As the global leadership elite, 2007 edition, meet in the snow-deprived Swiss resort of Davos to mark another round of World Economic Forum 'conversations', the East Coast-based West Coast mega-conference TED has announced it is shifting to an annual Membership model for its highly-prized seats to its Monterey conference and an increasing number of other events throughout the year.
Frankly, TED has gone from strength to strength, increasing to roughly 1,000 participants at the Monterey Convention Center, which many regard as a pretty apparent upper limit, even with the overflow 'simulcast' room replete with avant guarde Steelcase furnishings and haute art displays.
And this year's conference, shifting from late February for the first time since that became an established gig to March 7-10, has been effectively sold out for more than a year.
However, the "membership" also comes with a hitch - the pricing is bumped to $6,000 a year from $4,400, with a sweetener that some will consider long overdue - TED chief Chris Anderson is now structuring the arrangement so members can take a tax write-off based on the charitable portion of the membership - participation some had urged since Anderson began distributing grants, culminating in the highly successful TEDprize, now in its third year.
With the membership goes a regular Book Club, conference DVDs, early renweal rights, etc. and Chris writes that he plans to keep offering scholarships to deserving and particularly talented participants who require them, and to counter concerns about elitism, he also notes TED is committed to continuing to release content of its talks to the general public via the Internet.
Furthermore, a $1,000 associate membership, with all but conference attendance rights, will be established later this year to provide network access for those who value connection to TED without the annual extravaganza - for example people who cannot make the conference in a given year.
We expect a variety of opinions on this - Anderson notes Davos and the Clinton Global Initiative are events with much higher price tags - and yet he's also creating other, more 'special' categories for TEDdonors, who may provide at lest $12,000 a year, and TEDpatrons, who commit $100,000 for ten years of particularly good seating access in the Main Hall.
Given the changes in a conference which hosted Al Gore last year, and is awarding Bill Clinton a TEDprize this year, t's a good thing the Monterey event doesn't rely on good snow conditions to set the mood.