Digital Conversations

All you need is…TEDx

8th March 2010

Reading Room Designer, Michael Zrobok, attended the TEDxBrisbane (where x=independently organised TED event) that was held over the weekend within the Queensland State Library’s  spacious surrounds using the theme ‘All you need is …’ which was broken down into 4 sessions:

…to see

…to listen

…to dream

…to act

Upon arriving at 8:00am for registration I began my own personal session of All you need is …

… caffeine!

Luckily for me and all the other non morning people the kind folks at Dibella Coffee and Urban Grind had booths set up at the Ideas Worth Spreading Tent outside on the grass and were dispensing caffeinated wellness free of charge to all those holding a registration tag!

In the weeks leading up to this day the organisers had sent a follow up email to all successful applicants asking to complete the following 2 sentences:

All you need is…


Talk to me about…

These answers, which we provided, had been added to our tags so starting up conversation couldn’t have been easier. It was like speed gushing – because  how could you not when someone asks you to talk about what you are most passionate about?


registration card for event
registration card for TEDxBrisbane

Each attendee had been colour coordinated as well dividing us into groups for ease of shuffling between sessions which we soon learned the purpose of as we were herded into a small theatre displaying a rather large screen.

The main room was being broadcast across numerous spaces via linked video feeds however an official came in to inform us that our room would only have an audio feed until they could fix the problem. So we all stared at the bright blue screen and listened intently as the first speaker began with “All you need is…to see”.  Laughable as it seemed I didn’t drag my ass here first thing on a Saturday morning to get deprived of any of this experience so I, along with a couple other determined types, immediately left for the big room to watch from the sidelines.

Kevin Finn, of Finn Creative, formerly of Saatchi Sydney told a tale of how he came to move from a daily view at his office of the famed Sydney Opera House to a view of a big red rock in the remote town of Kununurra, WA and how this journey opened his eyes to possibilities and opportunities that couldn’t be achieved with keeping a closed mind. By looking hard and not accepting limitations he discovered his key to success was connecting his new community to the local industries and creating a connection where one previously wasn’t.  The lesson to be learned: All you need is…to see the connections.

With the AV now running smoothly back in the little theatre, I returned to a new seat to see some local university students showing how taking an open source approach to scientific research and allowing findings to have a creative commons type of license applied will not only change the rate of progress within the field of genetic discoveries but change the face of the entire scientific community as well. By creating a repository of genetic discoveries (not unlike a box of lego blocks for bacteria modification) future scientists can end the old mindset that hoarding your information is somehow for the best and the “don’t share it someone else might make money off of it attitude” is no way to move forward as a species, it was hard to argue with that: All you need is…to see how setting information free can free us all.

After listening to the physicist Joel Gilmore explain how generating nuclear energy has similar levels of risks to both solar and wind harvesting (as opposed to the negative effects of using coal) and that all we need is… to see the facts, we were ejected back out onto the lawn for another dose of roasted bean nirvana and some complimentary locally harvested fruit courtesy of Foodconnect.

Returning inside the library, our group (the black dots) were now taken to the main auditorium for seating only to be met by the soothing sounds of the house band Miguel who treated us to a soft trumpeting and piano induced feeling of serenity. The first speaker for the “All you need is…to listen” session was a nervous man named Robert Pekin. Visibly shaken by this public speaking experience (which I could personally equate to sitting in a room with hundreds of the most creative people on earth listening to me talk like I knew more about creativity than any of them) he informed us that he was a TED aficionado for a long time now and that this was dreamlike.

His nervous energy soon gave way to humorous anecdotes and  a tale of how farmers in this country (and across the globe) are integral to our survival yet are continually being forced into ruin through the monopoly run by the big grocery chain giants. After experiencing this life firsthand as a farmer, he fled to the wilds of Tasmania, where he set out to live off the land and in doing so met local Aboriginal people who turns out weren’t eradicated by the colonialists but instead continued living off the land and keeping their heritage alive. He came out one year later now more empowered than ever being driven by the belief that societies need to work together to share food affordably across the world as a basic human right. To turn the tables on the people who pull the strings he started up a company called Foodconnect and after hearing Robert speak I implore anyone reading this to go to that site and see if you can’t get on board or better yet help start something like this initiative right in your own area. This is our future and all we need is…to see that we are in control of it.

Next up Richard Slatter spun a tale of how a little company on the east coast of Australia ended up changing the way music charts are determined, how that venture ties in with the global stock market and why getting in touch with the right people can happen when it needs to happen. This General Manager of told how the technology his company uses to monitor, index, organise and analyse news from thousands of mainstream publishers as well as blogs, company newsletters and government and industry news sites and feeds got used in an online music rating project called We Are Hunted. This successful venture got written up in WIRED, which in turn lead to getting blacklisted from Youtube, which in turn lead to using myspace to stream the music and which ultimately lead to getting in touch with bigwigs at Google that resulted in more good PR and more success. Not bad for 5 people on the east coast of Australia eh? All you need is…to listen to the data.

