Leading up to TEDxOttawa I was quite excited and anticipated it greatly, this was my first TED event and I wanted to tell everyone that ‘I’ was going! This is no small feat, since (if you are not familiar with TEDx events) there is an application process to attend and from the applications only a limited number of people are actually invited. I applied and although I was not accepted in the first round of people I was invited in the second round – I wasn’t complaining, I took it! When I received the invite I was positively giddy and I was telling everyone – but I was amazed at the number of people who stared at me blankly when I gushed that I was going to TEDx. I was shocked at how many people had never heard of TED, never seen a TED Talk and didn’t know what TED was let alone TEDx. So, in true TED fashion, since it is all about ‘ideas worth spreading’ I told them about TED. I shared some of my favourite talks (The Book of Awesome, Al Gore’s ‘Our Choice’ fully interactive e-book for iPad) and explained that TED stood for Technology, Entertainment and Design and is a conference where great minds come together to spread new ideas and get inspired. TEDx is simply an independently run TED event, following in the same spirit as the official TED conference. The theme for TEDx Ottawa was ‘creative actions’.
This TEDx Ottawa was held at the Algonquin College ACCE building and although I wished I had stopped for coffee before arriving, the venue was gorgeous and the stage was striking. The music leading up to the opening of the event was pumping and energized the room – it was a strong first impression. The MC Jeremy McQuigge was high energy and grabbed our attention and stole some smiles when he stepped up. He hit the nail on the head stating that the audience was a who’s who of social media personalities, students and Algonquin alumni – it was easy to recognize a number of people from their avatars and photos. Setting the tone for the day, Jeremy quoted Alvin Toffler “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” So we settled in to learn, unlearn and relearn.
Here is a collection of the ideas and quotes I felt were worth spreading from the TEDx Ottawa event. Some speakers were stronger than others, some topics more impactful and revolutionary than others but these are the ones that spoke to me.
The Art of Doing by Steve St Pierre; designer, writer, cross Canada traveller
Steve kicked off the event with a ‘just do it’ pep talk, filled with great sound bites, inspiring quotes and motivational anecdotes that have popped into my head time and again post TEDx.
“So much time is wasted revisiting the idea of getting started instead of just getting started.”
“Things obvious to you could be incredible to somebody else.”
“Share you ideas, talk about them, and write them down. Don’t worry about people stealing your idea, they can’t realize it the same way you can.”
“If it is already done, do it better.”
“When you share your idea, you turn your support system into your nagging mother, so it gets done – like making your bed, doing the dishes.”
“People can suffer from death by project management – if you were to list out the steps to every little task even getting a snack looks daunting.”
How I got my Mojo Back by Kelly Catana; Mom, blogger, media personality
Kelly made the decision to change her life dramatically. Her story started as one that many can relate to and when she realized she was in a rut she made a decision to make a change. Joining Twitter was a catalyst to her change. Twitter connected her to others that she could relate to and people that inspired her, Twitter empowered her.
“No one is going to say ‘you need to do this’. You need to ask for opportunities. You need to think big and go big. You need to pitch yourself.”
“Missing the mark doesn’t mean you stop, it just means you change direction.”
“Pass on the crazy people, find your mentors.”
A creative vision for the future… by Nick Charney; public servant
Nick presented a vision for making government processes around grants more accessible for small businesses and startups. He spoke specifically about government processes but the ideas can be applied to many organizations.
Move your processes online and offer easy self-serve options – don’t make it work to work with you.
If you offer multiple services or products be proactive and ‘suggest’ other things that might be of interest to your user. Provide an easy link within the original process.
Have data follow users through your site, no one enjoys filling out the same info multiple times.
Have forms integrated in your site, not separate documents.
Revise your FAQs regularly – make them easy to access during the process, use ‘user’ language to improve searching.
Provide links to resources that might be helpful to your users.
Use social media to get feedback on your products, services and processes.
Healing Architecture – Bret Cardinal; Architect
Bret presented fascinating facts that I have never considered about society, culture and the buildings we spend our lives in. You can see a departure from traditional office layouts in modern workspaces and see the impact is has on creativity, connectedness within the team and productivity. Bret took these trends and ideas to an entirely new level, exploring buildings like living organisms and borrowing awe-inspiring patterns and designs from nature.
“We tend to design homes around the plumbing – or the toilet, why don’t we design around culture, family?”
“Elders are like books of knowledge, in some societies we put them in separate homes (like books to a library), in others we make them the center of the family.”
Don’t Waste Student Work by Jim Davies; educator
His message was to make learner assignments meaningful; people are putting real effort into projects – make it make a difference. When learner work is ‘real’ it motivates them to do better, they learn the content better and it benefits someone. Whether the assignment contributes to an online learning tool for others or actually engages real life situations, instructors should design assignments that make an impact on the world.
There are over 20 million post secondary students in North America doing hours and hours of assignment work each semester. What would happen if all of those assignments were designed to be meaningful and real?
This talk made me look at even our corporate training to see if there was opportunity to learn from meaningful assignments, not ones that just get graded and tossed or filed.
Social Work Through Hip-Hop by Stephen Leafloor “Buddah”; social worker
Buddah shared some touching and inspirational stories from his youth and career as a social worker that I cannot do justice to in a recap – filled with messages of hope, perseverance and the importance of culture and community.
“Each one, teach one. We all have a responsibility to mentor someone.”
“Strong people ask for help, why don’t we tell our children this?”
“Every culture has a drum. Put your hand on your heart, there’s yours.”
“You can create something outta nothing.”
In the end, TEDxOttawa was not necessarily what I expected. It didn’t have the polish and power of TED Talks that I had anticipated from what I had seen online. It did, however, provide some new ideas, inspiring and motivating stories and allowed for some great networking between talks. The students and people new to TED seemed to enjoy the conference but some others who were familiar with TED and expected more consistent, polished speakers, did walk out. I can see why. Even still, I was glad I stayed to the end to see the speakers mentioned above, capture a few gems and make some amazing contacts between sessions. I will also give a nod to David Martel and his band who performed during one session. Generally I am a bit of a curmudgeon when I am in work or academic mode and don’t want to be distracted by ‘fun’ but David Martel and his group have a great vibe and put on a fantastic performance, so I was happy to have been introduced to their particular indie sound at TEDx.
They did show a few videos of official TEDTalks and these were great examples of the speakers, ideas and presentations that we expect from TED and TED related events. I encourage anyone who is not familiar with TED or these particular talks to check out the links below. This is where I get inspired, motivated and excited about learning.
Aaron Koblin: Artfully visualizing our humanity
Neil Pasricha: The 3 A’s of awesome
Johanna Blakley: Lessons from fashion’s free culture