TEDxSydney 2018 Spring Pitch Night: Who won and what did we learn?

Brittany Lee Waller

TEDxSydney Spring 2018 Pitch Night · 25 September 2018

When Primary School teacher Max Agapitos turned around in his seat and asked me to “laugh extra loud at my joke” I knew the night was set to be filled with personality, big characters and, of course, compelling ideas. I wasn’t wrong.


From hundreds of entries just 22 speakers were chosen to present their ‘Idea of Note’ at the TEDxSydney Pitch Night. Supported by Samsung Galaxy Note9. and hosted at the Sydney Opera House, over 150 people crowded the Utzon Room in anticipation of what new ideas might surface. Pitch Night’s have become notorious for uncovering future TEDxSydney speakers as well as highlighting unseen and creative ways of looking at the world.


It’s no easy feat convincing a heavy crowd of your grand idea in just three short minutes, but straight out of the ranks urban planner, Jess Christiansen-Franks, posed a rather big question, “Why don’t we use data for the benefit of our communities and neighbourhoods?”. Jess proposed that while brands and corporations are off using available social data to make money, why aren’t we (as cities) using the same insights into our local neighbourhoods to create places people love and feel connected to. A good point.


Physician, Tracy Brown, queried why as a society we’re not ‘Planning to get old’ – much to the humour of the audience. “To enjoy longevity you simply need to be prepared,” she said. All of this makes sense when you think how much time we spend planning our finances and very little planning our ‘last years’.


Psychologist Connie Henson pitched that diversity powers innovation. She proved that “Thinking together with people who are different can lead to the best solutions or outcomes”.


Laura Doonin, armed with a Scottish accent and a dry wit, questioned what we’re doing about gender diversity on a micro level. Her solution? Getting more men into group fitness classes. As the room’s collective chuckles subsided, Laura explained that men and women training together removed a great deal of the stigma and stereotyping we might find in places like the boardroom. “Group fitness classes unite people in a world that’s becoming more and more disconnected,” she said.  


What if stress could be a trigger for relaxation? This is what Neuroscientist, Kaushik Ram, suggested to the room. “The nervous system anticipates stress and calms you down even before you enter a stressful scenario. But, what if we were to change our physiological response to stress by retraining our nervous system?


Economist and senior campaigner, Ed Miller, called for a type of ‘Medicare for jobs’ where every person was guaranteed employment. While Paediatric Anaesthetist, Andrew Weatherall, described a a platform that lets kids design their own virtual world that could make the experience of surgery more enjoyable for them.


Entrepreneur and refugee, Hedayat Osyan, postponed his education to start a social enterprise for other refugees. Recognising the working landscape was difficult to navigate for many refugees that neither spoke or understood English, he was determined to provide them with employment. Today he now employees 15 people.


UX Designer, Melanie Tran is on a clear mission to prove that disability does not define a person. Speaking about gender diversity, Melanie posed a powerful question, “Is my identity as a woman overpowered by my disability?” As someone that sees herself as a young ambitious woman her challenge to the audience was “how do I get you to see this as well”.


And of course, the night would not be complete without a bit of visual stimulus and ‘rule breaking’ as magician Adam Axford made a rubix cube appear from a flame. He asked the audience to redefine their attitudes towards rules in order to sometimes pull off the unbelievable.


With the TEDxSydney curators looking for strength and clarity of idea as well presentation style, Entrepreneur Hedayat Osyan was chosen as having the greatest ‘Idea of Note’ winning two passes to TEDxSydney 2019 as well as a Samsung Galaxy Note9. Kaushik Ram and Connie Henson were selected as runners-up while Scottish born Laura Doonin was a clear crowd favourite and won People’s’ Choice taking home the prize of a Samsung Galaxy Note9.


You can find the full list of speakers below.

  1. Jessica Christiansen-Franks
  2. Owen Kelly
  3. Michael Seymour
  4. Kaushik Ram
  5. Hedayat Osyan
  6. Tim Walmsley
  7. Stephen Sewell
  8. Laura Doonin
  9. Sana Desai
  10. Max Agapitos
  11. Samantha Leith
  12. Andrew Weatherall
  13. Liana Downey
  14. Maggie Boutros
  15. Tracy Brown
  16. Cris Parker
  17. Barry Jay
  18. Adam Axford
  19. George Najarian
  20. Connie Henson
  21. Melanie Tran
  22. Ed Miller

Photo credit: Jennifer Polixenni Brankin 

More ideas like this