4 Key Takeaways from Attending TEDActive 2014

I was recently at TEDActive 2014 in Whistler, British Columbia (Canada), as a translator delegate. Friends and colleagues have been asking me about my experience and about the event itself.

I’d like to tell you about my experience, while also giving you concrete ways to engage with the many facets of TED (which stands for Technology Entertainment and Design), especially online.

Let’s start with a definition of TEDActive taken from their Facebook page:

TEDActive is designed for the curious, creative, passionate — for those who want to go beyond just watching TEDTalks to sharing experiences and participating in projects that might impact the world beyond. TEDActive provides a platform for energetic people to self-organize groups, to connect with each other and to start rewarding conversations around common interests. It’s a model that generated powerful friendships and important collaborations that continue today.

Having listened, translated and reviewed some TED talks and having read the description of the event, I boarded the Montreal to Vancouver flight with great expectations.

1. Learning happens naturally in a collaborative environment

TEDActive set the stage by offering an environment that would foster discussion. From the time I arrived, the conference environment, the organizers, the workers, the speakers, everything, was geared to support openness and collaboration.

During a design workshop hosted by Simon Sinek, our team spontaneously formed for an activity. It’s not often that a genomics researcher, a UX designer, a translator, a programmer, an educator and a marketing manager, people who came from 4 different countries, have the opportunity to work together to solve a problem. The activity was an icebreaker as we settled into a rhythm for the week.

Both what we perceive as more conventional environments and creative settings have their place in learning. In a sense, the talks themselves are lectures, i.e. knowledge is more or less passively received. What happens between the talks and the creative activities generated following the event are invaluable to each participant and the community that he or she represents.

Handling a lot of valuable information and ideas

How do you take in information from attending over 10 talks a day, in addition to all the other activities and important information you might not want to miss? This is what I do: I take visual notes. These are spontaneous notes, meant to record the main ideas during a talk and to serve as a springboard for my own interpretations.

This technique makes it easier for me to remain engaged for long periods of time, while processing the information as I receive it. Here is an example of visual note taking, you can see more by visiting my Flickr stream.

TEDActive, TED, Sketchnotes, visual notes
Visual notes taken by Johanne Benoit-Gallagher during live streaming of TED talks, 2014

2. TED is more than just isolated online talks: it’s about people

It’s one thing to view a talk online, but it’s quite another to attend a TED event in person. There were people from diverse backgrounds, 65 different countries were represented; individuals who work and volunteer to make a difference in their communities.

While at the conference, discussions over a meal or an outdoor activity quickly turned to our impressions of the last few talks. Many were moved by what they heard. We then shared about how these ideas might be used to effect change in us and in our surroundings.

It would be difficult for me to return from such a rich exchange and go back to the status quo. I now see more clearly how I can contribute to my community and have found renewed focus.

3. Exploring ideas is a necessary part of the process of bringing them to life

The secret to getting the most from such a collaborative event is to share what you know and to be curious while listening to others. I had the opportunity to learn about the political situation in Serbia and Croatia, the work of a physician in Poland, the Mauritius Island and its culture, architecture and about how one person was translating to bridge the generational gap in her country. There is so much more.

It’s also very humbling and eye-opening to realize that you still have a lot to learn.

4. Translation is a powerful vehicle for transmitting ideas

Did you know that TED talks have been translated into 104 languages and that about 15,785 translators have translated 55,025 talks?

One of my translation professors used to remind us regularly of the importance of the translator’s role in the exchange of ideas between cultures. We can enrich someone’s life by sharing knowledge and we can gain by learning from others. This exchange of ideas began right from the start at TEDActive during the Open Translation Project (OTP) workshop.

OTP volunteer translators are not necessarily professional translators but individuals with a deep understanding of the power of ideas to enable transformation. Translators make it possible to spread ideas far and wide.

Expanding translation boarders

Translation cannot be dissociated from the notion of progress; some even maintain that a society can be measured by the translation it accepts. (J.-F. Joly)

If you’re interested in learning more about the OTP, visit the TED Open Translation Project. Here is a picture of the group of translators that I had the pleasure of getting to know during TEDActive.

TEDActive, OTP
A few of the thousands of TED translators met for an OTP workshop

Now what?

Bringing new ideas to life can be difficult and meeting inspiring people with a shared desire for creating something new can serve as a catalyst for change. Many people mentioned being moved to make personal changes, while others left with ideas for a book, a business project, a community initiative, etc.

The online and offline exchanges that follow the event are a testimony to the bonds formed at TEDActive and they are a great support for the implementation of ideas. This is why it’s important to keep the conversation going.

Here’s how you can get involved

Translation is a powerful vehicle; it makes possible the intercontinental flow of ideas.

To find out how you can volunteer to translate subtitles, visit: Get Started where you’ll find the resources you need.

Find out more about TED programs and initiatives by clicking here.

And while going about your day, try to “conspire with magic” as Jason Webley mentioned during his performance. Look around you and see how you can contribute to your community.

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