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Organising a local TEDx

Case study, TEDxBékéscsaba

TEDx events are known for creating an atmosphere of inspiration through educational keynote talks, captivating personal stories, and quality entertainment. Bringing a brand of such prestige to rural Hungary was not to be without challenges.

Peter Balog – 6 minute read

Organising an event of the stature of TEDx is a challenge in itself, as it is a major international brand that comes with a certain baggage of expectations for quality entertainment. Achieving such a feat in a smaller town like Békéscsaba, was to be a substantial organisational undertaking, not to mention the marketing related obstacles that come with. From a strictly advertising point of view, a small town equals a much smaller audience, meaning achieving the right number of ticket sales would surely be a hurdle, not to mention getting the right return on ad spends. Békéscsaba is also a rural town, people living there have a more modest buying power compared to Budapest or even other parts of the country.

To make matters worse, the region is suffering from a serious brain drain, as most 20 and 30-somethings leave town for better economic opportunities – an age group where the TEDx brand usually thrives. Finally, with all these obstacles in mind, we had one more defining challenge, TEDxBékéscsaba was to be the first such event in the region, which meant we were starting from almost zero. However, other cities and towns have shown us that it can indeed be done, so it was for us to figure out the how. 

In a nutshell

The challenge
TEDx events are a challenge to organise even under normal circumstances, and especially so in a region with a small audience, modest buying power, and suffering the effects of brain-drain.

Work conducted:

  • Market research
  • Marketing planning and budgeting
  • Execution of campaigns, PPC administration
  • Website redesign and content curation
  • Coordination of social media, public relations and design volunteers

Defining and Reaching the Audience

Despite all these limitations the initial market research, formal and informal, indicated that there is a healthy demand for quality educational entertainment in the region. The TEDx brand was shown to be as popular as ever in Google Trends, with search volumes and similar events echoing this sentiment. The audience was there, but identifying and reaching them would be another matter.

After the initial research phase concluded we decided to create four buyer personas, heavily basing the segmentation on the different age groups. Defining these audiences was the easy part, the challenging aspect came with reaching them, as the first buyer persona was generally more indifferent by nature to most social platforms (high school graduates, generational gap), the second and third personas having geographical challenges (do not live in town anymore), and with the fourth having higher resistance to online ticket purchasing (40+ generation).

TED talk in progress – photo: Virag Galisz

Further research revealed that utilizing Facebook, Instagram and Google search advertisement, with an emphasis on the former, alongside with remarketing campaigns, is expected to yield the best ROAS. Youtube, while it may seem like a natural first choice for such a video-heavy brand like TEDx, was sidelined due to cost concerns. The final marketing strategy included a 12-week PPC campaign with promotions (including a Christmas and Valentine’s day period), social campaigns, and an expected word-of-mouth spread of the main messaging.

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Relying on visual communication was key for success, as the familiar imagery and brand power of TEDx proved to be a major asset in such a price sensitive environment.

Dripping information, generating interest

 A 12-week campaign for an event of such magnitude, while far from ideal, should be sufficient to get ticket sales across the line. As expected the TEDx brand proved to be a big draw, and as target audience started responding to the messaging, ticket sales shortly followed suit.

The campaign was designed with several key features in mind, with the goal of adjusting for the small-town nature of the event, with community power being the most important. TEDxBékéscsaba was to be the first such event in the region, which fortunately proved to be an asset as audiences found great local pride in the fact that the town managed to “attract” an event of such stature (TEDx events are run as franchises and are organised by volunteers, who have to hand in a license application). The community got behind the event, proof of which could be seen in significantly higher organic reach across all social media platforms.

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TEDxBékéscsaba was to be the first such event in the region, which proved to be an asset as audiences found great local pride in the fact that the town managed to “attract” an event of such stature.

Another important aspect was the timing of information on social media platforms. Announcements of speakers, programme scheduling and accompanying exhibitors were all mixed-in with posts of captivating Hungarian TEDx talks from previous similar events. The result was a moderate but steady drip of information, keeping general interest up, and laying the foundations for the aforementioned local word-of-mouth messaging.

A sold out venue, love it when a plan comes together – photo: Virag Galisz

If you build it, they will come

The key takeaway of TEDxBékéscsaba from an organisational standpoint was that creating quality events in a rural environment may seem like a lost cause from a distance, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. TEDxBékéscsaba ran a full house, and what is more important, feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with an unexpected emphasis on joy and gratitude. Simply put, people were grateful to experience quality educational entertainment in their home town.

From a marketing perspective, while many may be wary of the difficulties of a smaller audience with a similarly modest budget, cities and towns do have other channels that can be invaluable for any marketer, as the power of community outreach can be invaluable.

Of course, marketing is only one cog in the much bigger wheel of event organisation, and as such, any work done is only as good as the rest of the team. Luckily, the project flourished in volunteer talent on all fronts, which together with a rich and interested audience, created a memorable weekend for all parties involved.

Disclaimer: Since the nature of TEDx events is to share ideas in a non-profit manner, all work done for TEDxBékéscsaba was volunteer work, the author of this article received no financial rewards.

Cover video credits – Mihály Mohos // Mohos Film

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