On the Saturday of the ANZAC Day long weekend, 2000+ socially conscious people converged on the Sydney Opera House for the annual TEDxSydney conference  (no, it ain’t a conference … what should I call it? Event? Talkfest? Meeting Place of Amazing People?)

It was incredible to look around and know that you could strike up a conversation with practically anyone (it was THAT kind of a crowd). I spoke to one guy who watches two TED videos a day, every day. (I wonder what a brain scan of his brain would look like compared to someone who watches regular tv?)

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The Sydney Opera House is one of my favourite places in the world. (Random fact: when I was 12 years old, I sang in the big concert hall). Unfortunately I didn’t get a ticket to the main auditorium — instead, I watched it streamed live downstairs in The Studio (which in some ways is actually better — it’s more intimate, the between-session interviews happen in there, there’s a barista right on-site, and the ticket costs half the price).

My friend, Moonmoon Sahudid manage to get a premium ticket and so she was able to watch it live. And she also was my photographer for the day! (All photos were taken by her).

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I love this photo because you really get a sense of scale … so many people!

 

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The key theme was “What is your greatest lesson to share?” Sydney Uni hosted these interactive spaces — blackboards, hashtags and interviews all focused on this.

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The food at TEDxSydney has a reputation for being innovative. Last year they hosted the world’s largest crowd farmed meal.

This year it was a communal soup and handmade breads (made on the premises) for 2000+ people, with the ingredients sourced from food projects that support asylum seekers and refugees.

 

Top 3 Talks (IMHO)

It wouldn’t be TED without the talks. These are my top 3 picks:

1. Oliver Percovich from Skateistan (segment #19) — the founder of a skateboard NGO for children in Afghanistan shared about doing aid work in unconventional ways. The footage is incredible — girls make up 40% of the skaters in Afghanistan (think girls wearing hijabs and bike helmets while standing on skateboards).

2. Jihad Dib from Punchbowl Boys High (segment #21) — remember the movie Dangerous Minds, where Michelle Pfeiffer transforms a bunch of tough students in a rough neighbourhood? Well, this is an Aussie version of that. Jihad Dib is charismatic and savvy … and he does education a little differently. (One of my friends works at his school, and during the holidays they created handmade drums. Why? Because he’d noticed students tapping on the desk during class, and decided to channel that into having drum lessons at school).

3. Linsey Pollak (segment #6) — a short film of light-hearted, musical creativity: he makes a clarinet out of a carrot on stage, with the help of a drill.

You can watch the replay of the TED event here… if you want to watch all 570 minutes of it, just hit play (recommended only if you have an entire day on your side) … or you can scroll through and select which talk you want to listen to (the time-saving option!)

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This dodgy looking photo of my well-worn name sticker (taken by me, not my official photographer!)

My biggest takeaway

I don’t remember who said it, but my biggest aha moment was “Here at TED, just for the day, we’re putting our cynicism to the side and focusing on the positivity”.

Definitely refreshing to hang out with people in that mindspace.

 

Want to go TEDxSydney next year?

I found tickets are hard to come by … it feels a bit like a gotta-know-someone-who-knows-someone situation.

UPDATE:

When I sent this blog out into the blogosphere, I didn’t expect a response from TEDxSydney. But here it is:

As far as getting tickets goes, there is a very specific process. For people who attended the Concert Hall last year, we offer a ticket upfront – all they need to do is RSVP and pay. We do however quarantine a large number of places for people who’ve never been in the main sessions before (this year I believe it was around 900 places) because we think the “new blood” factor is important.

The first step is to be a member on the TEDxSydney community (which you can do by pressing ‘join’ here).

The second is to watch out for the opening of the application process. That happens around February – the exact date depends on our event date. When the application process opens, you have to fine-tune your bio and get your pic in shape … but the really important bits are (i) the “talk to me about” items, which should be pithy but interesting; and (ii) the application section itself, where you make your claim for being in the room.

So, there you have it! Sign up now for updates, and then make sure your profile stands out when applications open in February.

 

Over to you …

Did you see any videos from this year’s TEDxSydney? If so, what was your favourite talk?