With topics as varied as technological developments, science and philosophy, TEDx is the series of conferences that has garnered attention across the globe. With a mission for providing a platform for "ideas worth spreading", the not-for-profit organisation started in the US in 1984 as a conference where technology, entertainment and design converged. Now in it's 30th year, almost no topic is taboo. Many of the 18 minute talks by inspiring and expert speakers have gone viral, and have been attributed to changing the way many people think, live and work.
TEDx South Bank will be held on December 6, and is the second independently hosted TEDx conference for Brisbane this year, with TEDx Brisbane held in early October.
I spoke to TEDx curator Laura Stokes about the lineup for this year’s event, and how people can be a part of the TEDx South Bank audience.
Tell me about your role with TEDx – how did you get involved?
I’m the licensee and curator for TEDx South Bank. I’ve always loved Ted Talks and always been exposed to them by my family and when I was studying at university, and I saw that there was a real need and interest in the Brisbane community for more intellectually stimulating events. So in 2009, I applied for a TEDx licence and I was lucky enough to get it. Since then we have been running great events, and we’ve discovered there’s been a huge yearning for them, so we’ve continued to deliver them.
What can people expect to see at this year’s show?
The main focus for this year’s event is: Question Everything. So looking at the concept of what questions are we afraid to ask, or what questions could we ask differently in order to trigger a different response and to make a change to issues in the world.
We have a number of speakers that I am particularly excited about – we’ve got Dr Bella Ellwood-Clayton who’s a sex anthropologist, she’s going to be talking about an individual’s sex-drive and how we’ve potentially be doing it wrong over the years; James Dale who’s developed a banana which could potentially solve world hunger and is being funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and Michael Douglas, a very high-achieving law lecturer from Perth who has a new idea about educating young people .
It should be fascinating – with lots of really diverse, multi-disciplinary speakers at this year’s event which is really the attraction behind TEDx.
How do you find the speakers?
You digest a lot of information! (laughs). We have a great team – we have a lot of people who are interested in a lot of different areas, whether that be architecture and design, or women’s leadership and empowerment. A lot of people apply to be speakers, but we also source speakers from all over the world.
It all comes does come down to finding that person who can get on the stage and showcase that idea that could potentially change the world.
Everyone seems to have a favourite – or a couple of favourite – TEDx talks that they’ve seen live or on the web. Do you have one particular one?
There’s one I always keep going back to which is Brené Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability, which discusses why critics make us stronger, and its one of the top ten talks of all time. I suppose for me, one of our talks from last year, Tracey Spicer’s talk about stripping back your routine which went viral. I think that’s a great TEDx talk in a sense that it gave people something tangible; an action out of it, which was this notion of if we reduce the amount of time in grooming ourselves, we’d save 10 working days a year.
We had people contacting us telling us they’d stopped shaving their beards to spend more time with their kids, and women saying they’d stopped putting on makeup and started learning an instrument. I think that’s the power of TEDx talks – in 18 minutes, you can really adopt a change or learn something new. So many favourites out there – it all comes down to that little takeaway, and I think that’s different for everybody.
How can they be part of the audience?
Our TEDx event isn’t first in best dressed; it’s an application process to make sure the experience starts from the beginning. They can jump on to the website before October 31, and they can fill out an application form which contains questions about what change they want to make to their community. That’s really important to us in order to achieve a diverse demographic of people and ensuring it’s a representation of the Brisbane. We usually get 1,000 applications, and then have to cut it back to 300.
That sounds like a mammoth task!
It’s a nightmare! A glass of wine usually helps (laughs). But, it’s great to see and to get to know some incredible people we have here in Brisbane.