News TEDx

TEDx organizers from every continent speak

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

Since TEDx launched in 2009, more than 5,000 events have been held in 137 far-flung countries. So what is it like to throw an event? We asked a TEDx organizer from each continent — yes, including Antarctica — to answer three questions about their ‘x’ experience.

Africa: George Kevin Oteino of TEDxKibera in Kenya

1. What surprised you most about your TEDx event?

When we first started, I never thought people would come since in Kibera people only attend events when they are promised some handouts. At first, we had only friends — 40 in number. At the second TEDxKibera event in 2009, we had 96 people. The number has grown many times larger, and yet we are not giving them money or handouts.

2. What’s the most exciting thing that has happened as a result of your TEDx?

The perception of some Kibera residents has really changed — from waiting for the government to do everything for them to self-reliance and thinking independently. They’ve found the motivation that they can do it.

3. What does the power/scale of the global TEDx network do for your local community?

It connects individuals to ideas from the different corners of the world, from the local to the international community.

Antarctica: Darren McGann of TEDxAntarcticPeninsula

1. What surprised you most about your TEDx event?

I was most surprised by the outpouring of support and enthusiasm of TEDx organizers around the world to have an event in Antarctica; the community of TEDx organizers is amazing.

2. What’s the most exciting thing that has happened as a result of your TEDx?

Two things come to mind.  First, the video that we played during the event was Paul Nicklen’s talkTales of ice-bound wonderlands”, a must-watch talk. Two months later, I met Paul in Minneapolis and was able to hang out and talk about TED, Antarctica and adventures with him. He was thrilled to know TEDx has reached Antarctica and was honored that his video was selected for the historic event.  The second exciting thing is that I was just asked to speak at a TEDx located on the receding Pindi Glacier in the Himalayan Mountains.

3. What does the power/scale of the global TEDx network do for your local community?

The network has significantly enhanced our local community by bringing the best ideas forward to the places in which we live.

Asia: Dave Lim of TEDxSingapore

1. What surprised you most about your event?

We are energised by the passion and energy that tangibly exudes whenever TED fans gather. Like TED, TEDx is not just about the inspiring ideas and speakers on stage, but feeling the potential and limitless possibilities of the TEDx community.

2. What’s the most exciting thing that has happened as a result of your TEDx?

About three months after our TEDx event, I met a young person who said, “TEDxYouth Day changed my life.” I was quite taken aback and humbled by what she said. We all know and experience how inspiring TED and TEDx speakers can be, and it’s truly a special and meaningful moment when someone tells you that what TEDx’ers do makes a significant impact in their lives.

3. What does the power/scale of the global TEDx network do for your local community?

More than ever, we are living in an interconnected planet — not just in concept, but in everyday life — because of global social networks and the Internet. Through the vast TED community, we share ideas and understanding, and bring our common humanity — and future — closer together. Idea by idea, there’s a heart-to-heart connection, a community, and camaraderie. There’s a quote from about 200 years ago by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg which to me, epitomizes the global TEDx community: “Everyone is a genius at least once a year. The real geniuses simply have their bright ideas closer together.”

Australia: Remo Giuffre of TEDxSydney

1. What surprised you most about your event?

How, at a certain point, the development and planning for the event takes on a life of its own … and I almost feel like an observer. That’s the dividend from creating a strong and passionate team.

2. What’s the most exciting thing that has happened as a result of your TEDx?

Seeing speakers whose careers have been bolstered in life-changing ways. And hearing from other members of the TEDxSydney community whose lives have been similarly enriched.

3. What does the power/scale of the global TEDx network do for your local community?

It creates a sense of connectedness with like-minded people all over the world. Adds context and engenders local action with global meaning.

Europe: Antonella Broglia of TEDxMadrid

1. What surprised you most about your event?

The audience. They are always so clever. For example, we planned a talk in Esperanto, a planned language that nobody speaks and even knows about — just as a thought-provoking thing. We thought that everybody would be at least irritated by the presentation, but it was a standing ovation. You really never know how the experience will be.

2. What’s the most exciting thing that has happened as a result of your TEDx?

The event was only four weeks ago, so we don’t know yet in terms of business or personal consequences. But last year we had these incredible results: one speaker was so inspired that he applied for his own licence, as did two people from the audience. And a speaker from their event — Vinay Venkatraman — was selected to talk at TED@Doha and his video has already had 189,000 views. Another speaker, Andy Goodman, was shortlisted in the auditions for TED2013. Also, a speaker and a person from the audience fell in love and they now live together. Let’s see what comes out from TEDxMadrid 2012. So far we have some great tweets: “The best Saturday of my life, the best event of my life.”

