TEDx Fort McMurray Pioneering for third annual conference

PHOTO: Supplied

PHOTO: Supplied

By Lindsay Ducharme

Ideas worth sharing…and hearing.  TEDxFortMcMurray, an independently organized TED event, is gearing up for their third annual conference on February 21st, 2015.  This year, event organizers have implemented a few changes, and recruited unique speakers, in an effort to make the upcoming event a standout.

Matt Youens, TEDxFortMcMurray chair and member of the organizing committee, referred to the upcoming conference, focused around the theme of Pioneering, as a “hybrid” TEDx event.

“TEDx organizing committees are all a little bit different, there are rules and a sandbox you need to play in but everyone kind of does it a little bit differently,” he explained.

“Some organizing committees hand pick their presenters, they go out and find people who fit their theme.  What we do is, we come up with a theme that we believe there would be individuals out there that would be able to share their amazing stories or the work they are doing and they we actually get them to audition.  We come up with a theme and it’s not up to us to interpret what Pioneering is, we leave that up to the actual applicants themselves,” he continued.

Their merging of methods seems to have created the perfect balance of talent.  This year’s TEDxFortMcMurrya lineup consists of 13 presenters overall, six from across Canada along with seven local participants; a mixture Youens believes will bring a fresh perspective to audiences.

“Our first year all our presenters were local and we were kind of getting off the ground and introducing TEDx style events to Fort McMurray and vice versa. The second year, last year, we started to accept people from outside of our region.  This year what we ended up doing was, we went out and approached people all over Canada as well as America and we said ‘we think you have an amazing story, please will you think of applying’ and a whole bunch of those people applied and we ended up with roughly half of our presenters being from out of town,” he said.

“We love the fact that we are still able to have that local flavour.  Fort McMurray is such a vibrant community and if there was ever an area that could be considered pioneering that would definitely being the Wood Buffalo municipality and Fort McMurray itself.  We are pretty excited that we have a chef, we have a local communications profession who was with Keyano and is now with United Way, we’ve got someone who is apart of our emergency response here in town, we’ve also got a yoga instructor, we’ve got a really interesting mix of individuals who are all homegrown.”

This year’s presenters include Dr. Teodor Grantcharov (Toronto), rapper Abdominal (aka Andy Bernstein, Toronto), technologist Karl Swannie (Victoria), educator Rahim Sajan (Calgary), serial entrepreneur Joey Hundart (Edmonton) and business professional Sarah Rawlins (Edmonton). In addition local presenters that include executive chef Jay Barnard, yoga and wellness instructor Kaitlin Armstrong, marketer Mardi Getty, communications professional Kiran Malik-Khan, firefighter Captain Tim Moen, and nurse and breastfeeding educator Vilia Tosio. As well as former long-time resident and D Day soldier Tom Morimoto, who in his 96th year now resides in British Columbia.

TED and TEDx events have been gaining in popularity rapidly in the last handful of years. TED, a nonprofit organization, which is devoted to ideas worth spreading, began in 1984, and became an annual event in 1990, as a conference bringing together people from technology, entertainment, and design. TEDx events are individually organized events under the TED banner, the TED format on a smaller, more community-based scale.

“I think it’s an event unlike any other in our region. We’re almost as excited about the stuff that happens outside in the hallways, as we are as with what happens inside the theatre,” boasts Youens.

“We have some really great spaces, we call them curated social spaces, that are designed for people to interact with one another or interact with themselves in a way that they normally wouldn’t at these one day conference type events.  We are really trying to make it where things are fun, engaging and allow people to relax and realize that this is a safe environment for me to not only have a great time but think about new ideas and discuss and engage others with new ideas.”

Also new this year is the ticketing process. In previous years, those wishing to attend the local conference needed to apply in order to purchase tickets, however, this year the application process has been removed in an effort to make the event more welcoming for everyone.

“Tickets are limited so I would encourage everyone to grab their ticket as soon as possible. We felt some people were turned off a little bit about having to apply but we also feel as though there is enough interest in our community to go with this model.  We wanted to test this out to see if there was a better response,”Youens explained.

Tickets for TEDxFortMcMurray taking place on February 21st, 2015 at the Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts are on sale at a cost of $75 per person.  For more information on TEdxFortMcMurray and to purchase tickets visit the website http://www.tedxfortmcmurray.com/.