Some events are so saturated with powerful people discussing powerful ideas that they gain the stature of an uber influencer in their own right. Two of these rare events take place in the western U.S. in the early months of each year: TED and South by Southwest. This year, a 3rd event joins their ranks — and jostles right to the top of the pack. That’s the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States.
This is one presidential inauguration that will carry influence far beyond the Beltway. It will be the Woodstock of American politics, the American answer to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The inauguration celebration, like the man himself, is destined to be a powerful influence. Those who are able to leverage inaugural speaker platforms will reap the benefits for a long time.
What catapults an event like this inauguration, TED or SXSW to the stature of super-influence?
First and foremost is the quality of the event as a speaker platform. That includes the complete speaker line-up and the focus and context of the agenda. It also includes the composition — and disposition — of the audience.
Then there’s the experience of being at the event. The experience exists only in the minds of the actual participants — organizers, staff, performers, audience, media. They in turn stream their experience to people who weren’t there through word of mouth, user-generated content, and paid media coverage.
In the tech industry, we’ve grown accustomed to the rippling influence of TED and SXSW. This year will be a little different. TED 2009 and SXSW 2009 participants will feel the rippling influence of a historic presidential inauguration. I look forward to participants at each event interpreting it, amplifying it and passing it along.