Iâ€™m not sure where to start writing about Fridayâ€™s event, there is so much to say… So, to make things easier, Iâ€™ll start from the beginning.
The Organizing Committee arrived on site around 6:45 am, and I arrived with maybe one hour of sleep under my belt. After leaving setup the night before, I was off-balance.
I was worried – worried about my ability to emcee effectively, worried about some of the little details, worried about some of the bigger details. My brain just wouldnâ€™t shut down – it wouldn’t settle into neutral. We had done everything we could to ensure a successful event, but my brain just wouldnâ€™t let it go. And so I didnâ€™t sleep.
Unrested, I arrived in plenty of time to help with the final touches before the attendees walked down the red carpet. The Photobooth needed to be set up, the red carpet laid out (and stomped down), a few technical pieces needed to be installed, and a last few questions needed to be answered.
After things seemed settled (from my point of view) I walked around, chatted with my fellow organizers, said hello to volunteers, asked if anyone needed anything, helped out where I could, and generally watched as others took care of business.
With the doors open, people started to walk the red carpet, register and enjoy a cup of coffee. I managed to coax a few people to test out the TEDx Photobooth, then I started shaking hands and welcoming attendees to the event.
8:00 am rolled around and that meant photo sessions on stage with the Speakers and the Organizing Committee. Unfortunately not all of our Speakers had yet arrived… but we played it calm, took what photos we could and waited.
After the photos were successfully taken, it was a matter of myself and the first three Speakers going backstage, being micâ€™d, and waiting for 8:53 – the moment I would walk out on stage and introduce TEDx to FortMcMurray.
For those of you who were not there – I cannot do the day justice with these posts. All I can say is that it was quite possibly one of the best days of my life.
With my hands shaking, I walked past our hand-crafted, bold and beautiful X, to start the day in front of the lights. After about a minute of talking through the first few slides, I felt my body relax, my mind fall into Spinning Leaf and I started to enjoyed the role of Emcee. A few jokes seemed to go well and before I knew it, our first Speaker of the day, Malik Badar Aman, was up and running with â€œOn Chasing Dreamsâ€.
After Malik had charmed the crowd, Anas Eljamal had a great talk about â€œControlling Instinctsâ€, which was quickly followed by a TED Talk video (Adora Svitak: What adults can learn from kids). Act One was closed out by Sheldon Germain with his great Fort McMurray talk: â€œPathway to Potential – A New Understandingâ€.
And with that, Act One was over and the audience moved into the foyer with some discussion homework: â€œIf you were to talk at a TEDx or TED event, what would you talk about and why?â€.
All three of our Act One Speakers seemed excited, and to be honest, a little relieved, and could now relax and enjoy the rest of the day. I mingled with a few of the attendees, grabbed some more coffee and prepared myself for Act Two, which as my intro stated, might just leave the audience in a state of â€œGobsmackednessâ€ (whatever that means).
Act Two began with everyone in the audience who was born in January standing up, and being told that Malcom Gladwell says they should have made it as an NHL player. After these gracious volunteers reported back on their homework assignments and retook their seats, our fourth Speaker of the day, David Sabine was introduced.
Davidâ€™s talk was one of our more unique of the day: behind him, on the large screen, was a video he had generated himself, with interlacing audio/video that sometimes played over-top of his talk. It was quite unique and matched his talk of â€œRethinking Educationâ€ perfectly.
After David, we played the charming TED talk â€œJohn Bohannon: Dance vs. powerpoint, a modest proposalâ€, which tied in nicely with our fifth presenter – Dancer and Yoga Instructor Julie Funk. Julie took command of the stage and passionately spoke from her core with â€œLoving Fort McMurrayâ€ – a retrospective of her childhood and her encounters surrounding Fort McMurray with â€¨citizens in distant lands.
Russell Thomas then closed out Act Two with his talk â€œSocial Media Timelineâ€. You can read about Russellâ€™s experience on his blog, the Middle Age Bulge.
My own take on the moment is this: I have a tendency to joke around and try to make people smile when under pressure, so I had to actively hold myself back from joking around with Russell. He seemed so focused and determined backstage… in fact, Iâ€™d never before seen him in such a focused state.
I thought this was perhaps his regular routine (Russell being a trained actor and all) and the last thing he needed was for me to start mentioning â€œHamletâ€ or joking about how only 7 billion people might be watching this later on YouTube… so I (wisely) stayed silent, let him be, and he gave The Talk of His Life.
Russell was the first (but not the last) to emotionally connect with the audience in such a way as to have them in tears.
The TEDx Picnic
Lunch saw the attendees and Speakers with a boxed lunch that included a number scrawled in sharpie on the outside of the box. The number signified the table you were supposed to sit at, with t idea being that you would be sitting with potential strangers and enjoy a TEDx-type conversation… not sure what to talk about? No worries, weâ€™ve got you covered with a handy-dandy Conversation Starter in every boxed lunch.
I had the pleasure of being seated at Table 1, with seven engaged and enthusiastic attendees (plus one excited member of the Organizing Committee). My only regret was that I kept being called away from our conversation to attend to a few event bits and pieces, but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, the conversation was flowing and that was what mattered most.
… and that’s it for now, more to come later this week!
Cheers, Matt Youens
p.s. Don’t forget you can see all of the amazing photos from the big day via our Flickr page.