After coaching 5 speakers to prepare for TEDx Amsterdam recently, I was lucky enough to be present on the day itself. Here are my personal Top 5 talks of this amazing event.
No.5 Gerben Stouten: Candy makes plastic (Innovation Award Winner)
Delft University student and lecturer Gerben shows that waste can be turned into resources: and expains that nature holds the answers for how. He and his team are putting this into practice at the Mars factory, turning production waste materials into wrappers for Mars bars. It was a pleasure to coach Gerben on the road to the TEDx stage, as he won through against hundreds of other applicants.
Great voice, lovely touch with the soft-toy bug to bring the story into the human world, and nice timing with a pause and punchline. Gerben could still have been a little more still, but a worthy winner with a great pitch.
No.4 Kumi Naidoo: Contagious courage, a billion individual acts
South African activist Naidoo moves the audience with sadness and humour. He describes personal and family loss of freedom, and life. Yet he also describes how ‘we want equality’ turned into ‘we want a colour tv’ by the end of a protest march!
He suggests that we will look back on today’s approach to the environment as insane in 20 years – just as we decry slavery, apartheid and other inequalities now. They too were legal injustices, and we must fight today’s legal injustice and turn it into tomorrow’s source of ridicule.
Wonderful stories and Naidoo effortlessly switches us between vastly different emotions. The power of key concepts – ‘The good news: the world will be fine. It’s humanity we should worry about’ – is huge. The only issue: not quite so much movement back and forth. (Yes, the same problem as No.5, but this is one of the most common errors speakers make – even accomplished TEDx speakers.)
No.3 Kim Spierenburg – Vibrations that ease pain and fuel imagination
An amazing violinist, Kim captivated us all from the first moment. I sat at the back of the auditorium but could see the spark in her eyes, and hear the absolute certainty in her descriptions of wanting to play the violin – despite the pain of lupus disease. Her playing was achingly beautiful, and her guts to ask for a connection with Duncan Stutterheim (see below)… all greatly inspiring!
Oozing joy at what she does, Kim took the stage and despite staying rooted to one place, filled the stage with her utter enthusiasm. She gives us enough time to absorb each piece of the information by taking a moment between each piece, and smiles a lot: not fake because the humour she shares are things that genuinely make her happy. One small step forward – a little more vocal variation. It can sound a bit monotone at certain periods.
No.2 David Allen: Getting in control and creating space
This is a man who is an extremely accomplished presenter: so much so that he makes this a practical talk. The audience are invited to take part and ‘play’ along, and David is the only speaker of the day to create real involvement of the audience (with one exception… see below). Along the way, he shows how well tuned we are to natural planning, yet how often we take the unnatural way forward.
I love the interaction: it shows a person’s character if their approach at such an important moment as a TEDx talk is to involve instead of preach. He’s funny too: really funny. There are few people who can make Time Management a subject to have a good laugh at, but David Allen is the man to do it. My suggestion go further. The humour can come out even more! We love it and he can carry it off.
No.1 Duncan Stutterheim: Celebrate life
House Music has not been a part of my life at all, so I had no expectations from this talk. Yet I found Duncan Stutterheim to be outstanding. He didn’t make a technically perfect talk, but as an audience we felt his conviction and passion for what he does and whom he helps. The moment where he gets everyone on their feet is a wonderful expression of what he believes is the basic value of his work: unity and love. As they say in Dutch, kippenvel… (or goosebumps.)
Despite looking a little serious at the beginning, his humility is genuine and draws us in. Duncan has been in front of high audiences but he gave genuine respect to the stage of Amsterdam’s favourite theatre house. He’s also funny and yet heartfelt with his attitude and body language. To go one step past almost perfect: a slightly less serious face. When he smiles, he lights us up (although is that because he is serious for the rest and we love the contrast? Maybe…)