TEDxSydney: Our Top Thought-Starters

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UMM recently attended TEDxSydney, where this year’s theme was Unconventional. Every speaker delivered a plentitude of bold, unique ideas, so it was agonising to land on a shortlist.

Also present at TEDxSydney was our client Logitech, who were not only a Major Partner of the event but also ran regular interactive workshops for attendees, to help them in the fight against Glossophobia: the pervasive fear of public speaking. The workshops covered nerves, posture, gesture, structure, design and delivery, plus gave participants the chance to sample Logitech’s Spotlight Presentation Remote.

Without further ado, here’s our recap of TEDxSydney:

Let’s begin with something small: the magic number that is basically the key to life. Tom Griffiths, Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at the University of California, Berkeley, is the co-author of Algorithms To Live By – and in that book he reveals the magic number to be… 37.

Want to live in a more computational way? Give yourself a deadline to do something, then, once you’re 37 per cent of the way to the deadline, make your choice based on the prior options and information available to you. Got a year to look for a house? Start bidding during Week 19. Got an hour ‘til dinner? Stop strolling around after 22 minutes and make your choice.

Jordan Raskopoulos is a comedian, musician, and digital content creator who, came out as transgender. She is affected by high-functioning anxiety, which was also the topic of her talk. “I don’t get stage fright, so people don’t get it when I tell them I have an anxiety disorder,” she said. Instead, Jordan gets “life fright”, so while she’s able to slay a TED crowd, small-scale social situations are daunting. As someone who is 50 per cent introvert and 50 per cent extrovert, she identifies as a “shyloud”. This refreshing talk not only addressed mental health in an amusing way but acted as a reminder that just because someone’s in the spotlight, doesn’t mean they don’t have any private struggles.  

Have you ever felt out of your depth? Don’t worry if you have: even Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-founder and co-CEO of collaboration software colossus Atlassian, has that feeling. A lot, in fact. He spoke of Impostor Syndrome, which is like the opposite of ‘Fake it till you make it’ – despite achieving great success, people who suffer from it believe they are frauds who are undeserving of their success. His takeaway from dealing with the syndrome was ultimately positive: “Don’t freeze, learn as much as you can and turn it into a force for good.” More vulnerability and honesty from people in high places? Yes, please.  

In marketing and advertising, the notion of “storytelling” gets thrown around a lot. But what are stories for? Why are they important? And how do they shape us? David Hunt, a historian, writer, and satirist, told the crowd, “We are the sum of our stories” and “We can’t know where we’re going, unless we know where we’ve been”. On the journalism front, Jane Gilmore, whose FixedIt campaign focuses on data journalism and gendered violence in the media, offered a wake-up call to the audience; the way we tell stories – via the words we choose – has a great impact, “Words really matter. Words describe what we think and how we understand things.” Judy Atkinson is a decorated academic who currently works across Australia and in Papua New Guinea on community-based violence. Of Australia, she said, “There is an anger across this nation we choose not to acknowledge… under anger there is always grief.” This was a moving talk about something that is perhaps even more important than stories themselves, and that is the power of listening.