Once again we found ourselves on the lawn, in the big tent being served complimentary lunches that the organisers had arranged through a company called Club139 that distributes food to the homeless. I for one, quite enjoyed my meal and can’t wait to thank the makers of my lunch with a donation which can be made here.

Once we had all returned for session three: all you need is…to dream, the rotation brought us back to the little theatre where Deborah Fleming, the founder of ABC’s Australian Story shared with us some of her personal favourite clips from the show’s history and the behind the scenes stories that could only be provided by her. Attention Kylie Minogue and Kevin Rudd: her people are still waiting to hear back from your people and will continue waiting until you are ready so please hurry up. The advice I gleaned from her:  All you need is…to have fun while realising your goals.

Next up Sheldon Lieberman absolutely killed it with his musical approach to multiple personality disorders in the form of his numerous animated alter egos that he and animator Igor Coric bring to life. The creator of, a digital agency and fun house, was the best treatment for the after lunch slot where most attendees might have been getting sleepy and shared with us a couple of brilliant animated works and a lot of hilarious insight into how this wonderfully twisted mind of his works. Thank you Sheldon, that was great. Please don’t ever stop listening to those voices. All you need be a little crazy.

Last up was Chris Sarra, an educator whose passion has been the pursuit of more positive and productive educational outcomes for Indigenous children. He told a tale that most couldn’t relate to, of how a young aboriginal boy was lead to believe that he wasn’t supposed to be more and upon discovering that this wasn’t the case made more of himself. This process awakened something in him that ensured that he would not allow the mistakes of the past to repeat themselves for any kids he could connect with. He then connected with the crowd by asking us to think back to that time that the one teacher who made a difference in our lives, whether it was for good by encouraging us to pursue our dreams or for the worst by telling us that we can’t do something that we love or believe in, and to use that memory to understand that mentorship and championing the dreams of our youth are the only way forward as a society that truly values our future. All you need believe it can be done.

A short break later and I found myself in the main hall for the final session of the day: all you need is…to act.

A three piece jazz influenced band called Misinterpretato was waiting for us. Piano, upright bass and percussion brought the whole mood into that of sheer audible bliss. All you need is…music.

Next up was Bronwen Sheehan, introduced as an angel and ending her talk as an archangel. She launched the Pyjama Foundation in 2004, the organisation focuses on building literacy skills where volunteers spend an hour a week simply reading with a foster child. The stories she told left me wondering why I couldn’t find the time to do exactly this for her organization. All you need make the effort.

Finally, the last speaker was probably the most anticipated. The Australian hostage, 37-year-old freelance photojournalist Nigel Brennan who was held in Somalia by kidnappers for 15 months, was finally freed On December 2, 2009. At one point during his talk he looked down and proclaimed that his 18 minutes were up and apologised for not being able to finish. One of the main organisers walked up to the laptop holding the timer and closed the screen followed immediately by a loud round of applause. We all sat in awe as this tale of an ordeal so harrowing and easily imaginable unfolded via the all too fragile words of a human who bravely decided that this story was worth hearing. In the end, Nigel assured all that he believed in the role of journalism and that knowing what goes on in this world requires him to make sure the people affected have their stories heard. All you need is…to do what you can to make the world better for others.

Hands down one of the best Saturdays (let alone any day) I’ve had in a long time, massive thanks to the organisers Paul Fairweather and Carl Lindgren, all of the amazing speakers, the volunteers who made the day as magical as it was, the generous sponsors and to all who try to do something better for our world, no matter how big or small the effort.

6 Responses

  1. avatar Reading Room Australia Blog » Blog Archive » Happy Birthday to you! March 18, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    [...] Home Reading Room Australia Blog « All you need is…TEDx [...]


  2. avatar Michael March 9, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Hi TJ thanks for your feedback, Timothy’s talk was a little bit too engaging as I didn’t do a very good job of writing notes for that session! There were also some 3 minute bursts, the poetry reading and of course the video feeds that I didn’t record proper notes for. Hope you enjoyed the day as much as I did.


  3. avatar Carl Lindgren March 9, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Thank you Michael. What a wonderful report on TEDxBrisbane. Thanks for taking the time to do this :)


  4. avatar Robert March 9, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Great write up of TEDx, brilliant


  5. avatar Saran Mclarty March 9, 2010 at 5:10 am

    This blog is great. How did you come up witht he idea? 7 9 9


  6. avatar TJ March 8, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Did you miss Timothy Hill’s talk in the all you need is to listen session – entertaining and clever take on ‘projects’ as manmade phenomena – the complexity of making things that aren’t existing into a reality


Leave a response

  • Your email address will not be published.
  • You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>