Eight hours after tickets went on sale last Thursday, 250 applications had already been submitted by people hoping to attend the forthcoming TEDxConcordia event. Organizer David Chouinard sees this as promising since, despite the unique and engaging list of speakers, he emphasized that the event is really all about the attendees and their passion for learning.
“Much like TED, the audience makes the show,” said Chouinard, one of a handful of organizers who have spent the last eight or nine months putting together the independently-organized conference. TEDx events mirror those of TED, its father organization, but on a smaller scale. “We’re really trying to get a very intimate, interesting flow of ideas where it’s not awkward to randomly go up to someone and just have a discussion. It’s very interesting, vibrant, spirited.”
It is because of this focus on intimacy and an engaging audience that tickets have been limited to 400, and that people interested in attending the Feb. 19 event cannot just buy them but instead need to “apply.”
“It’s very much to make sure that the people who are part of the audience, every single one of them, is completely passionate about what they do,” Chouinard explained, adding that the process isn’t stringent and that the applications they have received thus far have been “phenomenal.”
“We have applications from Harvard graduates to ER nurses, to amazing artists. I mean very, very diverse and that’s also something we’d like to encourage,” he said.
Attendees can also expect a variety of speakers and ideas. Chouinard likened the speaker selection process to finding “hidden gems:” people in Montreal with ideas that few others know about.
After weeding through hundreds of nominations and potential speakers, organizers narrowed the list to 14, a third of which are Concordia students.
One of these “gems” is integrated marketing consultant and Concordia alumna Adele McAlear, who will be talking about the relationship between personal family histories, digital media and the fragility of the web in its ability to preserve these histories over the long term.
“People think “Well, I’ll just digitize things and it will live forever,'” McAlear said. “But it needs curation, it needs somebody to look after it [after you pass away]. Once you’ve loaded it on some other server ? you lose control over what happens.
According to McAlear, since the Internet and social media as a part of daily life is a fairly recent phenomenon, and because losing users isn’t helpful for their profitability, very few developers and services have concrete policies for how to deal with “end of user life.” She said that as a result “there are very, very few people who are speaking on my topic in the world.”
For McAlear, the TEDx event offers the opportunity to be exposed to “a wide range of topics from areas that you wouldn’t necessarily spend time looking into” ? ideas that simply don’t appear in one’s day-to-day existence.
This seems to coincide with Chouinard’s vision for the event. “What I’m sure that’s going to come out of TEDxConcordia is this powerful network of ideas,” he said. “And that’s something that sticks after the event, and it builds over time.”
With the positive response they’ve received thus far, TEDxConcordia will also likely build over time, especially as they are already recruiting organizers for the 2012 edition.