Visiting Canada is a dream on its own, getting the chance to visit Canada to attend my first ever TED conference is almost too good to put into words. After my application to TEDSummit got accepted sometime around March this year, I have had quite some time to look forward to the conference which was taking place between the 26th and 30th of June in the breathtaking surroundings of Banff National Park.
The conference had the goal of uniting the “most engaged members of the TED community” and therefore brought together a very mixed crowd of TEDx organizers, TED-Ed educators, Fellows, Translators etc. from all over the world. Before the “official” TEDSummit kicked-off on Monday, TEDx organizers were told to arrive two days in advance to be able to attend the “Global Forum”, a part dedicated to brainstorming about the impact of TEDx and how to improve the collective experience for the communities and people involved. The program was a mix of lectures and talks by TED founder Chris Anderson, who also used the opportunity to talk about his book “The secret of Public Speaking” combined with shorter “break-out” sessions where we had discussions in smaller groups.
Another definite highlight of the weekend was Sunday afternoon where we visited beautiful Lake Louise and got the opportunity to explore its surroundings and go kayaking on the lake. The “real” Summit conference started Monday morning, when TEDxer’s were joined by Educators, Translators and so on, growing the number of participants to 900+. It is still hard to describe the diversity that forms this incredible community. Company executives and professionals, start-up founders, educators, students, consultants, scientists, doctors, artists and many more people from different backgrounds, cultures and countries were united by the TED umbrella and their passion for ideas worth spreading.
The Banff centre, the main location for most of the TEDSummit activities, is situated a 30min walk from the Banff city centre and provides a great, collaborative environment surrounded by beautiful nature. In the early mornings the day kicked-off with the possibility to join a yoga class, dance workshop, trail run and other activities. After a delicious community breakfast with new friends the days consisted of a mix between workshops, outdoor activities and live TED talks. Although there was always the possibility to skip some activities and rest or relax a bit, I chose to attend almost everything I had signed up for to make the most of the experience. When choosing the workshops before the conference I was faced with the difficult task of picking one or two topics per day out of more than 100 offerings. The topics and themes were as diverse as the Summit participants – from singing/dancing/poetry to politics/debates/economics to science/technology/inspiration, there was an endless list of choices for each day. What made it even better was that each of the sessions was curated and carried out by either a former TED speaker or a well-known expert in the field.
One of the most memorable sessions was a roundtable on the current political movement in the US moderated by TED’s European director Bruno Giussani. This was particularly interesting given that the TEDSummit took place right after the Brexit vote was concluded. Part of the discussion were New York Times Columnist and author Anand Giridharadas, public policy thinker Anne-Marie Slaughter and Foreign Affairs magazine editor Jonathan Tepperman. Next highlight was a panel discussion titled “Blockchain: An internet of value” with author Don Tapscott, entrepreneur Bettina Warburg and researcher Rachel Botsman who were all first time speakers at TED and had delivered amazing talks on the day before the discussion.
Arguably the biggest and most anticipated part of the day throughout the whole Summit were the TED talks that took place in the big theatre in the Banff Center. In typical TED-fashion, the talks were curated perfectly and the well-coached speakers delivered their messages in a captivating manner. Although all of the talks and speakers were amazing, my highlights of the week included particularly the talks by el Seed, Jennifer Brea, Bettina Warburg, James Veitch and Alexander Betts. The wide mix of topics and themes kept it exciting to sit down, listen and wonder what the next big idea will be. Follow the links to discover more about each of them!
As I got on the plane for the 24+ hours journey back to South America on the last day of the conference, I started to reflect on this crazy, amazing six days at TEDSummit. The activities, workshops, talks, adventures, dinners, gatherings, but first and foremost – the people I met during this week have certainly left an impression and have made me even more proud to be a part of the TED tribe. The diversity, size and global reach is what makes this community unique and I feel truly blessed to have met so many amazing people during this trip. Most importantly, it will be exciting to find out what “ideas worth spreading” will develop out of the connections and network that formed during this week in Canada.