John Rives Profile

  • One of the most celebrated modern day poets, he applies new technologies to ancient art forms, mesmerizing audiences, and transforming even the most mundane details into something worth caring about.
  • His intellectual brilliance and unique way with words elevate conferences and other events, just one of the many reasons he is the host of the annual TedActive conference.
  • He is the member of a small group of people who have a total of six talks on
  • Rives’s way with words has been called a “demonstration of what the English language is capable of.” The poet, performing artist, and event host touches a range of human emotions bringing new and surprising meaning to simple things and universal experiences.

    Known for humorously layered and heartwarming pieces like “Kite” and “Mockingbird,” he was dubbed the “first 2.0 Poet” after performing in a series of ads for telecom company S.A. Orange. He has also been frequently featured on NPR and HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. A Ted Talk favorite, his talks have launched hobbies that audiences didn’t even know they wanted, such as the culture wide search for references to “4 A.M,” which ultimately cumulated in Rives’s project, the Museum of Museum of Four in the Morning, an online crowd-sourced collection of quotes connected to four in the morning found in art and popular culture.

    Rives is particularly famous for his use of multimedia in his performances as he seamlessly intertwining images, video, and often the audience with his poems and hosting duties. A former educator for the hearing impaired, he sometimes incorporates sign language into his poetry as well. He is also an accomplished pop-up book author and designer and has developed and taught a course on blogging and social networks at the International Center of Photography, New York.

    • View Extended/Alternate Bio

      Part poet, part storyteller, part philosopher, Rives is the co-host of TEDActive as well as a frequent TED speaker. On stage, his poems burst in many directions, exposing multiple layers and unexpected treats: childhood memories, grown-up humor, notions of love and lust, of what is lost forever and of what’s still out there waiting to unfold,

      A regular on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, Rives also starred alongside model Bar Refaeli in the 2008 Bravo special Ironic Iconic America, touring the United States on a “roller coaster ride through the eye-popping panorama of American pop culture.” In October of 2008 he began appearing as the “first 2.0 poet” in a series of ads for telecom company Orange S.A.[4]

      His best-known poems include “Kite,” about waking up alone in a new lover’s apartment, and “Mockingbird,” which he performs differently every time, incorporating the words of other poets and speakers in the program.

      Flat pages can’t contain his storytelling, even when paper is his medium. The pop-up books he creates for children unfold with surprise: The Christmas Pop-Up Present expands to reveal moving parts, hidden areas and miniature booklets inside.

      As a host, he has an uncanny talent for making an event go smoothly, filling in the gaps that so many conferences leave unorganized. He runs the whole day, making sure the audience is engaged and interacting at every possible moment by hosting networking sessions, caption-writing contests, and on-stage competitions. And, he finds the day’s humorous, poignant moments and incorporates them in wrap-up presentations and mini-documentaries. He makes sure that all the energy, effort, and expense of the conference is put to the best possible use, and that every attendee and organizer walks away feeling that the day was a success. He also gives talks on the power of storytelling—and how multimedia technology is changing the way we communicate—as well as keynotes and workshops with valuable lessons on public speaking

      In 2013, Rives began curating Museum of Four in the Morning, an online crowd-sourced collection of references to four in the morning in art and popular culture – a time that may well be part of a global conspiracy. In a good way.

    John Rives Speaking Videos

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    John Rives's Speech Descriptions

    Rives connects audiences to his thoughts on love, poets, his fascinating inner monologue of daily life, and the secrets to being a speaker or storyteller who cannot be ignored. The celebrated Slam Poet and six-time TED speaker gives interactive lectures and workshops revealing must-have tips to anyone who wants to be heard and remembered in an age where grabbing and maintaining someone’s full attention is becoming a lost art.

    As an event host, he executes brilliant improvisation, tying together key ideas and points from other speakers and presenting them in tightly packaged three-minute poems. Rives fills in the gaps that other conferences leave unattended, just one of many reasons that he is the staple host for the annual TedActive conference.

    Rives’s clients include Hewlett-Packard, Hallmark, Wieden+Kennedy, Business Objects, Northwestern University, House of Blues.

    Host Shenanigans: Run Your Best, Most Fun Event Ever
    When Rives is the host of your event, you don’t get someone who just reads an MC script and takes off before post-conference cocktails. You get a dedicated, expert host who transforms every moment of the day into an interactive, unforgettable experience.

    Here’s just a taste of the host shenanigans Rives is famous for: the infamous one-minute open mic or talent show, where audience members get their moment in the spotlight; caption-writing contests with social media interaction; on-stage competitions where attendees go head-to-head; find-a-friend and networking contests and breakout sessions; end-of-day wrap-up presentation created by Rives based on conference themes, anecdotes, and speaker quotes; and mini-documentary of the day featuring attendee interviews and clips from the conference. Gracious, funny, and a fountain of energy, Rives turns an average conference into an extraordinary event.

    From Campfires to Cell Phones: The Power of Storytelling
    From pop-up books to iPad ventriloquism, Rives’ artistic trail runs off innovation and unpredictability. Why is storytelling such a powerful medium? And what is the future of storytelling amid today’s surge of technology?

    In this talk, Rives bridges the gee-whiz future of storytelling with its campfire past. He charts his evolution from poet to multimedia artist, with experiments in speech translation filters, blogging, smartphones, emoticons, crowd-sourcing, and social media. He gives audiences the tools to understand, create, and deliver stories—whether it’s in writing, on stage, or through social media—and connects accomplished storytelling to personal and business success.

    How to Give a Talk: Tips and Tricks from a Five-Time TED Speaker
    From Noble Prize winners to kindergarteners, Rives has coached hundreds of speakers on how to deal with stage fright, connect with your audience, nail your topic, and get your idea out there. This empowering talk can be delivered to large and small audiences as an interactive keynote speech or intimate workshop, and is often requested by high schools, colleges, and corporate groups.

    What People are Saying about Seeing John Speak

    Rating Entries

    “Rives was one of the real stars of the 2006 TED Conference. On the last day, he performed a spoken word piece that incorporated all of the most memorable lines from the presentations that had come before. I was blown away!”
    ~ Al Gore

    “I never get tired of listening to this man. I was blown away by his performances at the end of both TED 2006 and TED 2007 where he managed to tie together many of the key phases and ideas presented during the conference in one beautifully crafted three-minute verbal thrill ride. Amazing. Almost more impressive were the freestyles on the beach. Jaw-dropping skills.”
    ~ TED website

    “What a fabulous day! In a star-studded line-up, I think you were the favorite. You are certainly the one that people keep talking about, and there’s a lot more graffiti in the breakroom now because of you!”
    ~ Director of planning for an major ad agency

    “I’m going to invent a reason to bring you back if I have to!”
    ~ Event planner, Fortune 500 company

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