Five years ago I attended my first TEDx event as a delegate, not realizing the impact it would have. Listening to Toronto's Dr. Brian Goldman's talk, "Doctors make mistakes", where he took a risk for a bigger cause, made me ask: "What if?" What if our city lived by these principles?
This single idea surprised me and became a major catalyst for change in my own life. I had been exposed to TED Talks online and found the entire concept intriguing: ideas worth spreading in 18 minutes or less. Originally based in California, these talks centred on Technology, Entertainment, and Design. Now they include broader range and offer local communities the opportunity to host independent TEDx events. Why do people like TED? The answer is simple: the speakers who take the stage share ideas that are thought-provoking. Their talks and the resulting conversations take us out of our comfort zone and encourage greater empathy for the unknown.
Each year, a minimum of two talks from the TEDxToronto stage have made it to TED.com, including Adam Garone's Healthier men, one moustache at a time, which has thousands of views per month. This has allowed Toronto to capture the attention of a global audience and have these ideas act as a springboard for change locally, and now globally. TEDx is structured to give the stage to those who otherwise may not be heard, and often the most unassuming voices like Drew Dudley are the most powerful. While it remains an idea-conference, connecting great ideas with other local change-makers creates a springboard for change in our city.
Dr. Goldman's words challenged my perspective and reframed many of the choices I made in my own life, including my decision to become a TEDxToronto volunteer. With just 120 delegates in 2009, TEDxToronto has since grown to become one of our city's premium speaker series, attracting global attention. In its fifth year, it is now run by a team of 100 passionate volunteers and continues to attract top quality speakers, hosting 900 delegates this September. Toronto's event is truly set apart by our strong focus on collaboration. We are currently preparing to share our unique governance model with the global TEDx community so they can leverage our experience for their events. We are also releasing our open source web platform with the community so they too can offer their audience an optimal web experience.
This year's September 26 event will be held at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, where each of the 12 TEDxToronto speakers will focus on the theme The Choices We Make. Coming from different walks of life, they will explore topics ranging from interactive architecture and the food we eat, to advocacy for mental health.
Their talks will provoke us to disagree, discuss, share and challenge us to step out of our comfort zone. The end goal is that people walk away questioning what they think they know and what they want to do with those ideas. Life's biggest challenges, and rewards, come when we make difficult choices. Stepping outside our comfort zone is when change happens within our lives, in our city and beyond.
For those not attending this year's TEDxToronto, the event will be streaming live throughout the day on September 26 at www.TEDxToronto.com
Follow Afshin Mousavian on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@_afshin