Monthly Archives: February 2012

TEDxConnaughtPlace: Review & Experience

TEDx talks have always impressed me and I often enjoy viewing them. I always wanted to attend a live TEDx event and experience the thrilling environment. Finally, I had an opportunity to attend one at Delhi on 11th February. TEDxConnaughtPlace was organized by Youth Ki Awaaz at American Center, New Delhi. There were 8 speakers from varied background and areas in which they have made remarkable impact. TEDx talks are usually meant to share one’s experience of how they have made a difference to the society around them by their existence. It is expected that atleast few would get motivated by listening to the speakers and there would germinate a new breed of changemakers in the society.

I am not an established public speaker. However, as an audience I invested Rs.500 for the show, sat through full 5 hours of event (from 4pm to 9pm) and it took me 1.5 hours on each side to reach venue from Gurgaon. If I look back at the monetary and time investment, I feel it would be fair on my part to evaluate and provide feedback to all eight speakers through this blogpost. I identified four major criteria on which I could map the speakers. Here are they:

1) Content: Given an opportunity, everyone has a tendency to speak endlessly about one’s achievements. However, given the time restrictions it matters a lot what content one decides to share to express one’s ideas and insights effectively.

2) Deliberation: In such live events, I understand no matter how experienced a person its always a shivering feeling to stand in front of 150 odd people and present one’s ideas with confidence. Therefore, the manner in which speakers express their thoughts become critical.

3) Engagement: On a Saturday evening when most of your audience is busy making plans on how to spend their Saturday night and Sunday, its a sheer tough job for speakers to not only hold audience attention but also to keep them engaged with the ongoing proceedings.

4) Impact: As I mentioned earlier, TEDx talks are largely meant to leave an impact, or at least a thought to ponder upon once a person leaves the auditorium. Though speakers are carefully chosen after due diligence, after all its the audience who has the right to decide whether the speaker really made an impact or not.

In the following section I have tried to rate each speaker on above points based on their talk and also to find how many of really made my experience worthful !

Piyush Tewari  Founder and President of SaveLife Foundation was the first speaker. He drew attention to thousands of deaths that occur on Indian streets due to road accidents. His organization works for a noble cause of providing first aid measures to people who get injured due to road accidents. He shared his journey of how difficult was it to convince various stakeholders – policemen, volunteers etc to believe in his dream. He also made a point that most of road accidents in India occurred due to bad road planning. Though he has started travelling towards a much needed goal for the betterment of society, I found many challenges ahead for him to scale it further.

My ratings for him are: Content – 8, Deliberation – 7, Engagement – 7 & Impact – 7

Ishita Khanna a social entrepreneur who sowed seeds of Ecosphere in a beautiful Spiti valley of Himalayas was the second speaker of the evening. She had some beautiful images of Spiti valley and she shared how her team was working tirelessly to make life of Spiti residents better. She made a very strong statement “We can’t always be an audience. To change the world, you first need to change yourself. If we can’t change everyone, at least we can change ourselves.” On listening her presentation, I could recall a book, which I enjoyed reading, 3 Cups of Tea.

My ratings for her are: Content – 8, Deliberation – 7, Engagement – 6 & Impact – 7

Ajay Chaturvedi a CNN/IBN Youth icon for the year 2011 and founder of HarVa was the third speaker of the event. HarVa stands for Harnessing Rural Value of India. He shared his experience of having quit Citi bank and devoting his life  to uplift the well being of women in rural areas / villages of India. His organization educates rural women, trains them on computers and provides employment in rural BPOs. They have made a difference to the way women are looked upon even in conservative villages of Haryana. In order to create such an impact he was proud to have made a decision to bypass the regular bureaucratic route and rather focused on winning hearts of end beneficiaries. I didn’t find any new in his model because I had heard of a similar organization, Desicrew 5 years back! Desicrew was incubated at IIT-Chennai under the guidance of Prof. Ashok Jhunjhunwaala.

My ratings for him are: Content – 8, Deliberation – 7, Engagement – 8 & Impact – 7

Tania James a Visual and Environmental Studies graduate from Harvard University and author of ‘Atlas of Unknowns’ was the fourth speaker. The first thing that disgusted me was that she carried ‘script’ to the stage. Now, that was super annoying me and also to many as I noticed in tweets. She read an excerpt of her work which was probably to be developed into a book in future. To be frank, I couldn’t follow anything and she completely ignored the audience. I wonder if anyone in the audience could make out what was her message for the evening.

My ratings for her are: Content – 5, Deliberation – 3, Engagement – 1 & Impact – 1

After a 20 minutes refreshment break, Pramada Menon feminist and founder member, CREA took stage as fifth speaker and she awakened the audience in the very first few minutes of her presence. She talked about issues related to sexuality and feminism in our country. She was very confident and hinted to major issues in a humorous manner, which she accepted in the question & answer session that “In India  you cant do much but crack humour, if you don’t fit norms”. She emphasized that any human being should be given right to choose one’s identity and should not be expected to project an identity that society deemed to be reasonable. Her comment, “Life is just not about black and white but also about the grey and rainbow” sent across a strong message.

