Ever since the dawn of language, people have shared stories. Sitting around the fire, tribe members told tales — to teach, to advance their collective knowledge, and to inspire. Our lives today bear little resemblance to our ancestors’ — except for a single truth: we are wired to share ideas.
That’s the mission that fuels TEDxSydney, one of the hundreds of independently run organizations licensed by TED, a global nonprofit that promotes “ideas worth spreading.” TEDxSydney provides a platform for Australians to propagate ideas through small, year-round meetings and an annual flagship event in Sydney.
GROWING PAINS FOR THE FLAGSHIP EVENT
Started in 2009, the TEDxSydney organization has seen its membership grow to more than 60,000. Any member can register to attend its annual event, but attendance is capped based on the venue’s capacity.
“We certainly want to bring more people to the event. We also want to create the best experience possible for our members — from the speakers to the food to opportunities to engage with other attendees and talk about ideas,” says Susan McMahon, general manager and head of operations at TEDxSydney.
After holding the event at the Sydney Opera House for several years, TEDxSydney decided to move the 2017 event to the newly constructed International Convention Centre (ICC) Sydney. The venue change allowed TEDxSydney to nearly double the number of attendees, from 2,300 in 2016 to more than 4,200 in 2017.
However, the increase in attendees and the larger venue posed challenges for the organizers: How could TEDxSydney provide memorable, intimate experiences throughout the day with only the support of volunteers?
“We don’t want to create an anonymous, corporate event. We want people to connect with each other. We want them to feel personally connected, even though 4,000 people isn’t particularly intimate,” says McMahon.
When McMahon saw Jomablue in action at a global technology event, she was blown away. “I thought, ‘This will really help us get people in and distribute their badges quickly.’”
She didn’t realize that was only the beginning.
CREATING A SMOOTHER, FASTER EVENT CHECK-IN
At the Sydney Opera House, event check-in was always time-consuming and labor-intensive. Attendees had to stand in long lines before being admitted into the venue by a volunteer. Pre-printed badges were spread across 30 tables, with each table staffed by at least three volunteers assisting attendees.
When TEDxSydney implemented Jomablue in 2017, the welcome and check-in experience became seamless. Attendees entered the venue quickly without long waits. As members arrived, volunteers scanned their e-tickets and instantly printed personalized Jomablue Smart Badges. Once inside, attendees began exploring, meeting people, and exchanging ideas — doing exactly what the organization intends to facilitate.
When McMahon tallied the volunteer time devoted to registration in 2016, it totaled over 210 hours. In 2017, with double the attendees and fewer volunteers, the organization dedicated less than 160 hours to registration — a significant reduction in effort and a substantial cost saving.
BUILDING ENGAGEMENT AND COMMUNITY
The Jomablue solution and Smart Badges allowed TEDxSydney to do more than simplify and streamline the check-in experience. It also gave the organization a preview of how they could drive more meaningful connections with members.
To help build a sense of community, TEDxSydney developed 15 “tribes” (such as TEDx Newbie, Creative and Curious, etc.). Attendees could engage with each of the tribes at activity stations throughout the venue.
By tapping their Smart Badges at an activity station, attendees became part of a tribe. They were encouraged to join tribes during the event and connect with members of their tribes. Tracking members’ tribe affiliations and activities gave TEDxSydney new insight into other types of experiences that attendees would delight in.
THE FUTURE: END-TO-END EVENT INTELLIGENCE
With planning underway for TEDxSydney 2018, the organization has engaged Jomablue to provide complete end-to-end event support.
In addition to Jomablue’s event check-in and event intelligence solution, TEDxSydney is now using the company’s online paid registration to create a seamless registration experience. By leveraging Jomablue, TEDxSydney is solving long-standing registration issues many organizers face and reducing the effort and costs required to deliver an end-to-end experience.
“We have been absolutely thrilled with the Jomablue product and team,” McMahon said. “It has been so beneficial to have someone who is a true partner in helping us come up with ways we can improve our technology, improve our processes, and make our lives easier.”
The organization will also leverage Jomablue’s Smart Badges in new ways. By swiping a member’s Smart Badge when they distribute gift bags, they will track who’s already received swag and whether someone is eligible for a special gift bag.
Smart Badges will also serve as a member’s digital ticket to the after-party, a much sought-after special event. Finally, the tribes are coming back. Only this time, TEDxSydney will use data gathered by the Smart Badges to understand who’s joining which tribes, what activities and speakers they’re interested in, and how they’re interacting with each other and event partners.
With Jomablue and TEDxSydney working together, connections will be made. Ideas will be spread. And more stories will be shared.