Ten Guitars Or A Busted Ukelele?

Ten Guitars is a well-loved New Zealand (especially Māori) party song. I’ve used it here in an informal way to rate the success (or otherwise) of our Māori TED Talks project.

In August last year, Tosca Waerea and I were on Twitter discussing why we loved TED Talks when we hit upon the idea of trying to make something similar happen in libraries. We had grand plans! But wanted to trial our idea on a smaller scale first.

Te Rōpū Whakahau, the Māori Library and Information Workers Association, were holding their annual hui (conference) in January, and they were asking for expressions of interest. We pitched our idea to the organising committee who gave us the green light.

Below is a summary of what Tosca and I set out to achieve and what we accomplished.

Project Duration: 21 weeks.
Showtime: 18-21 January 2012.

What do we want to achieve?

  • I want to listen to thought-provoking speakers.
  • I need concrete ideas that will work in my library.

How will we achieve it?
Theme: “New Ways of Talking: Maori and Technology”. Three speakers each to present for 20 minutes and each to be followed by a 30 minute workshop.


  1. Chris Cormack of Catalyst IT – working with virtual communities
  2. Mike McRoberts of TV3 – it’s all about the story
  3. Rhonda Kite of Kiwa Media – demystifying digital books

The energy from the participants was clear through their engagement with the speakers and their enthusiasm for asking the hard questions such as: “How does IRC (Internet Relay Chat) actually work?”, “What do you think of the negative image of Maori in mainstream?”,  and “Do you have any evidence linking digital/interactive books to improved literacy?”

People also commented on how much they enjoyed the speakers and there were some awesome digital discussions occurring throughout the remainder of the hui.

We didn’t get a chance to run the workshops as planned, but the buzz and energy from the participants indicated that these weren’t necessary. Personally I felt we achieved what we set out to do – provide thought-provoking speakers and concrete ideas to take back to our place of work.

Lessons Learned

  1. We started the project with well-defined thoughts on what we wanted to achieve and how it could be done.
  2. Approaching speakers we did not personally know via social media, broadened our comfort zone.
  3. A communication meltdown with the organising committee two weeks prior to showtime seriously dampened our spirits but not our resolve.
  4. The workshops we had planned did not work due to time constraints, room layout, and participant fatigue.
  5. It all came together surprisingly well and with relative ease. Well kinda.

If we ran something similar again (with a similar-sized audience of 60+), we’d have a break between speakers and not attempt workshops at all.

So would I give it a rating of ten guitars or a busted ukelele? Ten guitars without a doubt.

Other articles that may interest you:

  ‘What is the problem you are addressing?’ was the best advice for understanding a project” was the most valuable aspect of The Cheat’s Guide to Project Management says Karl Gaskin, Wellington City Libraries.

One Comment

  1. I learned that everyone (including Te Rōpū Whakahau) loves lolcats, and that reinforced that humour is an effective presentation technique. 🙂

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