My experience “at” #TED2013

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The perfect storm blew into my world a couple of weeks back, linking my previous life as a creative director in Los Angeles with my current one as the head of this hyper-local web site and print magazine. As I’m engulfed in all-things-Vancouver (and Canada now, with the Canada Is Awesome Media Network) it’s been years since I’ve taken on any freelance projects. I don’t have the time for outside work but when the phone rang and it was an old friend from California asking if I might be able to help source some segue videos for the final TED conference in Long Beach, there was no way that I could say no.

I don’t remember how Jonathan Wells (founder of RESFEST and Flux who curates videos for TED) and I originally connected but I know that it was many years ago when I was working with and for Spike Jonze in Los Angeles. We hadn’t been in touch for years but Jonathan reached out and asked me to help source some videos to be shown between the TED Talks in Long Beach, videos that would showcase what makes Vancouver awesome and why TEDsters (the term for people who follow TED) should be excited about the conference coming up here. Little did I know that the morning I spent putting together a bunch of clips as well as thoughts and some leads would result in me becoming a new (huge) fan of TED.

I had been to the independently-organized TEDxVancouver a couple of times, and I had viewed a couple of talks from “the big stage” online, but my notion was that it was a bunch of ideas with no actual solutions. As a thank you for the help on the video stuff, Jonathan offered a subscription to TED Live so that I could stream the conference from the comfort of my office. I opened up the invitation to all of our editors to come in and check out talks they might be interested in and I had intended to just have it playing in the background as I worked all week. Little did I know that I would be completely sideswiped by the experience, watching every single talk. Every. Single. Talk. And my assumption was proved wrong.


Vancouver’s Michael Green (a member of our advisory board) sharing his talk on wooden skyscrapers on the big stage at TED 2013… in my office

As I got to experience the entire conference live via the web, I learned that I was wrong in assuming that TED was a place where people got up on stage to share brilliant ideas that won’t go anywhere but are simply there for show. I learned through the week that the TED stage is absolutely, undeniably, a place where people who are helping to solve the world’s problems are offered a place to spread their ideas. If I might use their branding, these are “ideas worth spreading” because for the most part they are actionable and, when put into place, will change the world for the better. A great many of them already are.

At the end of the week-long session I nodded my head as the curator and co-host of TED, Chris Anderson, signed off with “Don’t let them tell you it’s just a talking shop for rich people”. Don’t let them tell you that. Don’t let yourself tell you that. Because it’s simply not true.

Next year TED will be holding their annual conference in our fair city, and with it will come a flood of excitement surrounding Vancouver that we haven’t seen since the 2010 Olympic Games. Get ready for it, friends.

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Bob is our founder and Editor-in-Chief. A family man and outdoors enthusiast in his 3rd decade of publishing, he steers the V.I.A. ship, hosts our 'BC Was Awesome' history TV show and co-hosts our weekly podcast. bobk@vancouverisawesome.com