TED conference

Just got an email that the TED conference prices are going up and getting more exclusive…

They somewhat address it in the email, but to me it reeks of elitism and making a great resource available for less people.

I have never attended TED, but have heard a lot of the past speakers online, and was really looking forward to going some time in the future. I could justify $4000 i figured as the cost of nice vacation, but with added educational value (and no tan), but $6000 sounds kinda steep.

I see the great value in the conference, and realize the demand outweighs the supply of speakers, room for antendees, etc., but the comparison to things like Davos seems a little out of hand for a conference more targeted to a general design/tech population. How many people really attend or consider a $15000 Davos/Clinton Summit except CEOS and presidents of countries?

Im also not too keen on their justfication in the membership model which adds a lot of extras with not that much great value. $1000 for an associate membership which just gets you a bunch of books?

Thoughts? Anyone gone, going to TED?

Maybe there’s a new opportunity here for a miniTED that is more accesible to the mass of designers looking for inspiration and education without selling the family car and spending the kids’s college tuition? I for one would gladly pay 1-2$K for something of similar value perhaps even more focused on design…


Dear TEDsters past, present and future,

I’m writing with news of a significant change in the way in which you and others will be able to participate in TED going forward.

First the headlines, then the background:

  • We’re shifting to a membership model.
  • A normal annual membership will cost $6,000 and will include a pass for the main conference in Monterey
  • The membership will also include TED Book Club mailings, a set of conference DVDs, access to new TED networking tools, preferred access to additional TED events and services, and early renewal rights.
  • For the first time, it may be possible for individuals to obtain a charitable tax deduction for a substantial portion of the fee.
  • The first 300 memberships sold will include preferred access to the Main Hall in Monterey (similar to a current Main Hall pass)
  • Remaining memberships (up to 600) will have access to 100 Main Hall seats and to improved and expanded Simulcast lounges
  • For those who wish to make a larger contribution to TED’s philanthropic mission, there will be a small number of “TED Donor” memberships available by paying an annual fee of $12,000 or more. As a courtesy, these members will be allowed access to the Main Hall before the doors officially open prior to each session.
  • For those willing to make a one-time contribution of $100,000 or more there will be a “TED Patron” membership which is a 10-year membership with the same Main Hall access as a TED Donor, and certain other rights.
  • TED Global will continue to be offered as a separate conference for a separate fee, though TED members will be granted early registration

Now the background.
Why a membership model? In truth, TED has always felt like more than a conference. It’s really a community. And over the past few years we’ve gradually added more benefits to being in that community: DVDs, a bookclub, social networking, salons, a blog, and so forth. Making TED a year-round membership simply reflects what it has already become.

Why the price increase? You’re probably aware that demand for TED has been growing dramatically. For the first time in its history the main hall for TED2007 sold out well before the prior year’s event had started. And the simulcast places sold out just three weeks later. Since then we have had to turn away more than 1,000 people, many of whom would have been awesome TEDsters.

Going forward our two main choices therefore were:

  • make the event much bigger
  • raise the fees

We ruled out the first choice. In our view – and I know that many of you strongly agree with this – a great deal of the success of TED is because it has a certain feeling of intimacy and familiarity. We really don’t want to jeopardize that.

So we adopted the second choice. The increase from $4,400 to $6,000 may seem steep to some of you, but:

  • we intend to continue investing to make TED that much better every year.
  • based on strength of demand alone, we could have probably justified a much bigger rise.
  • the after-tax cost to many individual members in 2008 is likely to be about the same as currently. From now on, membership fees will be paid to The Sapling Foundation, which is TED’s charitable parent organization, and you may be able to treat a substantial part of your membership fee as a charitable donation. (You should of course rely on your tax advisor regarding the appropriate treatment of the donation, but we will, upon request, provide a receipt showing that you have received goods and services to the value of approximately $2,000 per year of membership. The rest may be deductible by US taxpayers.)
  • it’s only the second increase since we acquired TED five years ago. Back then it cost $4k without DVDs, books, deductibility or any of the other extras
  • other events that we’re sometimes compared to, such as Davos and the Clinton Global Initiative, cost $15-30k or more.

Does the rise mean we’re becoming elitist? Let’s tackle that straight on. In one sense TED has always been exclusive. Part of the reason you go is because you know you will be spending time with people who are remarkable. But the TED team all feel it would be a big mistake to limit TED purely to those with deep pockets. Accordingly:

  1. We will continue to hold half-price places for those who are doing exceptional work in the Education or Nonprofit worlds.
  2. We will offer complimentary fellowships, including hotel and travel, for a few super talented individuals who could not otherwise afford to come.
  3. Later in 2007 we will introduce Associate memberships priced at just $1,000 annually which do not allow conference attendance but do include TED bookclub, conference DVDs, and networking with other associate members.
  4. Most importantly, we will further extend the exciting experiment we began this year of releasing TED content online FREE TO THE WORLD.