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What the World Needs Now: How the TED Conference & Sales 2.0 are Similar

16 February 2010

I just got back from the incomparable TED (Technology, Education and Design) conference in Long Beach, Calif., exhausted but inspired. At my first TED five years ago,  I ran into Paul Holland, general partner at the VC firm Foundation Capital (and an early Phone Works client at Pure Software, now IBM Rational Software), who described the TED experience simply as “sublime.”  Thanks to Chris Anderson, who runs TED, and his talented staff, anyone can now access the ted.com website, view the unrivaled video content, and get a sense of what the conference is all about.  But describing the experience of attending the TED conference is a bit like explaining Sales 2.0: The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

TED is essentially five days of a hundred or so lectures, mostly 18 minutes long, covering “ideas worth spreading”: the latest thinking on topics as diverse as medicine, physics, conservation, renewable energy, film, architecture, games, law, education, technology, art, music and dance.   Speakers this year included Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman; technologist/philanthropist Bill Gates; musical icons Sheryl Crowe, Natalie Merchant and David Byrne; and celebrity chefs Dan Barber and Jamie Oliver. But equally impressive are less well-known presenters who are doing such awe-inspiring things that they bring the audience to its feet or move them to tears. And it’s well-understood that the conference attendees include a wonderful mix of similarly extraordinary innovators, inventors, change agents and optimists who also happen to be mostly CEOs. This makes every meal, break and party an opportunity to share ideas and compare thoughts with like-minded kindred spirits and is the reason why TED is the only conference for which I sacrifice sleep and completely unplug. I just don’t want to miss having a potentially life-changing conversation in order to respond to an e-mail or get to bed at a reasonable hour.

So how exactly is TED like Sales 2.0? Here are some similarities:

1. TED, like Sales 2.0, requires flexibility and openness to new ideas.

2. TED, like Sales 2.0, is interdisciplinary and a combination of art and science, right brain and left brain.

3. TED, like Sales 2.0, encourages collaboration and idea-sharing.

4. TED participants, like Sales 2.0 professionals, seek to improve the status quo rather than settle for the way things are.

5. At TED, and in Sales 2.0, traditional, self-serving sales pitches are not done.

6. At TED, and in Sales 2.0, technology is a key component but not the only one.

7. Both TED and Sales 2.0 take one out of one’s comfort zone.

8. TED’s ideas and Sales 2.0’s improved business results are what the world needs now!

Check out www.ted.com to see what I mean. Notice any other parallels between TED and Sales 2.0? Which TED Talks do you find inspiring?