An Interview With Elliott Blade - TEDxAuckland Licensee

By Jean Bell

“A good idea is something that makes you look at the world differently . . . it puts you in someone else’s shoes or opens your mind up to something you hadn’t thought of or experienced before.” 

Elliott explains what makes a good talk and the behind the scenes process behind TEDxAuckland’s annual festival of ideas.

How did you first get involved with TEDxAuckland?

I got involved in 2011 and started running things in 2012 after a group of friends and I had wanted to do something similar while we were in University. We saw a lot of our friends looking overseas for ideas and inspiration while we thought there were world class ideas popping up across the fields, from architecture to education. So we had the idea of getting all the best people we can find with the coolest ideas that aren’t necessarily well known and put them up on stage. Someone in the group said, “Isn’t that what TED talks do? Why don’t we look into helping with TEDxAuckland instead of setting up our own thing?” Reaching out to the current organiser at the time was the best thing we could’ve done.

How would you define a good TED talk?

There’s five key points. It’s your idea, your idea, your idea, your idea… and the way you tell it! It really is all about the idea. There’s plenty of storytelling platforms in the world and TED doesn’t need to be another one. A lot of really cool people with amazing stories approach us, but they don’t have an idea worth spreading. We always want good stories, but it’s not the priority. We want a good idea backed up by a good story.

What’s the process of speaker selection and curation?

We have a philosophy that we don’t really select speakers for an event. In saying that, the last four or five speakers we select will be to balance things out, so that there’s not too much on science or a gender imbalance. We look for speakers everyday and all year around. We chase ideas, not people. We look at ideas that could really impact and change the world and find who’s behind it, who is the founder, who is the driver, and who is the inspiration. From there we talk to them. We really don’t care if someone has done public speaking or not as we have an intense speaker training and rehearsal programme. We do six to eight weeks of training with the speakers, which clocks up to hundreds and hundreds of hours. But that’s the fun part and our team loves it. It also means that we don’t have to select people who can talk. We just want the ideas - we know that people can present by the end of the process.

How would you describe a quality idea?

Most people will have their own take on this. For me, a good idea is something that makes you look at the world differently. It puts you in someone else’s shoes or opens your mind up to something you hadn’t thought of or experienced before.

Other good ideas are just revolutionary; like a new medical breakthrough that’s going to transform the world, or a social breakthrough that creates a ripple of change in society.

Do you have a favourite TED Talk?

I don’t know if i have a favourite one! My favourite talks are a real mix - I’ve probably got ten or twenty. I like Charmian Gooch’s talk on corruption - it’s really ballsy and brave. You look at her and think, ‘Wow, she could be dead in six months’ because she is uncovering so much corruption head on.’

Another of my favourites would be George Monbiot’s talk on rewilding - it was pretty radical. His talk really resonated with me in that we should let lions, tigers, and other animals back into the wild, unfenced.

What will make the TEDxAuckland 2018 event special?

Every year, half of the event is coming along to hear people talk. The other half is to come along and meet new people. There are a lot of founders and doers in the room and it’s the whole networking element.

We find our attendees are just as interesting as the speakers, they’re as much a part of the event as speakers are. Getting to talk to a speaker about an idea that you love is really special instead of just watching it online.

Looking 10 years into the future, do you have a vision for TEDxAuckland?

We want a sustainable, well-run organisation, and to keep growing the community of people involved who are in such diverse areas; from different types of art to finance to environmentalism.

We want to make sure it’s run every year, get more partners on board and spread the word so every Aucklander knows we’re here.

Be Part Of It. Book Now For Your Place At TEDxAuckland 2018: Off-Piste.