10 learnings from TEDx 2017

Find out what happened at TEDx 2017 in Glasgow from one of Equator's lucky attendees, Ishbel Macleod.

When an event starts with a band in capes and shiny headgear demanding you sing and dance about mustard, you know things are going to get unusual. And that sums up TEDx in a nutshell - a cornucopia that ranged from a real-life Iron Man to cardboard chairs.

Out of that surreal experience, I've rounded up ten key takeaways.

Want it summed up in a sentence? Check out the TL;DR at the bottom.

Accept uncertainty and stay curious

There’s often an expectation in marketing, and in all businesses, that you must know everything. But Helen Minnis, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry, suggested at TEDx that expecting one person to hold all the knowledge makes their decisions impossible.

Instead of keeping the problem to yourself, turn to your colleagues and ask “Got any ideas?”

This allows us to keep learning, look at the problem in different ways and find new solutions.

Ask ‘Why aren’t they sharing already?’

How can we build tools that will help people all around the world want to share?

Your first question might be ‘what do they want to share?’ but according to Jonah Jones, product design manager at Facebook, the real question should be ‘why aren’t they sharing already?’

He found that there was a psychological issue at play, with people thinking their content wasn’t good enough, be it blurry or bad lighting. As such, there are two ways to get people to share – by elevating the content itself, or by lowering the barrier.

On Facebook, content can be elevated by AR features (dog ears, anyone) or filters. The introduction of live video allows for the barrier to be lowered: as it is candid and unfiltered, it is expected that the quality will be lower, the camera might be shaky…and so it is passed off as normal and not a flaw. The elevation of a product or lowering of a barrier is a good way to look at how various marketing messages can be tweaked – be it for social, display or PPC.

Tell it in real numbers

When a talk is called ‘how to win the lottery and get away with murder’, you hope you’ll pick up a thing or two.

But Dr Liberty Vittert made a very interesting point about ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’ that should make some of us marketers feel slightly ashamed.

We love a statistic, us marketers. Whether it’s being 25% up month on month, or delivering a 300% ROI, our reports are peppered with stats. But it’s important to explain these and tell our clients and managers what these actually mean.

Co-operation shouldn’t be overtaken by strength and aggression

Athlete Lee Craigie is super cool. She rode onto the stage on her bike and admitted that during races she gets scared and wants to call her mum.

But it’s okay to be scared. In fact, anxiety can be a performance enhancer. The important thing is to not let the fear of failure to turn you against others – mutual care and co-operation should not be overtaken by strength.

Stick to your core values

As someone who loves a pun, I enjoyed Bob Keiller’s session. But it wasn’t just his wisecracks that made it an interesting session – it was his focus on the importance of core values and sticking to your beliefs.

Think about it – we tend to trust people we know. If a random on the street told you there was going to be a freak snowstorm in July, you wouldn’t believe them. But if a friend told you, you’d be more likely to think they are telling the truth.

The same is true when it comes to brands. If a consumer doesn’t know you, why should they trust you? And if they don’t trust you, why should they buy in to what you have to offer?

Don’t be a blind follower

It was scary to learn that toddlers unconsciously learn to ‘speak’ brand, and can tell the difference between Nike and Adidas.

Janice Kirkpatrick, author of Brands for Boards, suggested that instead of being blind brand followers, we need to become empowered players.

Okay, she meant this for members of the public, but it’s an important note for marketers. Is the public becoming more ‘woke’? And if so, how can we teach them to judge by the integrity of the product?

Find a way to be disruptive

It’s easy to stick to old mindsets and what you know works. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and all that.

But Terry A’Hearn, CEO of SEPA, believes that disruptive business models will soon be the new norm. If you want to succeed, you will need to find a way to make the disruptive model work for your sector.

See inspiration everywhere

It may seem unusual to have a comment from fitness expert Jessie Pavelka on this blog.

But this just goes to prove his point – it’s when you’re not trying to become inspired that inspiration strikes.

He encouraged us all to find the ‘subtle yet powerful’ moments of inspiration in people and the world.

Don’t let ‘what if’ become ‘if only’

Taking a first step can be scary. But it’s important to answer the question ‘what do I hope to do?’

This message, which applies to each marketing campaign (as well as life) came from Edinburgh Napier University chancellor David Eustace.

He insists that if there is something you are passionate about, you shouldn’t let ‘what if’ become ‘if only’.

Failure is normal

Finally, a bit of advice from the real life Iron Man, Richard Browning.

The founder of human propulsion technology start-up Gravity, it’s fair to say that Richard has had a few failures. Like, fall-on-your-face failures. Don’t believe me? Check out YouTube.

But despite that, he kept going, kept learning and kept collaborating, and now we has mastered human flight. And it’s pretty damn awesome.

TL;DR: Don’t be afraid to take chances and learn from other people.