At TEDxSummit last month, I made friends with TEDx organizers from all over the world who invited me to their events to see what is happening. Two of these friends are Elena Papadopoulou and Katerina Biliouri, part of the team that organizes TEDxThessaloniki in Greece. Even though it was short notice, everything lined up along with the TED@Tunis event last week and I was able to be back on a plane to Europe to attend, as well as spend some time getting to know a part of the world I’ve not yet been able to spend any time in.
Watching the TEDxThessaloniki team pull together their event has been much like watching any of the other talented teams I’ve seen pull together other events. Long hours. Late nights. Much coffee. It all came together magnificently on May 12th at the Olympion Theater into a world class TEDx event that was everything a TED-like event should be: inspiring, motivating, and thought provoking. Attendees were brimming with excitement and passion all the way through the day to the final performance.
The theme of the event was The Courage to Create, an exploration of what it takes to make something exceptional in a time of great change. It’s a very apt theme at this point in Greece’s history where it takes courage to keep dreaming and persevering, even when it may seem challenging or even impossible. The conference’s promotional video by director Marios Spiroglou brilliantly illustrates the theme.
My favorite talk of the day was given by Czech economist Tomáš Sedláček, who explained the fundamentals of the current European woes in a way that brilliantly illustrates that what is happening here in Greece isn’t unique but is symptomatic of larger systemic issues that are at work both in the European and global economies. It was the kind of talk that leaves you with a new viewpoint on how things work. After his talk, I exercised my privilege as an attendee to talk one-on-one with Tomáš a bit more about the points he brought up and was impressed with his insights. He’s definitely somebody I want to have a long dinner conversation with sometime and would love to see speak again.
Another speaker that really stood out for me was Edi Rama, the Mayor of Tirana, Albania. As mayor, he’s overseen the removal of illegal buildings, the revitalization of the city by bringing in color and arts into the public space, and implemented projects to reduce corruption by replacing governmental service outlets with modern clean facilities that promote official accountability. I have no idea if I agree with the rest of his politics, but his talk was a great story of how seemingly minor changes in local government and how it acts can change a city for the better.
The event was conducted both in Greek and English with an almost even division between talks in each language. For locals who didn’t speak English well or non-Greek speakers, like myself, there was simultaneous translation provided. Translating big idea talks in real-time had to be a very challenging thing to do, and the translators didn’t quite keep up with every thought, but I was able to follow almost everything with ease.
It was quite a treat to leave most of the photography of the event to the local team who are posting photos of the event on Flickr. To help out a bit a few days before the event, I gave a repeat of the Photographing your TEDx Event workshop that Mike Femia and I created for TEDxSummit in Doha. Of course, I couldn’t resist making a few photos of my own, which are also in the Flickr set and appear here. It would be kind of strange if I didn’t at least make a few photos while I attended the event and conversed with people about issues small and large.
Exhilarating. Wonderful. Tiring. A great day, no matter how one looks at it. More than anything, it’s wonderful to see people implement the spreading of ideas in their own communities and spheres of influence. It’s something that the world can definitely use more of.