TEOK Starter's kit
What is TEOK
The Edge of Knowledge (TEOK) is an informal lecture series, where uncommon, unexpected topics are presented in someone’s living room. Short presentations are interspersed with video breaks and drinks, with topics ranging from food to the cosmos, internet memes and personal obsessions, seeking to offer an alternative look at the cultural outputs of the contemporary – and a window into the fantastic, rich ensemble of people that live and work in our cities.
The series was conceived in early 2014 in Basel by Vera Sacchetti, Juan Palencia and Marta Colón.
The TEOK Network
While TEOK's inception is fundamentally linked to the city of its birth – Basel – the series is naturally fitted to adapt and migrate to different contexts. This has lead to the start of TEOK in Santiago de Chile, Madrid, Rotterdam, Berlin, New York, Lisboa and A Coruña, and new proposals for collaborations are currently in development.
Goals and ambitions
TEOK has no dreams of ruling the world, but we enjoy seeing the energy we found in our direct surroundings impact other contexts around the world. If this kind of energy has got you intrigued, you should consider attending one of our events, or start one series in your own city!
Starting TEOK in your city
TEOK Event mechanics
TEOK events usually take place on Tuesday evenings, and last for about 3 hours each. The setting is informal, and the location is someone's living room. Drinks and finger food are provided, to help stimulate conversation and relax the audience and speakers.
A laptop and a portable beamer are required, setting up the basic presentation requirements. Two lecturers present on two different topics, the combination of which can be accidental or non-existing. The lectures take 15-20 minutes, and can be interrupted by questions or thoughts from the audience.
The number of attendees varies, according to the will of the host and the size of the space. We've found that ideally, to keep the intimate and informal nature of the event, the audience should be around 20 people or less.
The structure of the event is as follows:
– 30 minutes of arriving guests, chatting, drinking, eating;
– 15-20 minutes: 1st presentation;
– 30 minutes of break, with more drinks, chatting, eating;
– 15-20 minutes: 2nd presentation;
– 30 minutes-1 hour of further chatting and drinking (depending on the venue and host).
The preparation time is usually 30 minute before the first guests arrive; and the clean-up usually takes another 30 minutes after the end of the event. The event is not recorded or published anywhere – so far, we enjoy the ephemeral dimension of TEOK, and who was there, was there.
In parallel, the event needs to be communicated and organised online. A website and a Facebook page are the main venues of communication for TEOK: the website serves as a repository of all the lectures that have happened so far, while the Facebook page allows to raise awareness to upcoming events, publish event pictures, and generally communicate and engage with the TEOK audience in a more active way. These two pages are complemented by the two main event communication and organising tools we use: a mailing list service (powered by Mailchimp), which allows us to communicate the next events to our audience; and an online ticketing platform (Eventbrite), which allows us to control and limit the number of attendees in every event. These tools are complemented by a local TEOK email account, which is the primary tool of communication between the organizers, the lecturers and hosts. All these allow TEOK to be professional, controlled and on point at all times. They need to be updated frequently, so it is possible to generate and keep up the momentum around the events, and thus allow the community to expand and grow in an organic way.
The timeframe for the event's communication is as follows:
– Event is organized using the local TEOK email account as a primary communication tool between the organizers, the lecturers and the hosts. A physical meeting may be needed to better explain the event and the expectations to each lecturer/host;
– Thursday prior to the event: mailing list is sent to the local TEOK community and eventbrite page is set and ready;
– Days leading up to the event: Facebook page is updated with teasers about what comes;
– Day of the event: pictures are taken during the event;
– Day after the event: thank-you emails are sent to the lecturers and the hosts; Facebook page is updated with pictures of the event; website is updated with the description of the event and a representative image.
– a website, part of the "global" TEOK site
– a Facebook page
– a local TEOK Gmail account
– a Mailchimp account
– an Eventbrite account
Instagram and other network tools might help but this is the basic setting.
– a living room (someone's or your own)
– beer, wine, finger foods
– a laptop and a beamer
Maintaining and updating your physical TEOK presence
Event scheduling, planning, organizing
TEOK events take place with a certain regularity: Ideally, there would be 10 events a year or more. This means a minimum of one event a month, with breaks in the summer and winter. Should you feel inclined and enthusiastic to do so, feel free to organize more events!
Securing hosts and lecturers
Event planning works best when events are planned at least with a month of time ahead. Approaching and securing lecturers and hosts takes time and requires adaptability and improvisation. It is good sense to keep a running list of possible speakers and hosts, and keep adding to it as time goes by. Speakers will naturally first stem from the organizer's own network, while with time this network will become larger and larger. This will allow organisers more ambition in the invites that are sent out, and progressively to enhance the scope of the local TEOK network.
Communication with invitees is done primarily through the local TEOK email account. Formal invitations are sent to the lecturers and hosts, and after the event, one thank you email is sent, the next morning, to each of the lecturers and the hosts.
The planning ahead of events and venues will allow for an enjoyable and non-stressful organisation process, a much desired trait of the TEOK organization effort.
Above all, if things don't work out, events can be cancelled and postponed, and things can always be done later. There are no deadlines except for the deadlines that the organizers impose on themselves.
Maintaining and updating your virtual TEOK presence
Updating the website, social media channels
The online presence of TEOK is a fundamental tool for its growth, which means that both the website and Facebook page should be updated regularly (i.e. at least once a month) to keep the interest alive. On Facebook and on the website, easy links should be provided for those who hear about the event to be able to sign up for the newsletter, and thus forward it to their friends and help spread the word about TEOK.
Any other social media channels you choose to have, such as Twitter and Instagram, will only add to the workload of updating. You can choose to synchronise them with Facebook, or to do multiple posts on all of them – but try to avoid repetitive content, and most of all, try to have fun with it. It shouldn't be a meaningless and boring workload, but something easy to do that doesn't take too much time off your life.
Building up a community
The growth of the local TEOK communities is inextricably tied to the physical events and their repercussion online. It is important to allow guests to bring friends, and invite at times special guests to become aware of the TEOK world. They will spread word about it, more people will sign up for your newsletter, come to your events, and so on and so forth. The growth of the community happens naturally and organically, and only needs dedication and enthusiasm. Which, if TEOK is something you like doing, shouldn't take too much of your time.
Frequency of contact
While it is good to keep your community updated about TEOK events and other initiatives, no one wants to be spammed all the time. In this as in everything else, common sense should come into place: shape TEOK communication as you would like to receive it, and don't annoy and alienate people. They are your community and the only reason for TEOK's success.
Most of all, have fun while doing this, and accept all mistakes and false steps as part of the way! Things can be canceled, postponed and/or edited. The wonderful truth about the internet is that you can erase and change content if you need to!
The most important goal of TEOK is to connect people, learn and have fun – so don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
If you have any questions or doubts, please contact Juan and Vera at mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are there for you and are happy to advise on any issues you might have!