How TED inspires people to create a legacy

Alyssa O’Brien

People love TED because they love to learn from original, entertaining talks. TED provides audiences with an immersive experience, whether through hearing someone’s story or through engaging with exciting new ideas.

I recently found out that the Founder of TEDxSydney, Remo Giuffré, announced he has created a retrospective book celebrating ten years of TEDxSydney. The book will be a treasure: a personal homage to the people of TEDxSydney, a collection in words and images of so many talks and community events. I can’t wait to see the book, especially for the photos of audiences deeply moved by the talks they hear.

Yet the legacy of TED is not just that it moves audiences; it also inspires people to dream.

What is that dream? Many dream of one day giving a TED talk. Walking on to that red carpet and sharing their own story, or their idea to improve society, or their vision for the future.

So TED not only educates and inspires, it opens the opportunity for people to reach further outside their comfort zone than they ever knew was possible.

Listening to TED talks, we begin to think, What if it was me on that stage? What would I say? What would my message be for the world? How might my words create a legacy?


Telling your story in your own city

I’ve observed this lightbulb moment myself, as a trainer, a teacher and even as a daughter.  

Recently I had the privilege to volunteer as a trainer for Happiness Concierge, the ‘kickass training company’ that helps people ace work and life. Led by Rachel Service, Happiness Concierge runs a three-day presentation bootcamp, where participants learn how to speak with confidence. But they also need to have something to say.

That’s where TED enters as inspiration. For many in presentation training classes, they look to TED as the perfect audience.

To make a message stick, presenters will imagine speaking at TEDxSydney. And then the magic happens.

By imagining themselves on stage in their own cities, people begin to consider what their legacy would be: what would they share that would be viewed by an enthusiastic audience made up of people they know? People from their neighbourhood, workplace, community or school?

Afterwards, the message would live on, virtually, as a video on the TEDxSydney website. We all want to make our mark. What would you say to create your own legacy?


Stepping on to the Red Carpet

I love that every TEDx uses a red carpet, whether in circle or rectangular shape. So different from the red carpets of show-biz celebrity showcases, TED’s carpet has a perimeter. It allows for absolute focus on the speaker.

As a former university teacher who taught with a red TEDish carpet, I’ve seen students transformed by stepping into such a brave space where vulnerability and courage meet. They suddenly realise that they have words worth saying on a public stage, and that their bodies are perfect just as they are.

In such educational arenas, talks get crafted with TED in mind, shaping content arcs and delivery dynamics. And the red carpet becomes a magic carpet. For young people especially, this opportunity is invaluable.

In this way, TED provides a way for people to be seen, as well as heard.

How many people today feel invisible, crushed by the busy pace of everyday life and work? The incredible variety of speakers and performances on the TED stage shows that all are welcome. Viewers can imagine themselves in the light, no longer insignificant.


Staring down death

When we ask what our legacy will be, this question becomes fiercely important in the face of terminal illness.  

I remember the last few months of my mother’s life, nearly ten years ago. Together we wrote every day, as she wanted to create a collection of her writing that would become her legacy to hand down to her family. I gave her writing prompts, she wrote, then we would read the work and talk about her ideas. After she passed, the published book and website became her legacy.

How many people have done the same with loved ones? Wanted to capture their words and be able to celebrate the person even after death?

Today people are beginning to make video-recordings to share their voices and images of themselves with future generations after they are gone. For those facing end-of-life timelines, such technology — whether writing or video capture — is an amazing gift. People are able to create and leave a legacy for those they love.

With TED talks, we learn stories of resilience and stories of survival. There are so many more such stories. There is your story. Are you ready to write and speak yours?


Making legacy possible

I don’t think it is too strong to say that the existence of TED offers an existential salve.

Everyone longs to be heard and seen. TED takes that longing and transforms it into a possibility.  People can envision themselves finally witnessed. That they have lived matters. Their imagined talk can be their legacy.

This May, join others for a day of live talks and events at TEDxSydney on 24 May 2019. The theme? Legacy. Learn from others. Then begin to write your own, unique contribution.


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