When I started TEDxManhattan in 2011, there were not many, if really any, food and farming events that fell outside the normal conference structure. Most were full of panels and workshops with a few keynote speakers. They were a way to hear about what people were working on as well as a way for people in the movement to get together and network.
I wanted something different. I wanted to film informational and educational talks that could be used by others after the event. I wanted to use the event as a springboard for much more.
But I’m questioning it all now. Over the past year, so many events and conferences have started up that I’m not sure if the event model is still valid. TEDxManhattan’s budgets were over $100,000, a few more toward $150,000. To do the Change Food Fest the way I wanted to, my original budget was around $500,000. I’ve since decided to cut the budget quite a bit, to the point where I can put on a successful high-quality event but the budget is more in the $100,000 range. Yes, it costs at least $100,000 to put on the kind of events I produce and to create the high quality videos that we make.
The money comes from sponsors and ticket sales – Change Food makes no money and we feel lucky we’ve been able to break even. So it’s worked. But I’m starting to feel that it’s too much money and the money could be put to better use.
I’m going to wait and see how the Fest goes, but what if I encouraged people to set up viewing parties and still webcast speakers’ talks without the very expensive in-house costs. What if we just rented a soundstage so our audience would be at viewing parties other people set up? Or perhaps I should just focus on finding quality videos for the Video Library and not worry about an event at all. And look to see if there’s another way I could raise awareness around food and farming issues.
Something to think about.
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