How Edinburgh won TEDSummit

With Edinburgh already buzzing with festival previews and street performers, during one of the hottest weeks since records began, the hundreds of delegates who arrived from over 80 countries to attend TEDSummit 2019 were treated to an all-access experience in one of Europe’s most vibrant cultural capitals.

Speaker Community Castle Tour and High Tea at TEDSummit: A Community Beyond Borders. July 21-25, 2019, Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

TEDSummit brings together the diverse representatives of TED’s global community for over five days of TED Talks, artistic performances, workshops and local events. Hosting the summit requires not just a venue with world-class audio-visual capability and a 21st century approach to corporate catering and entertainment, but a city capable of curating experiences that will be as enjoyable to a delegate from South-East Asia as they are for a delegate from Latin America.

It is through a great deal of hard work, perseverance and a healthy sense of self-irony that the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) team led efforts to bring the world’s premier speaker conference to their city. Up against other major international conference destinations, for the EICC team, work on the bid began as early as 2017 and success was achieved in co-operation with VisitScotland, Scottish Enterprise, the Scottish Government and many local partners.

Nicola Sturgeon speaks at TEDSummit: A Community Beyond Borders. July 21-25, 2019, Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo: Ryan Lash / TED

Wooing TED was a process in which the EICC combined the traditional approach to bid-making - such as including letters of support from the Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh Frank Ross, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh Professor Timothy O’Shea and a video message from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon - with the truly original. The EICC team hosted two site visits in 2018 as part of the bidding process, both of which clearly left a lasting impression on the members of the TED leadership team who participated.

“We knew it would be a risk,” says Sales and Marketing Director Amanda Wrathall. “But we took the TED team to a live Festival performance of Trainspotting staged in the unused railway tunnel beneath our building. It is an intense, immersive show, and an experience which they still talk about.”

EICC Corporate Business Development Manager Debbie Rose describes the TED team as: “Ideal clients: open to what the city has to offer and interested in what TED can offer the city.

“We invited partner venues in Edinburgh to the EICC, ahead of the site visits, to involve them in our collaborative work on the bid; to familiarise them with TED and to pitch what TEDSummit would mean for the city. It was this collaboration and the range of experiences on offer, such as the boat trip to Bass Rock, that swung it for Edinburgh. Also, the stories told by our Highland tour guide MacKenzie Dalrymple clearly made a lasting impression. The TED leadership team even asked him to open TEDSummit,” says Rose.

EICC’s Chief Executive, Marshall Dallas, explains: “Our motivation to bring TEDSummit to Edinburgh was in part inspired by TED’s mission of Ideas Worth Spreading, which so closely resonates with our own vision of creating an environment which inspires world-changing ideas. This, together with our shared passion for collaborating at a local and national level, made the EICC and Edinburgh a compelling contender for hosting TEDSummit.”

Martin Medicus, a teacher from Indiana, is clear that his trip to TEDSummit is also a welcome opportunity to see the world-renowned beauty of Scotland. He spent a few days exploring the Highlands with his family before arriving in Edinburgh for TEDSummit, but Head of Global Projects at the University of Edinburgh, Jake Broadhurst, believes tourism is just one of the many benefits to the city. “Every time we attract an event like this one to Edinburgh,” says Broadhurst, “It provides opportunities for the kind of extraordinary conversations that lead to new social ventures starting right here in Scotland.”

Contact the EICC team to start planning your unique event:

Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC)
The Exchange | Edinburgh | EH3 8EE
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