should know that the experience extends beyond the stage. Attendees are encouraged to connect and exchange ideas with one another. After all, that’s how ideas spread, when opportunities, ideas, and people are united under one roof.

Please join us at TEDxGrandviewAve 2014 to experience the ideas and individuals that are shaping the ‘burgh and beyond.

TEDxGrandviewAve Featured on WQED

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Take a look at the video to see event highlights and testimonials from our attendees and team members. Thank you to WQED and their team for working with us and showcasing our efforts!Before, during and after our event, we received great support from the community! WQED took a unique approach and focused on the attendee perspective and what TEDx in the community means to the people living here.

View video on WQED Pittsburgh 360

(TEDx segment starts around 10:30 mark)

Sit Back and Enjoy the Talks!

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Thank you, Pittsburgh, for an awesome first event! We’re excited to share with you the TEDx talks from our 2013 speakers.

This is our turn to show the world what innovative ideas and leaders we have right here in our community. We hope that you enjoy their messages and will share with your friends, family and co-workers!

Watch the Talks Now! 

To keep the TED & TEDx conversation going in our community, we have created a TEDxGrandviewAve Meetup Group to gather community members and discuss ideas worth spreading. We’ll be showing some of our own speakers’ talks and TED talks from around the world! Join the group for updates on our monthly events and hopefully we’ll see you there!

If you have any questions, please let us know!

Keep innovating,

TEDxGrandviewAve team

Coming to a Neighborhood Near You

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This is a very exciting time in our city. Pittsburgh is being featured left and right in national articles to showcase recent growth and projects. This city deserves to be proud of where we’ve come from and confident in what we’re developing. We are changing the way people view this once industrious steel capital of the world. We are building our city’s future.

Our region is filled with powerful voices that need to be heard. Hundreds of you want to hear these voices and discover new ideas. That has led us to a milestone – we have far exceeded the capacity of our TEDx audience limit. Pittsburgh is craving knowledge of the brilliant innovations around us. With this insight and with innovation in mind, TEDxGrandviewAve is taking it to the next level.

On February 23rd, 2013 we’re going citywide. In addition to viewing 9 incredible innovators at TEDxGrandviewAve, we will be connecting neighborhoods through Webcast Parties. This is your opportunity to gather with friends, family, coworkers and fellow Pittsburghers to share a day of exploration and celebration of innovation.

While we have gone over the allowed limit for audience members, we are still accepting ticket invite requests. We love hearing your stories and desire for learning new ideas. Invites for the main event will be sent in January and we’ll be directing those who do not get tickets to the webcast parties. Locations of these parties will be announced very soon. If you have an idea for one, are interested in sponsoring or organizing one of your own, let’s talk!

The people of Pittsburgh have a great way of working together to get things done. TEDxGrandviewAve is a prime example of this. There is a wealth of open minds and passionate people all around us. As area legend Andrew Carnegie once said, “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision…it is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.

Join our vision by spreading the news of TEDxGrandviewAve and help us prove Pittsburgh is on The Edge of Innovation.