Let’s do some straight talking

Let's do some straight talking
Lizzie Bentley Bowers

TED began in 1984 as a conference designed to share ideas around ‘Technology Entertainment and Design’. Since then it has grown to cover all kinds of topics, with the mission of every TED talk being to share an ‘idea worth spreading’.

The talks, which can last a maximum of 18 minutes, are all online so anyone can view any talk, anywhere. Topics range from tying shoelaces to creativity in education and skateboarding in Afghanistan – the variety is endless.

Growing the original TED conferences led to TEDx (TED to the power of x) – an opportunity for towns, villages, cities, universities – anywhere, really – to apply for a TEDx licence and host a TED conference to bring ‘ideas worth spreading’ to their community. TEDx, like TED, are not-for-profit events. Any ‘profit’ from our event goes back into running more – and they are put on entirely by volunteers.

As a TED talk fan I was delighted to be in the audience for the first TEDxRoyalTunbridgeWells [TEDxRTW], held at Skinners’ Kent Academy in 2015, when Nick Adams and Dan Foreman brought the concept to our town.

Having been impressed and inspired, I immediately emailed to volunteer!

Everyone involved in putting on these events believes that it is a good thing for our town to come together, and bring people here, to think, and maybe to change the way we think, to talk, laugh, cry and be inspired.

My role as Chair of TEDxRTW, alongside our licence-holder Mike Marshall, is to lead the team to grow brilliant TEDx events throughout the town and throughout the year.

In addition to the main TEDx event (February 1), which I’m co-chairing with Kate Sims at the Assembly Hall, we’re holding TEDxWomen and TEDxYouth events and also, for the first time, this year a TEDxSalon event in association with law firm Cripps Pemberton Greenish. Salon events are smaller with an audience of up to 100 people and the opportunity to be more flexible with the format, for example Q&A panels and audience participation.

As well as curating a programme of speakers and filming talks in order to create an audience experience beyond the venue, I also continue to be a part of the TEDxRTW coaching team.

Our work with this involves supporting our speakers through the process of writing, rehearsing and delivering their talks. Some have never set foot on a stage before, and some have done it many times, so the coaches support them whatever their experience is.

I love being part of a team where people give their time, creativity and energy to do something so positive. I am proud at how these events raise awareness of all the many brilliant people we walk past in the street every day, having no idea what their story is and their achievements, their ideas. It can be life changing when thousands of people around the world go on to watch TED talks via the internet. Mainly, though, these are great people to be around that I wouldn’t otherwise have met, and I’m very grateful for that.

My first TED experience was, like most of us, watching talks online. As a former teacher, someone sent me a link to Ken Robinson’s talk on creativity in education. I remember feeling so inspired and started clicking on more and more talks. I was curious, empowered and, above all, wanted to talk to others about what I had heard. In my job as a leadership coach I often share talks as food for thought and leadership inspiration, or use them as the basis for a conversation with a team about how they could think or do something differently.

As a committee member, I am prohibited from giving a talk at our events, but you can apply to other events.

I am a very proud governor of Oakley School, located on Pembury Road, and if I were to give a talk it would be about how to employ or give work experience to a young person with special needs, and in doing so light up your workplace in ways you couldn’t imagine – and to give that young person their rightful opportunity to embed and build their skills, to earn, to socialise, to teach, and to contribute in the full way they want and are able to.

We believe our TEDx events should start conversations, support a sense of community, inspire, intrigue and excite – so our number one criteria in choosing our speakers is whether this will be a talk that gets our town talking.

This year is no different!


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