If You Build It, They Will Come – Engaging in Real Time with TEDxSydney Satellites

Nick Schiavuzzi

Stephen Hawking says the universe is expanding. As we mature and come to understand our place in the unending time of space, new pockets of activity and galactic surprise present themselves for us to consider, discuss, and be generally left in complete wonder at.

In its own way, the TEDxSydney universe is expanding, too.

From the humble beginnings of TED as an ‘ideal dinner party’ in the 1980s and the discussion of the CD-Rom, TED now finds itself a hugely successful worldwide franchise. The TEDxSydney event at the Sydney Opera House is one of its most significant, and the CD-Rom has been replaced time and again by advancement in communication technology – now we have Twitter.

But the expansion continues on at a head of steam. Like those pockets of space activity in our physical universe, the TEDxSydney Satellite program exists as a testament to that notion – a series of community lead and run events that coincide with the Sydney Opera house event – in real time – to offer pockets of activity and discussion all over the city and beyond.

The Satellite events essentially are an opportunity for businesses, community groups, students, or simply those among us curious enough, to host a group of people in our own spaces and have the TEDxSydney main stage live streamed to that location as it happens.The Satellite events are just that – satellites floating across Sydney, all in direct and live contact with the mothership at the Opera House.

This is going to TEDxSydney without having to be at TEDxSydney. Boom. Technology.

Last year, over 140 groups hosted TEDxSydney Satellite events, and as that vital element of the TEDxSydney experience grows again this year, it is perhaps worth considering the very real implications of how such a program works to open lines of communications across communities.

First and foremost, at its core, TEDxSydney is about getting as many innovative ideas to as many people as possible on the day. But, alas, the Opera House is only so big!

Ideas however, are not housed by any structure, and they expand as far as we allow them. The Satellite events look to give breath to those ideas discussed on stage at TEDxSydney by diversifying the audience as much as possible. Whatever your cultural background, religion, socioeconomic group, or football team, the Satellite program allows you to engage with the ideas that make the TEDxSydney event such a hub of innovation and activity.

And the engagement here is very real. The fact that Twitter has usurped CD-ROM is no mere quaint historical oddity. The TEDxSydney Satellite program is taking that and running with it.

Not only does the Satellite program offer the opportunity to witness the mothership from afar in the expanding TEDxSydney galaxy, but Twitter and social media allows those floating entities to report back – there will be a live public Twitter feed from the Opera House on the day. So charge your phones and let the hashtags flow.

More than all that though, the satellite events in the past have grown little lives of their own, and now exist as an unexpected organic success. Quite away from the Opera House, Sydney Trains hosted a TEDxSydney Satellite event in 2015 – envisaging that people would relish the afternoon off work, more than anything else.

But something else happened. People went along and, all of a sudden, Sydney Trains staff ceased to exist as separate, discrete departments. Colleagues from across various elements of that business saw each other as participants in a discussion, and, as event organizer Cathy Grace noted in the wash up, “people began sharing more about themselves, not just who they are while they are at work.”

And people being integrated across businesses is a good business to be in.

The ability of ideas and the free flow of them between people that might otherwise never discuss them are at the heart of what the Satellite program is about. Who knows, you might even make a new friend.

The satellite program offers scope for not only business based outcomes, but can help with the building of community-based bridges. Last year, the Sydney Jewish Museum held its very own TEDxSydney satellite event. An open call for people to drop into their auditorium on the day and sink your teeth into some juicy ideas.

Events built around specific community groups like this offer us all a huge opportunity. A quite serious opportunity to find a common ground and communicate with one another in perhaps a more considered way than we have become accustomed. If we can find some common ideas to discuss, even if we come at things from totally separate corners of our expanding universe, then we can use that commonality to find the next idea – maybe for to be discussed at TEDxSydney 2017. Who knows?

This is grassroots action at its purest. The Satellite events are very much of the old adage ‘If you build it, they will come’. The real opportunity for people to engage in real time and have their say. So maybe build it, expand your universe, and see who turns up.


Want more info? Head to the Satellite page for all the information you need to register and plan your event.

Original illustration for TEDxSydney by Emma Winton.

TEDxSydney Satellites are supported by our Presenting Partner, Optus.

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