Exploring the ideas of fascinating speakers

The organizers of University of Toronto Scarborough Campus’s first annual TEDx conference had a problem; they had secured approval from the ideas brand giant, a small amount of funding from the university, and the participation of a list of fascinating speakers from the school’s alumni and the world at large, but they had no idea how to effectively communicate their theme of “Turning Points” to their guests or audience.

When the group contacted me I knew it was a great opportunity to work closely with truly original thinkers, artists, and entrepreneurs, but I knew I’d have to find creative ways to stretch their limited budget.

It was clear that these moments of decision and discovery would be as inspiring for audiences as they were for the speakers themselves.

I wanted to leverage the inherent intimacy of TED talks and their focus on success and personal agency, but in a way that evoked the uncertainty of decision, intuition, and memory. The challenge was going to be engaging the audience through this process on a variety of disparate, sometimes challenging subjects.

Through research, empathy, and my own diverse but passionate cultural interests, I established a rapport with rocket scientists, neuropsychologists, motivational speakers, astronomers, and activists, asking them to provide not accounts of their lives’ most significant turning points, but personal memoriesof the experience of discovering the path they’re now on.

It was poetic, challenging work for many of them, but as I directed each speaker through the telling of their story in the university radio station’s recording studio it was clear that these moments of decision and discovery would be as inspiring for audiences as they were for the speakers themselves.

I commissioned original music that drew on the Scarborough community’s rich cultural diversity, and working with a local production company wove it with a blend of personal photographs, animation, and archival footage into a series of one minute documentary films that featured in the conferences promotional material and played as introductions to each talk.

TEDx UTSC was a sold-out success.