3. What does the power/scale of the global TEDx network do for your local community?

It gives a sense of belonging — to something bigger, to a tribe of people who does things for others.

North America: Ruth Milligan of TEDxColumbus

1. What surprised you most about your event?

The emotion through the entire process — for the speakers, the audience, everyone.  From being nominated, to chosen, to building a talk, to revealing stories, to the delicate sharing and the amazing, unexpected connections.  I am amazed at how emotional this process can be.  Last year, one of our “personal story” speakers was rehearsing —  discussing how he had overcome two kidney transplants and a rare form of brain cancer in between. The next speaker, a head/neck radiologist, arrived to rehearse early and within minutes of hearing his talk was brought her to her knees in tears.  She simply said, “I had no idea he survived.”  She had read his scans five years earlier and marked him for dead.  We continue to encounter primal, serendipitous and not-so-coincidental moments that so deeply connect us in ways that evoke unexpected emotion.

2. What’s the most exciting thing that has happened as a result of your TEDx?

We are revealed.  Within our community, to each other in ways that were not possible before TEDx.  And to each other in the world, and the world to us. Our TEDxColumbus event has become our town hall, but with real people and ideas with an immeasurable outcome of sharing, acting, and feeding a now insatiable curiosity. Last year, we spontaneously invited a speaker from TEDxYouth@Columbus to join us as a surprise speaker — a performance poet studying to be a prison minister. This 20-something blew the roof off of both events with her poems. She was then invited to write three unique poems celebrating our city’s 200th anniversary and one of those is now displayed on the wall of our community foundation, The Columbus Foundation, as a permanent art installation. Our civic capacity builds, our conversation elevates and our pride is strengthened with these revelations.

3.  What does the power/scale of the global TEDx network do for your local community?

Among many things, it provides belonging. Terrell Strayhorn, a higher education researcher, was told by Gordon Gee, the President of The Ohio State University, that he needed to clear his calendar to accept the TEDx invitation we had tried to issue him for over a year (“Who is this guy named Ted and why should I talk to him?,” he pondered).  After Terrell’s outrageously popular presentation two weeks ago at TEDxColumbus 2012, he left the stage to a cascade of text and emails congratulating him on his talk. Among them was an email from a group from the University of Wisconsin who watched him on the livestream, inviting him, should he not be happy at OSU, to entertain a job with them at Wisconsin. While none of us intend for TEDx to be a job bank, Terrell’s story demonstrates the power of the network: one of the largest research university presidents understanding what a TEDx talk can do for sharing a person’s knowledge; and how this person, with passion that attracted a wide audience of viewers, can bring attention to the deep expertise that rests within our community. We all want to belong. Indeed, we do.  Perhaps that’s why the TEDx platform is so powerful: because when we share knowledge in this way, we do all belong — to each other, to our communities, to our world.

South America: Bruno Cheuiche Vieira da Cunha of TEDxFloripa in Brazil

1. What surprised you most about your event?

I attended TEDxAmazonia — invited by my brother Rodrigo Cunha, who was organizing the event. At that time, I only knew a little about TED and TEDx. But that day, in the middle of the jungle, surrounded by hundreds of amazing people, listening to over 50 brilliant speakers, I said to myself: I must share this experience with people back home. So I decided to host TEDxFloripa. What surprised me most was all the people coming together to help to make TEDxFloripa happen. We were 15 organizers — I had not ever met any of them before. And then, in nine months, we were a strong, solid team — with the help of 14 partners plus two major sponsors, 20 speakers and an amazing audience. And people left that full day asking for more and more.

2. What’s the most exciting thing that has happened as a result of your TEDx?

After the event we had a strong community, building several bridges. Some ideas and speakers began to work together. They got much more visibility. And also we had two other TEDx initiatives come from TEDxFloripa. TEDxTubarão, which will be held in November, came from one of our audience members and TEDxUFSC came from a member of our core team.

3. What does the power/scale of the global TEDx network do for your local community?

This community certainly gives us a lot of backup and reliable support. It is amazing that we have thousands of people all over the world connected to spread and push great new ideas. People that are thinking differently, and are willing to build a better world. As one of our speakers said on stage, “If John Lennon dropped down here today, he certainly would see that we still have people gathering around ideas, thinking about the world and still believing that it is possible to change. So, with the words that he used: the dream goes on.”