Though originally founded in 1984 as a one-off event, TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) really only became a part of the common vernacular in June 2006, when the resulting TED Talks became available to view online. Currently, over 1,700 talks have been viewed over one billion times worldwide, igniting conversations and inspiring ideas all across the world. Now, for the fifth time, Calgary will play host to its own independently organized TED event, TEDxYYC.

“TEDxYYC is a Friday afternoon filled with an amazing selection of inspiring speakers,” describes TEDxYYC Chair Jo Pesta. “In between the speakers, we provide an opportunity to connect with other Calgarians who come from diverse backgrounds and industries, but all share the goal of making Calgary the best city it can be.”

TED’s phenomenal worldwide success has been credited to its speaking structure: a mix of big-name speakers and unknowns all present for no more than 18 minutes on a broad spectrum of topics. And though this format has been a double-edged sword, leading to criticism that high-level concepts are dumbed down and speakers forced to prioritize entertainment over information, organizers and attendees have embraced the structure as a way of igniting conversation.

AB-CITY-TEDxYYC-3-Photo-Credit-Shaun-Robinson“TED was able to develop a speaking structure that allows individuals to share their message in a way that’s engaging, inspiring, and really speaks to a general audience,” Pesta says. “This format allows complex topics to be simplified into key messages that I think really speak to people’s curiosity and wonder.”

The theme of TEDxYYC 2014, designed by WAX Creative, is Contagious Inspiration, a nod to how the ideas and thoughts shared at TED events spread beyond just those in the room, through both conversation and the online videos. And though TED events have come under fire in the past for their high price tag and exclusionary application process, TEDxYYC 2014 tickets are available to anyone, a move aided by the change in venue to the Jubilee Auditorium.

“This event is open to all Calgarians (and out of towners, too!),” Pesta says. “We want people who are engaged in their community and striving to make Calgary a better place. Whether you’re a student, involved in the arts, sustainability, technology, etc., you’re welcome to attend. I believe that TEDxYYC is an amazing opportunity for Calgarians to come together, be inspired together and hopefully spark some new connections.”

Speakers for TEDxYYC 2014 include Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May, speedskater Gilmore Junio, who made news for giving up his 2014 Olympics spot to his teammate, Denny Morrison, and Nathan Phelps, author, LGBT activist and the son of the deceased Pastor Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church.

“I’m most excited about Father George Coyne,” Pesta says, referring to the mathematician, Catholic priest and former director of the Vatican Observatory. “I am intrigued by how he has balanced his religious beliefs with scientific discovery. I am excited to hear his story and his experiences, and at the age of 81, I think he has many to share.”

TEDxYYC takes place at the Jubilee Auditorium on June 13.

By Sara Elizabeth Taylor
Photos: Shaun Robinson

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