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The Super-Secret Detroit TED event Delivers

The super-secret TED@MotorCity Salon sponsored by Lincoln was held last night at The Music Box in the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit. TED is a global nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.The theme of the event was “New Tomorrows” and promised world-class speakers but didn’t divulge any other details prior to the event.

Why so secret? More on that later.

As we begin the press previews for the 2011 North American International Auto Show, Detroit is in the spotlight not only for the automotive industry but also on how a city can look to the future and reinvent itself.

From the TED@MotorCity program:

Tomorrow inevitably represents new hopes, and provides us with new opportunities. What does tomorrow look like? What will it mean for our lives and work?

Tomorrow will bring changes that we can’t anticipate. Tomorrow is close enough that we can almost touch it – but far enough to allow us the freedom to imagine new horizons.

Speakers and highlights:

The curator of the evening was Gary Bolles of Xigi.

Thomas Goetz, executive editor of Wired Magazine. "Better health is not a science problem, it's an information problem,” Goetz told us. By finding better ways to deliver the information through design and technology we can put people in more control of their health. For those working on losing weight and improving their health, Goetz recommended some gadgets and the app Lose It!

Dale Dougherty, founder of MAKE Magazine and Maker Faire. Dougherty affirmed, “We are all makers.” Makers used to be mainstream but not anymore. Makers are playing with technology and we should make sure that the next generation are makers.

John Gallagher, Detroit Free Press journalist and author of Reimagining Detroit: Opportunities for Redefining an American City. I’m a few chapters into Gallagher’s book so I was excited to see him on the program. He said that cheap energy allowed for urban sprawl and now that cheap energy is a thing of the past we must look back to our cities. People want to live, work, and play in a walkable city. We must strive to get back to that and provide alternative public transportation.

Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist. Gary Bolles commented on how Newmark was the most connected person in the world. And isn’t that what we’re all looking for, whether personal or professional, is to make a connection? He mentioned accountability in journalism and how to get the news outlets to get it right and do it honestly. I immediately thought of Stephen Clark, WXYZ, and the #backchannel that they have created. I especially liked the comparison between Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to the Shakespearean court jesters. Stewart and Colbert don’t want to be considered professional journalists. It’s just: be funny or die! And, get the facts right.

Craig Newmark, founder of talks with Gary Bolles.

Jessica Care Moore, poet and playwright. She performed at TEDxDetroit and this outing was just as inspiring. It brought chills. She ended with, "In this room I see ideas everywhere. Do you?" Yes, I see the ideas. Now is the time to act on them.

Lisa Gansky, entrepreneur and author of The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing. Ganksy told us that our digital tomorrow depends on the meshing of 3 key ingredients: social, mobile, and physical goods. Zipcar was used as an example of how a “brand is a voice, the product is the souvenir.” She asked the automakers to make “share-ready” cars and told the audience to share their failures.

Why the secrecy?

I have no idea. My thought is that TED (without the x) is an exclusive brand and Lincoln was aligning themselves with that elite group. Lincoln surely delivered on the slick event; it was top shelf.

The usual pre-event buzz wasn’t their priority. Instead they had many local Detroiters in the twitterverse scratching their head in a “how did I miss this” type of way.

To be fair, it is my understanding that the invitation was sent to the entire TEDxDetroit database. So, why weren’t those that were planning on attending talking about it? A simple line in the invitation reads:

Also, please, no blogging nor tweeting this invitation/event before it takes place.

TED@MotorCity and Lincoln proved that an event doesn’t need the “this event is going to be so cool” buzz to, in fact, be cool.

Detroit is on a precipice and the people and their actions and decisions are going to decide which way it goes. Our “New Tomorrow” is up to us.

Feedback, makers, reinvention, connection, and sharing. That is our “New Tomorrow.”

TED@MotorCity not only delivered world-class speakers but it was world-class all the way around. 

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Reader Comments (4)

It sounds like a great event. I've actually used the Lose It! app Goetz was talking about. Not only did it help me lose 15 lbs for last year's Pound for Pound challenge, but I really did learn a lot about the foods that I consume in the process so I can see how it would be considered an informative as well as weight loss tool.

January 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlaina

I've attended a couple TEDx events, and I really enjoy the concept, and support the campaign in general... HOWEVER, as much as I understand branding and the success of using the psychology of exclusivity in marketing in my 10 years of experience in this realm (in 2 of the most unique and important cities - Detroit and New Orleans), isn't the POINT of TED events (x or no x) to create an OPEN SHARING forum?? Or am I mistaken? The minute you start creating exclusivity sponsored by major corporations, aren't we right back where we've been in marketing and advertising since the 1960s? I would really love to open up this discussion and hear from TED hosts...

January 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJMoneyRed

I knew about it - but was otherwise already committed and unable to come. Looking forward to more posts like this, talking a bit about the event - and what it accomplished!

January 10, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbrian cors

It was a great event and I'm glad to hear you had success with the app. Goetz talked about inputting the food that you ate and learning from the information. It's great to hear that it works.

Let it be known that I've never taken a marketing class in my life. I don't know anything about marketing.

But TED, the real and original TED, is exclusive. It costs $6K. That puts it out of my realm. So, it started as an elite, exclusive event. They wouldn't, on any level, let me rub shoulders with Al Gore and Bill Gates.

Only recently have they added the TEDx events.

I'm assuming the 'open sharing' that you are talking of is the YouTube channel. They share their content there quite liberally. But only since 2007, I think.

So, it was always exclusive and only recently have they opened it up to the masses.

Disclaimer: I am on the TEDxDetroit board, which is a volunteer position.

Thanks. Glad you liked the post. I'll try to do more of the same in the future. :D

January 10, 2011 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

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