I first got involved with TEDxTokyo in early 2010, invited by a friend to lead a backstage live stream team. The two of us had been doing quite a bit of livestreaming over the previous 6 months, and through that (well, through the Tokyo Marathon project to be precise) had established contact with Ustream’s US office. At that time TED hadn’t officially partnered with ustream, but they were happy to help, and agreed to feature us on their top page, as well as providing a software license to enable us to broadcast a higher quality stream.

Through them we were able to set up a meeting with the head of Ustream Asia, based here in Tokyo, who like the US office agreed to help promote our feed.

May 15th came around, the event went well – I was happy that we hit about 13,000 viewers.

In late 2010 I was asked if I would step up to take a leading role in 2011 heading two interconnected teams – Social Media and Live streaming. This would involve assembling a star lineup of specialists in these fields, working with them to develop strategy, identify necessary tools/services/hardware, setting them all up, testing, creating / translating content, feeding it into publishing platforms and scheduling delivery, then actively engaging with our audiences once the campaign began.

Backstage at TEDxTokyo 2011Recruitment of volunteers took place by twitter, email and then subsequent meetings/ informal interviews. With the increase awareness of TEDxTokyo this year we had a far higher calibre of volunteers apply, so I was able to select only those who had a proven track record in the relevant fields. This was one of the key factors in this year’s success: having specialists whom I could trust to take care of certain parts of the campaign, without my having to be constantly checking that it was being done correctly (last year I was so taken up with technical aspects of the live stream that I was unable to effectively manage content).

This year wasn’t without it’s challenges though: 10 days before the event it became apparent to me that I was going to be the one who had to create all of the speaker profile pages on the website (30 English, 30 Japanese). This hadn’t been part of the plan; there followed a few nights with little sleep and a fair but of stress as I tried to take care of both that task and the rollout of the social media campaign.

Despite this, I was confident that when we did get going, it would all work out well – and it did. Thanks to the efforts of a couple of key members of the social media team, working in partnership with the TxT translation team, the twitter and Facebook campaigns were a big success. Our core content – scheduled tweets and posts linking back to speak profiles – was backed up by interaction with our audience (responding to questions, RTing enthusiastic responses etc). Meanwhile the replacement of simple text links with the official twitter and Facebook buttons on both the event page and all speaker profile pages on our website led to a lot more publicity – the Japanese twitter community being particularly active.

Backstage at TEDxTokyo 2011For the live stream, we opted for a three-way split: HD channel with English simultaneous interpretation, HD with Japanese simultaneous interpretation, SD with no interpretation (switching between English and Japanese depending whatever language the speak was using). The former two were embedded directly on our website, the latter was a ustream channel.

Thanks to the success of last year’s event and the Tokyo Marathon project, Ustream were happy to promote us on both their US and Japanese top pages. Meanwhile, one of our speakers just happened to be the country manager for Twitter in Japan – James very kindly arranged for the official Japan twitter account (@twj) to tweet out about it.

Finally, the big day arrived. Having spent most of the previous day setting up there wasn’t too much to do – except sort out the obligatory last minute loss of sound, which happens every year without fail. Come 8.45am the first tweet team took their seats in the auditorium, with the rest of the crew monitoring proceedings and prepping for interviews in the break times.

Backstage at TEDxTokyo 2011As those of you who tuned in to watch on the day will know, it went very well. We had some great speakers, and a very enthusiastic audience (read more about it here and here). I myself didn’t have time to see more than a couple of talks, but with the tech team taking care of all the switching from wired broadband to pocket wifi, and a superb twitter team tapping away, I was able to focus upon and enjoy directing social media proceedings.

By the end of the day we knew we’d done pretty well, but it wouldn’t be until a couple of days later that the full stats would be available. We’d been aiming for 20,000 viewers – had we managed to hit that?

Thanks to the combined effort of everyone involved in the event, we ended up smashing through this target: we reached over 50,000 unique viewers (accounting for 98,000+ views and approximately 10,000 viewer hours), and received over 5,000 comments on our live stream via Twitter. We’d successfully covered all the talks (Virgin Earth Inc and Gotcha Media providing their usual first-rate service for that) and also managed to interview speakers, sponsors, participants and volunteers. We’d fielded questions via twitter, and given viewers a chance to see behind the scenes.

All boxes ticked.

The TEDxTokyo 2011 Social Media and Backstage Livestream Team

Of course, as with any event there were quite a few things we could improve upon, and a number of lessons learnt for future projects.

Backstage at TEDxTokyo 2011Whilst some friends thought that I was a bit crazy to put so many hours into a voluntary project, I knew all along that it would be worth it. Aside from the satisfaction of doing a good job, it’s confirmation for me that the skills I’ve acquired over the past few years really are a valuable asset – it’s not just a ‘waste-of-time’ twitter / live stream addiction I have! It was a great opportunity to put it all to the test, taking the many elements to the next level. It was also a genuine privilege to be able to do this at such a high calibre event, under a respected brand, with a great speaker lineup, an enthusiastic community and the support of many sponsors – plus, not forgetting, being able to work alongside over 120 amazing volunteers.

It was actually partly thanks to last year’s TEDxTokyo that I was able to leave my full time job and go freelance – you get what you give!

If you’d like to learn more about TED/TEDx/TEDxTokyo, check out the site at www.TEDxTokyo.com