Sunday August 7th marked the first TEDxStrathcona, an independently organized TEDx event held at the Electric Owl on Main Street. As opposed to the unrelated TEDxVancouver, this was a public event, and by 7 PM the Electric Owl was hopping with a young, good looking crowd. The evening featured six speakers and two video presentations taken from official TED talks.
We were treated to two items off the Electric Owl food menu and a drink, so that even without the talk we would have nearly gotten our money’s worth. The speaker lineup included actor and Gemini winner Phil Granger, local street artist Indigo, animator Ann Marie Fleming, designer Caleb Beyers, engineer Johathan Tippet, and philosopher/physicist John H. Spencer. As well, we saw clips from TED presenters, architect Michael Pawlyn and a performance by computer software artist Golan Levin.
First out, I’m glad that TEDxStrathcona happened. Our city, and indeed the world, needs more exposure to big ideas and big accomplishments. It’s too easy now to be passive observers; the ideas shown at events like TED and Pecha Kucha inspire us (hopefully) to action, to making a piece of this world a better place. If you’ve never seen any TED talks, head over to TED.com immediately. TEDtalks feature the best thinkers, scientists, artists, and entrepreneurs in the world giving striking presentations about their life’s work. The talks can be riveting and inspiring at their best.
However, I don’t think that TEDxStrathcona quite lived up to the reputation that TED has built for itself. Sound issues, confusion about the schedule, and kitchen troubles were minor annoyances, but it was the presentations that left me feeling flat. There was a sense that nobody quite knew what they were there for, and the impossibly wide theme “Discovering Unity: Technology, Art, & Science” didn’t help to lend any focus. I don’t want to criticize too much given that I see such promise with the TEDx format, but a couple points come to mind for the next (and I really do hope there will be a next) TEDxStrathcona: Aim bigger, at bigger ideas and bigger accomplishments tied to a strong theme. Also, aim smaller, by really stressing tight, rehearsed presentations, and by creating a polished, professional feel to the event.
PS. I do recommend the Electric Owl as well, the Japanese tapas were rich and satisfying (if a bit mayo heavy), and the club ambience will make this a great new place to see smaller concerts.