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Ten Things You Might Not Know About TED and TEDxSydney

Amanda Kaye

TEDxSydney 2016 · 25 May 2016

Think you know all about TED? Even if you are something of a TEDxpert, we bet we can further your TEDucation.

Since the first conference over 30 years ago, TED has grown into a cultural phenomenon, changing the way we think, feel and exchange ideas. TED has branched out to now include special events, videos of TED talks, books, educational materials, a TED Prize and the appointment of TED Fellows.  There’s also TEDx and that’s where we at TEDxSydney step in. These are local independently curated TED experiences held all around the world.

Here’s 10 things that might surprise even the most fanatical of TEDsters.


1. TED began as an ‘ideal dinner party’ in the eighties

Way back in 1984 an American architect and graphic designer called Richard Saul Wurman was struck by the deep connections between technology, entertainment and design. He teamed up with broadcast designer Harry Marks to bring this discussion to life.  A sort of dinner party conversation and the TED prototype was born. That first ever meeting demoed the compact disc, the e-book and cutting-edge 3D graphics from Lucasfilm. By the early 90s TED was an invitation-only annual conference in California – committed to seeking out the most interesting people on earth to share innovation and ideas. In 2002 media entrepreneur Chris Anderson bought TED, became its curator and set his mind to connecting TED with as many people as possible.


2.TED is a whole lot more than Technology Entertainment and Design

Technology, entertainment and design were the foundation stones of TED: these days, like a great city, TED sprawls across a vast range of disciplines. On last count there are over 2100+ TED and TEDx Talks, so you’d be right in thinking that TED covers a lot of ground.  You can look up pretty much anything, from bees to branding, jazz to genomes, politics to parenting. Think of it as a modern day encyclopedia, with stories from real people, sharing experiences that really make you stop and think.


3. You don’t have to be famous to be a TED speaker

Some TED speakers are well known to us all, but plenty are ordinary people with extraordinary stories and insights.. People like asylum seeker Barat Ali Batoor, teen prisoner turned prison reform campaigner Ismael Nazario, Indigenous actor Alec Doomadgee, and accidental equality advocate Ash Beckham. TED recognises there’s more than one kind of expertise. That diversity of speakers is a hallmark of the TED community.


4. TED Talks can change a life or change the world

TED talks can have a real impact on lives, laws and institutional practices. Take Susan Cain’s talk.  The Power of Introverts properly throws down the gauntlet to our cultural bias towards the bold and outgoing. Her talk champions the value of introverts and calls for a rethink of how our institutions privilege the extrovert with stimulation, group work and open plan workspaces. Cain’s TED talk has been the catalyst for a real change in the corporate sector and education, what she calls a ‘Quiet Revolution.’ The public reaction to her TED talk prompted Cain to create a website and build a community where introverts can share stories and strategies. TED creates a space where an idea can snowball and bring about meaningful change.


5. The x in TEDxSydney = independently organised event

TEDx events are community-driven satellite conferences, organised under a free license and held in the same spirit of TED. Like TED, these events offer a diverse range of voices from many different disciplines. It’s the same deal on a local scale – inspired speakers, thought-provoking video and the valuable conversations these things provoke.  TEDx has become a truly global movement enjoying exponential growth. Last year there were over 10,000 TEDx events held globally, held in town halls, slums, schools and opera houses from Quebec to Beirut, Tokyo to Sydney.


6. TEDxSydney is one of the biggest TEDx events in the world

Australians have a lot of ideas worth spreading. General Thinker and TEDxSydney Founder Remo Guiffre has built TEDxSydney into one of the largest TEDx in the world with more than 4000 attendees and over 30 speakers, with a further 8,000 people staging their own TEDxSydney Satellite events around the country. Held at the Sydney Opera House, TEDxSydney is now a regular event in Australia’s cultural landscape and our talks have amassed over 50 millions views online.


7. TEDxSydney is a not for profit event, run largely by volunteers

TEDxSydney and its sister events around the world are all not-for-profit affairs. All of the money we raise goes into the running costs of the event itself. A small team of core staff coordinates the preparation year-round, and our community of volunteers help to make it all happen on the day. It is their passion that makes the event possible.  Contact us to find out how you can volunteer for TEDxSydney.


8. How do people become TEDxSydney speakers?

The TEDxSydney curatorial team tracks down the most interesting people and the best speakers from around Australia. We’re always open to suggestions coming from our community as well. If you know someone who would be an asset to the TED conversation, you can nominate a speaker through the TEDxSydney website.


9. TEDxSydney speakers are diverse, curious, talented and inspiring

In the past TEDxSydney has hosted speakers as diverse as pioneer surgeon and writer Munjed Al Muderis, stuttering singer Megan Washington, sleek geek Maths nerd Adam Spencer and composting toilet merchant Hamish Skermer. One of the most watched TEDxSydney talks was by the brilliant lie-busting ‘crip’ Stella Young. Calling out a society that looks to the disabled for ‘inspiration porn’, Stella’s talk went global and it’s now had 2M+ views worldwide.


10. TEDxSydney is for joining

There’s a lot of seats in the Sydney Opera House concert hall but it’s not always enough. Everyone who is interested in joining us on the day is asked to submit an application. Our organising committee reads every application, and actively curates the audience to ensure it reflects the full diversity of our community.

If you want to apply, first thing you need to do is register as a member of the TEDxSydney online community. Applications are open now, so once you’ve joined, get drafting. Tell us how you are creating and spreading worthwhile ideas, and how innovation, creativity and new thinking are reflected in what you get up to. We want everyone in the audience to be able to have a fascinating chat with the person sitting next to them. That’s the goal.

Don’t worry though – even if you are not selected, you can still join in. TEDxSydney is live streamed, so you can watch it unfold both online and at one of our satellite events held both in Sydney or in locations around Australia and the world.

By joining the TEDxSydney community you become part of a movement that values open-mindedness and cross-pollination. We care about diversity and we are catalysts for change. And as Chris Anderson says we are ‘part of the crowd that may be about to ignite the biggest learning cycle in human history.’

Join up, spread ideas and keep dreaming.


Original illustration for TEDxSydney by Julian May

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