TED. Good old TED. Even if you’ve never been, seen or bothered finding out what TED really does, surely the term “TED Talks” should spark some form of curiosity. TEDxAuckland did more than just turning a few curious heads this year.
D-Day May 2nd: casual city strollers and the skater boys at Victoria Park must have wondered what was going on in that giant conference centre across the road. Little did they know, a two-thousand-odd group of people was sponging up every drop of inspiration from TedxAuckland’s sixteen speakers. Heralded as a stellar line up with the likes of Sir Bob Harvey, the controversial Tama Iti, provocative Samoan artist Michel Tuffery, award-winning political cartoonist Tom Scott and the renowned etymologist Max Cryer; this year’s event duly achieved its mission of providing a cultural focus and impetus for conversation and debate. Not one to easily launch straight into a substantial conversation with strangers, by the end of the second session, I found myself itching to visit a good friend with whom I usually daydream about saving the world or ponder upon existentialism.
Must have been some pretty amazing talks – I hear you say. For me, only one or two speakers truly grabbed my lazy inner thinker by the shoulder and shook her wide awake, figuratively speaking of course. Most noteworthy were Dr Hong Sheng Chiong’s admirable crusade against preventable blindness starting with his invention of the mobile eye-imaging adapters; and the simple yet utterly logical capitalization of spare capacity which Janette Searle adopted in her “Take My Hands” operation: distributing prosthetic equipments to those in needs via major freight providers’ unused cargo space. Other attendees of the events could argue differently, citing Sir Bob Harvey as the most impressive leader or Gavin Healy’s spiritual motivation as eye-opening material. That’s the true beauty of TED talks. One takes away what they can from the event. If the idea, stories or innovations themselves weren’t enough to spur the audience into action, the speakers through their own palpable passionate delivery would have ignited certain appreciation or sense of awareness inside each of us. The act of discussing the talks afterwards alone is enough said.
The “x” in TEDxAuckland stands for “independently organized TED event” – in other words this was a TED-style event licensed by big brother TED. A commendable effort by the licensee’s organization, business partners and many wonderful volunteers. The venue choice however, may have hindered smooth sailing on the day. How did two thousand people queue for coffees at two stations (meters away from each other) inside a narrow hallway? They didn’t. I heard the small café around the corner hit jackpot that day. The food truck lunch service was delightful and it goes without saying, the organizers themselves must have been scratching their heads with portion numbers. I really hope food tickets or vouchers of some sorts will be employed at next year’s event. There’s nothing sadder than seeing your fellow inspiration-seekers hungry.
Despite such minor technicality, TEDxAuckland still left my mind and body supercharged with a certain positive enthusiasm. I did pay my above-mentioned friend a visit that night and boy, our usual “ponder-this” session was so much more engaging. Next year, I will drag this dear friend along!