My ratings for her are: Content – 10, Deliberation – 10, Engagement – 10 & Impact – 10

Swati Sahni Senior Consultant to MHRD sixth speaker of the event, highlighted the poor education infrastructure of this country. She shared her experiences of having interacted with thousands of teachers, students and parents from remote places in India. Her main message was that teachers in rural areas should be provided proper training and more attention should be given to students who were weak in studies than the intelligent students often found to be sitting in the 1st row! Despite being useful, it wasn’t clear at least to me, why she was raising these issues / providing suggestions at a common man’s forum like TEDx instead of suggesting them to Government being a consultant to them!

My ratings for her are: Content – 8, Deliberation – 6, Engagement – 6 & Impact – 6

Anoj Viswanathan co-founder of Milaap and a graduate from National University of Singapore was the seventh speaker. He spoke on the hardships he went through in communicating his idea of crowd funding to his friends and how he collected corpus which was later lent to needy people in rural villages of India. Inspite of being the 2nd last speaker of the day when most of the people had their eyes on their watch, the youngest speaker won hearts of all with his humorous and engaging talk and yet putting across a strong point. His statement “We don’t need charity, we need philanthropy” was very well appreciated by the audience. He conveyed an effective message that “In India demand is never an issue, while supply is!”

My ratings for him are:  Content – 10, Deliberation – 9, Engagement – 8 & Impact – 9

Osama Manzar founder of Digital Empowerment Foundation took stage as last speaker and gathered a round of applause for his witty opening comment that Americans out here might be worried that Osama is on stage! He started his talk by sharing all hardships he had to face in his early life and how he established his career in the digital technology space. He explained about how his organization was striving to abolish information barrier between the rural India and the developed cities of the country. He made a lasting impact in his statement, “We are sitting on a wealth of information. But, information is not being converted into knowledge and knowledge isn’t being converted into something we can sell”.

My ratings for him are: Content – 10, Deliberation – 9, Engagement – 10 & Impact – 9

I truly enjoyed my first ever presence at a TEDx event and I was even more satisfied to know that I contributed 3rd highest (just after event’s organizer and venue partner) reach of TEDx tweets through my live-tweeting! Here is an evidence of it.

Improving Customer Perception of Brands by Active Listening on Twitter

Many a times, customers wonder how they could interact with brands on social media channels. Further, they wonder if there is any worth in interacting with brands. Twitter is one of the best conversation channels if one had to interact with brands. Moreover, its also important on part of brands to continuously monitor interactions related to their brand on these social media channels and try to leverage them for the benefit of brand. Recently, I had an interaction with Apollo Munich Insurance on Twitter and won couple movie tickets! Read on, to know how my perception towards Apollo shifted from negative to neutral (if not positive!), as they found my tweets in right time and engaged with me.

On 19th January, as part of usual practice I visited Times of India website and there awaited an irritating ad from Apollo Munich. The moment one reached the ToI website the homepage revolved and became upside down for few seconds before becoming normal. It was around 7.50 am and one could imagine the frustration if one has to face such ads. Apparently the campaign they were running had the message “Turning Health Insurance Upside Down” and hence probably they went for this creative strategy, but totally ignored the customer perception. I immediately vented out my frustration on Twitter, without tagging Apollo Munich (though I was very well aware of their Twitter handle). I wanted to check if they have robust listening mechanism and if they at all care about people who are talking about their brand on social media.

At last they replied in the evening and apologized for the inconvenience caused due to ad, which I think, was a gentle gesture. Though I may not be the prospective customer for their brand, and I may not be the influential personality in insurance space, yet the brand made diligent effort to apologize for the same. Further, they made sure this negative image is subsided by inviting me to participate in the contest.

It was a simple contest with an objective to spread their message  in which  I had to retweet their message. I assume, as I have decent number of followers (around 690) they would have thought that their campaign reach would increase by few more numbers. How much did it cost me to retweet their message?? Absolutely, negligible amount of time, but I had a faint hope that I might be one of those lucky ones to win the contest.

Guess what! After 4 days, I received this tweet and soon the tickets were delivered to me by courier.

Now, reflecting back one can realize that effort I took to give my feedback was rewarded! One might argue that they would have given me tickets just to pacify my anger and I don’t spread further any other negative word of mouth. But, the take away one needs to concentrate here is that brands need to keep their ears open on web, if they desire to build their brand image amongst today’s networked set of people.

Learning for individual Twitter user:

  • Technology now facilitates to interact with brands at ease and almost at free of cost.
  • We all have freedom to express our speech, why not exercise this right?
  • Be straightforward and express true feelings on social media channels.

Learning for Brands:

  • Irrespective of whether you have presence on social media channels or not, your stakeholders are talking about you 24 x 7!
  • Even if you have established your presence, brand should make diligent efforts to scan conversations across web and try to use them in their stride
  • Any person expressing his / her views about any action taken by brand should be acknowledged at the earliest. This becomes even more important if the views are negative in nature.
  • Sweepstakes always work, but don’t necessarily make customers buy the product!