Though I’ve certainly heard the comparison over the past few years, there seems to be some kind of weird groundswell/critical mass of comparisons between Nerd Nite and TED Talks. Just in the last two days I’ve had eight unrelated people ask me how Nerd Nite compares to TED Talks. Unfortunately, my reply isn’t usually particularly flattering for the good people at TED, and, frankly, I’m kind of afraid to put my common answer into writing. TED Talks has done a fantastic job of cultivating an astronomically large worldwide following, and that is certainly to be commended. Being able to attract the most upper of the upper crust is quite laudable and will always encourage a tremendous amount of coverage. But what I’ve been hearing lately is that Nerd Nite is somehow starting to push TED to evolve its content. It seems – and this only what I’ve heard, not seen first-hand – TED has kind of painted itself into a corner of only being able to get the top .1% of the top .1% of presenters in the world and that it has created an impossibly high standard to maintain. After all, there’s only one Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Malcolm Gladwell, and President Bill Clinton. So how does TED maintain its quality of presenters? So apparently, according to what I’ve been hearing, this is the void that Nerd Nite is filling – Nerd Nite is more for the common man.
A lot of past Nerd Nite attendees have enjoyed the fact that it’s an informal atmosphere in which everyone can drink and socialize while learning (and only pay $0-$10 instead of $6,000). They seem to enjoy having a cocktail or four while hearing a funny-yet-smart presentation. And, in particular, when a presentation is given charismatically and humorously, it’s all the better. And I’ve been told that it is in fact the content of TED Talks that has been suffering recently. Which I guess makes sense. I suppose when an organization puts a lot of established millionaires on a stage for 18 minutes that the content won’t be particularly novel or controversial because those folks all have a lot to lose by going too far, whereas the typical Nerd Nite presenter is often at the beginning of his or her career and is trying to get into a more prestigious position.
So I just want to thank all of the up-and-comers around the world who keep coming to Nerd Nite, as it seems our audience is the next generation; hungry, scrappy; innovative, etc. Thanks for all the support…there’s a lot more to come!
-And by the way, I’m sure the folks at TED Talks have no idea what Nerd Nite is (I feel like Nerd Nite is a garage band that infrequently gets compared to The Beatles) so I guess this post didn’t upset anyone over there. We certainly know our place in the world. And obviously TED is a great organization for sharing great content across the globe. Keep up the good work, TED!