TEDxWellington is an amazing event put on each year to connect people devoted to ideas worth spreading, based off the hugely successful TED talk format. This year I was the Head of Front of House, helping an amazing group of volunteers and organisers who pulled off the event. The theme of the event was Trust. As part of this years experience, delegates did not know the location of the venue, the number of tickets or even who the speakers were.
Despite these obstacles (imagine having to ask people to be on board with an event you cannot even share details about) everything came together on the day. Three red double decker busses, blacked out with white paper with TED talk quotes on them. A range of richly experienced speakers, an ace location at Sir Peter Jackson’s Park Road Post, delicious catering from Sweet Bakery, Mojo Coffee and others, magical moments captured by The Amazing Travelling Photo Booth and kittens in the courtyard for play. Everyone agreed it was a TEDx event to remember. It even got mentioned on the TED innovation website (a huge coup). Overall, a complete success.
Why did I start watching TED talks online?
I fell in love with TED talks on TED.com when I came across them online back in 2012. Free talks with the worlds best speakers! And only 18 minutes long! Perfect for a break in between classes at Uni. They opened a whole new world of learning online. Instantly I could google any subject and add the words TED talk after. Guaranteed someone would have done a talk on the subject, whether at TED (or as we call it BIG TED) or at a TEDx talk somewhere in the world. Did you know that there will be, at any time, somewhere around 30 TEDx talks a week in the world?
"It made me feel better when I was down, to know that thinking differently, to question was not only acceptable but to be celebrated."
In a small country like New Zealand, where it is not always easy to get access to certain seminars and conferences, the internet and TED talks online changes everything. You can hear new and amazing talks at any time. It made me feel better when I was down, to know that thinking differently was not only acceptable but to be celebrated. From that point I knew I wanted to be involved in TED talks in Wellington - but I had to find out how.
How I started volunteering for TEDx events in Wellington
People often ask me how I got involved in TED talk events in the first place. One day while checking updates on Linkedin I saw that a girl I was at University with had added 'License holder - TEDxVUW' to her resume. I messaged her straight away. I told her if she needed someone to help out, I was in. We met up at Mojo for a coffee and a chat and then next thing I knew I was part of the organising team for TEDxVUW (or Victoria University Wellington). It was put on by all students, for students and sold about 100 tickets. I had a lot of fun and made some great new friends.
In July, I saw that TEDxWellington was looking for volunteers. I applied and was accepted. I had a great 2 days volunteering at the first TEDxWellington at Shed 6 in 2014. It was here I met Hannah (a key TEDxWellington organiser) and DK (the TEDxWellington License Holder) properly for the first time.
A few months later the license holder for TEDxVUW asked me to come and see TEDxChristchurch in late 2014. We went with another person on the organising team and we attended the TEDxChristchurch organisers workshop the next day. It was a really cool experience to see how big another TED event could be. 700 people at Burnside High School was a very different scale to our small university TED talk. I also bumped into DK again, who was also there.
When I was back in Wellington, I knew that I wanted to stay involved in the TED talks community so I got in touch with DK, organised a coffee and told him I wanted to help more. Not long after, Hannah got in touch and asked if I wanted to help co-organise a small TEDxWellingtonSalon event. I said yes. We organised the event for October 2015 at Wellington City Library. It was a great experience for me to dip my toe in the water and find out about the amount of work that goes into making even a small event happen. After, I was asked whether I would like to be involved in TEDxWellington. What did I see myself doing? I said I thought that I would be good at managing the people side of things so I was put in the role of 'Head of Front of House'. Finally, I'd made it to work on TEDxWellington! But there wasn't time to rest on my laurels. There was work to do.
Why did I volunteer for TEDxWellington?
What lots of people might not realise is that the people who organised TEDxWellington put 18 months of blood, sweat and tears into this event. I mainly got involved in the last 2- 3 months. Nevertheless, it was hard yakka right up until the finish line.
No one is paid to help put these events on. Sometimes the organisers need to go and do some unenviable and crazy things (like covering the windows of three double decker buses). But when asked why we do it, why we give our time we know why we do - because it would be crazy not to for Wellington’s sake. TEDxWellington is an event Wellingtonians need - because the currency of Wellington is ideas. We put these ideas on a platform for all of Wellington - and the world - to see.
But none of this would continue if there wasn't the people willing to take on the responsibility to do it. Finding sponsorship deals, getting partners on board and planning logistics is all heaps of work - you can't try and wing it.
It also gives people a chance to develop skills, which is a reason I wanted to volunteer. While I work in an office job, I am interested in how to achieve the results of an epic event like TED. The best way to learn is to put up your hand and get stuck in.
You also make great connections with smart and skilled Wellingtonians. I for one am indebted to the amazing volunteers who managed everything flawlessly on the day, whether at a live stream venue or with me at Park Road Post. I also am also grateful to the licence holder DK and his right hand woman Hannah Wignall for bringing me into the fold. I've made friendships that will last a lifetime.
Why we need to take action
If we want Wellington to continue to be a hub for ideas in New Zealand, it is very important that we continue to ask our council and corporate community to keep on supporting TEDxWellington, and the people who make it happen, like Hannah and DK. Without help, and without volunteers, these events cannot go ahead. It would be a shame if this is the case. Other cities like Auckland and Christchurch also have TEDx talks, yes, but TEDxWellington is ours. Let’s not take it for granted.
So I ask you, if you love TEDxWellington (like over 2000 of you do on Facebook)to send an email of support to TEDxWellington and if you see an opportunity to be involved, lend a hand or a contact, always act on your instincts. After all, you don’t need a reason to help people out. And a little help can go a long way.
I think that’s an idea worth spreading.
Let me share my favourite TED talk with you below. I would love to hear what your favourite TED talk is. Please let me know in the comments section below.
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