Taking the TEDx stage in Québec

Taking the TEDx stage in Québec

Like most people, I was initially introduced to the concept of the TED talk from a friend’s Facebook wall and immediately fell in love with it.  A format all its own, the TED talk is to conferences what twitter is to blogging.  Speakers don’t introduce themselves, stand on a minimalist stage, and have 20 minutes to convey their idea.  This approach forces speakers to distill their ideas into their purest form and get straight to the point with topics that vary across the entire spectrum of human experience, united under the simple creed of ideas worth spreading.  Released online, they’re the perfect lunch-hour mental feeding fit for mass consumption.

Before I go on, a slight distinction.  TEDx and TED are not exactly the same thing.  TED talks are organized directly by the Sapling Foundation, a non-profit organization which hosts the famous TED conferences throughout the world.  In order to cater to the enthusiasm of the TED community, the Sapling Foundation allows enthusiasts to put together independently-organized conferences following the TED style under the name TEDx.  TEDx Quebec is one such example, and over the years, many TEDx events have become well-known in their own right.

So when I first heard about there being a TEDx event in Quebec City in 2012, I was bummed that due to scheduling conflicts I couldn’t go, particularly because Cynthia Sheehan, one of Life in Québec’s writers, was one of the speakers.  However, when the call came out for speakers for TEDx Quebec 2013 under the theme Les nouvelles frontières, I knew it was the best chance to share an idea I’d been coddling for years.

I must say, as an event run entirely by volunteers, I was amazed at the professionalism involved every step of the way.  Without getting into too many details, even a long-time professional public speaker (which I am most certainly not) couldn’t have asked for better help from conference organizers.  Ultimately though, the whole process was up to me – everything from preparing any slides to deciding how much time to use (I went for a modest 9 minutes).  Having prepared and spoken at a few formal events before, that kind of freedom is a rare gift.

Up until the other speakers took the stage, none of us had any idea what the other speakers were going to say – true to the “no memorizing” idea, even the sound checks were kept short.  The afternoon of the event itself was, true to the TED mantra, full of ideas worth spreading.  It was truly mind-opening to hear about what some of the other speakers were doing in the region and the thoughts and reasons behind their motivations.

As for myself?  I’m blessed with a small amount of natural comfort on stage, but this was different.  I had no idea how the audience would react to the thoughts I was going to share, or even if they’d think it was an idea worth spreading at all.  It’s a surprisingly vulnerable position to feel you’re putting yourself into, especially knowing that the 200-odd people in the room took an afternoon off to hear you speak.

Actually giving the talk, though, is when the advantages of the TED format become obvious.  There is no self-introduction, no awkward preamble.  The fact that you jump straight into the heart of the subject (with the ticking clock reminding you that you have no time to waste) makes it immediately clear why TED speakers seem so at ease – it’s not about the speaker, it’s about the idea.  As a means to quickly relax speakers who might otherwise tense up (most TED talks are not given by professional extroverts), the TED concept is brilliant.

How’d I do?  You tell me… but most importantly, keep an eye out for TEDx Quebec 2014!


Click to go to YouTube video.

Categories: News

About Author

Farnell Morisset

Farnell Morisset is passionate about discussing (among other things) the issues of modern social identity for many Québécois who, like him, feel deeply connected to the Québécois nation and culture yet do not identify with the traditional francophone non-practicing Catholic nationalist image. He has an engineering degree from Université Laval and is currently a law student at McGill University.

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