TED talks have always been an incredible platform for some of the best minds on our planet, sharing their knowledge and wisdom with millions of viewers across the world, offering a wider perspective to young minds and life changing ideas to determined and industrious heads.
With our Head of Strategy, Cat, being amongst the five who run TEDxGlasgow - now one of the most established TEDx organisations in Europe - we’re lucky to be kept abreast of the latest going on right here in Glasgow.
So, when the opportunity arose for After Digital team members to apply to the volunteer program at the upcoming TEDxGlasgow event; myself, Mhairi (who has volunteered for the past few years) and Ally jumped at the chance to be a part of the communications team for the day, revelling in the knowledge that we may potentially get to meet some of the fantastic speakers lined up.
Throughout the day, there wasn’t a dull moment, from the opening of the event which was supported by Japanese drummers and excitement, to the backstage live videos that took place throughout the day. It’s not every day that you witness dancing robots, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, genetic modification, quantum technology, future predictions and the real life ‘iron man’ all in one day.
The day was both inspiring and thought provoking; here are my top takeaways from the day.
TEDx gets people talking - It was great to be 'on the ground', so to speak and getting to see all the online communication via Twitter with audience members, volunteers and speakers. TEDx just continually seems to attract people who want to be involved, debate, discuss and share. It's an incredibly rewarding thing to witness and be part of.
Leading isn't always what it seems - Although there were a few talks around the idea of ‘following’, the majority of speakers hopped on the leader train. Which, when you consider the type of person it takes to get up on the stage, isn't too surprising. What was great though, was to see a lot of people giving different perspectives. One that stood out, was Helen Minnis' talk on 'Leading by admitting that you don't know'. A prospect that, although science-based, was shown to be usable in all aspects of life. A useful tool for our team in future meetings, teaching humility, curiosity and collaboration.
There's always someone you didn't know you wanted to meet - One of the great things about TEDx is the range of people that get involved. Mhairi is now in her fourth year of volunteering and is constantly surprised by the different and endless amount of people she meets. Whether that entails her becoming a bit of a ‘fangirl’ over someone she never knew existed before hearing their talk or meeting another volunteer that you would’ve never run into through work, nor via social circumstances and learning something new from them.
You’re never too old start a new path; stop saying ‘what if’ - A message that is well known by many, but is often forgot. You are always in control of your own path; you can do what you want, when you want and nothing should stop you. David Eustace came to the stage with a message that is so profound, yet, often, so ignored in today’s society. He began with ‘Where you come from should never hold you back from where you want to go’, as someone who grew up in depths of poverty in Glasgow, his options in life seemed somewhat restricted, working as a prison officer with no future prospects. He remarked ‘At 27 I decided to give it all up and do something different’. He pursued his passion and at the age of 31 David graduated from Edinburgh Napier with a degree in photography and since then has gone on to have an incredibly successful career working with some of the biggest brands in fashion.
But, what really struck me from his talk, was the fact that he always brought it back to the thoughts he experienced along the way, his constant doubts, the negativity that was always more prevalent than the positivity; because as humans we are expected to fail more than succeed, or that’s what society has led us to believe. ‘What if… what often terrifies us, we don’t know’ said Eustace, ‘ Everything was so negative.... None of us know, this is your time, you have limited time’. He posed the question ‘What do you hope to do and when do you hope to start doing it?’. It made me become aware of all the friends and family members who had put a stop to their dreams, because they questioned ‘what if’ too many times and came up trumps.
I came away from his talk, with a refreshed outlook on life, a profound feeling of positivity and a newfound want to do everything that I had questioned and dismissed in the past.
‘If there is something you are so passionate about, something you really want to do, never allow what if to become if only.’ - David Eustace.
A community can be formed anywhere - Myself and the After Digital team really progressed as team members and friends throughout the day, with a strong sense of community running through the volunteers; a group of people who had only met briefly a few days prior, it’s incredible how quickly you start to support, help and encourage one another. There was a great sense of community running throughout the whole day; teaching everyone involved that a community can be formed wherever you choose.
There is never a limit to how much you can learn in one day - Slight exaggeration... but from every single talk we witnessed, we each took away something different, something new that we felt compelled by. Whether it was to simply engage more or to stop saying ‘what if’, we all gained new values and things to live by that day. Opening your ears and listening to other people’s experiences is possibly one of the most valued things you can do, both for yourself and the person sharing.
Why it’s important to engage, feel and understand - When Quentin Sommerville came on the stage, we were all sitting in anticipation as to what direction he would take his talk ‘Don’t mind the explosives’. What he presented us with, was brutally honest, eye-opening and somewhat harrowing. He explained that as images and stories of war become normalised in our day to day lives, we start to become complacent in our reactions, losing contact with the core emotions. Victims exist on both sides of war and war is always on someone’s doorstep. Quentin made us realise how important it is to engage, feel and understand the facts that are being reported, the real news; the non-political side of the news. Being more in touch with outside actions, situations, unknown people, is fundamentally something that we as humans in 2017 have forgotten to do; it’s time to start feeling more, being engaged and taking the time to understand.
Following isn’t always a bad thing - As a musician, Jane Bentley discovered that the art of following is an integral practice when playing music with others. She calls for ‘following’ to be a skill that can encourage learning, collaboration and connectivity, as opposed to being seen as a weakness. “We all have a mirror system in the brain, which means that neurologically, at least, we’re following other people all the time, we are born followers” said Jane. Her specialist skills in musical communication and interaction, highlight the importance of following, which has been proven to encourage bonding and positively affecting the wellbeing of individuals. Take a look at her beautiful example of why following can be so magical below.
With so many great takeaways from this day, our team will definitely be returning next year, why don’t you check out the TEDx volunteering program for yourself?