The following is a guest post by our good friend, Aurelie Salvaire. Aurelie is the curator of TEDxBarcelonaWomen and TEDxBarcelonaChange. She is currently organizing unique events and experiences to connect changemakers with investors and is especially keen on showcasing solutions led by women or contributing to better gender equity.
Curating a TEDx (no translation of that word in spanish or french by the way, “organizing” is definitely not as fun) is a full-on experience.
First of all, it’s all about cooking. You open the fridge and you look at what you have inside. You reach out to your friends and networks to see what they have in their own fridges. You can cook a traditional pasta carbonara or you can get wild and invent a tournedos rossini with thai spices and a twist of Moroccan honey. You choose your ingredients with as much care and diversity as you wish. That is your freedom. You take risks, you mix ages, gender, continents, backgrounds and you like it. You are the one in charge of the kitchen. You choose the topic and if you’re fan of Thai food, that is where it will all go ultimately. You can be as creative as Ferran Adria if you wish to, inviting yo-yo artists to perform, collaborating with local NGOs to knit a giant red X or launching a Bollywood flashmob. You can dream and reach out to the people who inspire you the most anywhere in the world and you will find out they are thrilled and honoured to speak at your event. At the end of the day, if you’re good at it, flavours will blend in a unique and savoury way.
But you don’t only turn into Bocuse, because Freud is not far away either… The trademark of TED is obviously its storytelling pattern and how to transform your idea into a compelling, emotional and inspiring moment for the audience. To get there, you need to know what your message is, which means you need to know WHY you’re doing what you’re doing. So a key part of the curator’s job is actually to help the speakers go deep into their personal story to identify the ONE message which is determinant in their lives. And that is exciting, to dig into a person, to identify leads, words, ideas, confirm them and then build on it. When you get to the heart of it, you know you will have an amazing talk.
But a TEDx event is also a show you have to set up. It’s exciting to be a theater director for once, working on the tone of the speeches, the body language, the moves, the expressions, finding the right phrase to start and to end a speech in a powerful way. Suddenly, you have to learn about video editing, livestreaming techniques, how to set up a stage, and how to deal with touchy Lapel mics. And when after months of work, you see all the production team test the lights, the technical people running around the venue while the speakers rehearse with a special coach, you feel a special chill James Cameron-style on a set.
Then, when the livestreaming doesn’t work 10 minutes before the start of the show, when the microphones fail, and the first speaker is missing, you still feel like the Titanic of James Cameron, but this time you’re taking on water and sinking into the Atlantic. And your ego is sinking at the same pace as the promised blockbuster. But at the end of the show, as my friend Yannick says “Alles wird gut. Immer.” And yes, it all turns out OK. You breathe. And you love the emotions you’re going through.
But finally, what makes the experience so special is that you’re not alone!
You realize that once you ask, many people in your community are willing to lend you a hand. Amazing volunteers who help you setting up the website, filming the talks, managing the communication or checking the tickets. And you manage to get incredible results and make miracles with a limited amount of money. The audience is also extremely grateful, and willing to attend a different type of event where they can get inspired and connected with changemakers all over the world.
And beyond your city, you belong to a community of other crazy TEDx curators from every corner of the planet. Restless, like-minded souls who organize events in the coolness of Ubud, the slums of Kibera or in a small room in Mogadiscio. Some even went to Everest! And this gives you hope that people are still willing to be active and follow their dreams.
At the end of the day, each TEDx event is different, it embodies much of the personality and the orientations of the curator. Mine are projects with social impact and women empowerment. But it can be as local or international as you wish, as intimate or concert-like as you feel it should be, you just have to decide what is moving YOU.