How TEDxSoho aims to inspire social change

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Some of our speakers are active and changing their industries from within, while others take a slightly softer approach. They coach, change and help one person at a time. But what unites them are their fantastic ideas and their passion. The aim, therefore, is for the audience to feel rejuvenated, inspired and refreshed after listening to the lectures.

You talk about overcoming setbacks to bring about change. So how do these groups of speakers do this?

Professor Katie Shaw grew up in Newcastle during difficult times. At a very young age, she realized that if she wanted to change and fix her hometown, she had to leave to come back. So a real heroine journey.

Dr. Camilla Pang is an autism advocate and computational biologist doing protein research at the top of her field. She changes the world by helping people with autism understand themselves and their situation better. It’s amazing that she decided not just to fix herself, but to share her learnings.

Michael Sheen, here is a man who has the world at his feet, but he has decided to dedicate a part of his life to helping others succeed as he did. He helps young children from underprivileged or disconnected backgrounds to get involved in the arts and have the chances he had. So he’s working to level the playing field. He’s basically asking himself not what else he could take, but what can he give back?

Lukasz Konieczka, director of the Mosaic LGBTQ+ Young Person’s Trust. He was a social worker and 16 years ago the funding dried up. He tried but couldn’t find where to send the young people he was working with. Instead, he created his own and coaches and helps young people in the LGBTQ+ community lead happier lives.

The list continues. Each of the speakers took on a challenge and saw something that needed fixing. However, they didn’t ask anyone else to fix it. They took the initiative.

Do you have a particular favorite speaker?

I’m excited, honored and proud to have them all on stage. But, of course, we are delighted to have some of the most important names for this year.

We’ve brought in Tom Odell, who will be playing live music for us. Ray Panthaki has such energy and passion for everything he does and radiated it every time I spoke to him. Michael Sheen unfortunately cannot attend the event as exciting events are happening in his life right now, but he has kindly agreed to do an exclusive TED Talk video at TEDxSoho.

Micheal Sheen will make a video appearance to share his remarkable story

So those are the big names that everyone has heard. But the great thing about TEDx is that when people step on that red dot, each of them shines and becomes a star. Not a star in the superficial sense. But a real star, someone who does great things to bring about change.

Can you tell us how you go about finding these great speakers who come up with new ideas for a new world?

Well, it goes both ways. Many people contact me on my LinkedIn through the website because they are desperate to have a platform to share their ideas. Sometimes people recommend others that they know are great. Sometimes we pick up the phone and say, “Hey, it’s Sam from Ted X. Would you like to do a TED talk?” And 99 times out of 100, everyone is glad you called them. Finding the speakers and putting together the narrative is the most rewarding part of organizing the event.

We are just coming out of a pandemic where we were unable to attend an event like this. Can you tell us about the importance of everyone meeting in one room?

All of this working from home is great in terms of work-life balance. But I think we’ve all learned the value of being with people and sharing post-lockdown experiences. Experiences are enhanced when you collectively share them with others. The biggest example is the game of football. Compare watching the game on TV to being in a stadium with 70,000 people cheering together. Events like this are essential, especially to hear inspiring talks. Of course, you can sit down and watch a TED talk anywhere with your phone. Yet nothing beats being there.

As a team, we report on how people can improve the future by acting today. After hosting this event, do you have any tips for our readers on how they can do it?

A few years ago, while working on a piece of film, I worked with a guy called Andy Talbot, a man who spent his life flying out of planes, digging caves, making rock climbing, scuba diving, you name it. At the end of these interviews, he said one thing: “Life is not going to come and find you sitting on a couch. You have to get up, get out and get into it. So my advice to anyone who wants to make a difference, make things better, or maybe host their own TEDx event: you won’t be able to achieve this by sitting in the cafe and chatting with your friends; you have to stand up, take risks and show off. That’s what every one of those speakers on that stage did.

How did you get involved in TEDx?

I started working on TEDxBrighton when the team was small. Together, we made TEDxBrighton a huge, sold-out event. I talked to one of the TED organizers about getting the license to run TEDxSoho because Soho is one of the most creative neighborhoods in the world, so it’s a brand in itself. TEDx is also a global brand that people recognize, and I thought it would be a great idea if we could bring those two things together and create an event that celebrates all the things Soho has become famous for over the years.

TEDxSoho – This Is Not A Rehearsal takes place on Monday May 30 from 10am-5pm at the Cambridge Theater in Earlham Street, London. Buy your tickets here.


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