A teeming crowd gathered at Spaces in Vijzelstraat last Thursday for the Spring Edition of TEDxAmsterdam, where 4 speakers were invited to perform: Ariah Lester, Thijs van Vuure, Prof. and Dr. Fons Trompenaars, and Astrid Sonneveld. The original line-up of inspirational speakers aimed to create a movement around ideas worth spreading, made by people who “dream to make the world a better place.”
Opening the night with a Limoncello Prosecco cocktail, attendees met around small stage where a pair of headphones awaited under everyone’s chair. Winner of the 2017 TEDxAmsterdam Award, Astrid Sonneveld launched the event. The young engineer and founder of GoodShipping, a program that aims at replacing ships’ heavy fuel oil with marine biofuel, explained how her organization helps in reducing the pollution of marine environment.
As Sonneveld ended her talk, biologist and philosopher Thijs van Vuure put the headphones to use. Slowed-down bird songs resonated on the audience’s ears while he asked them to imitate what they heard. Attendees’ voices fastened up: they “birdified,” as van Vuure describes it. According to the speaker, everybody needs to feel “what it is like to be a bird.” With his performance, van Vuure believes he had given the audience the opportunity to feel connected with each other by turning them into “one big, collective bird.” In the description of the event, the speaker is described to “[combine] the best of [art, philosophy and science] into a mind-blowing experience which is sure to leave a unique impression.” And so he did.
When Ariah Lester took the stage, his explosive performance started. A black lace shirt, a tight corset and a black eyeliner on his eyelids, he sang in falsetto and provoked the public with his body language. Professor and Dr. Fons Trompenaars followed Lester as the last speaker of the night. Described as “one of the world’s most influential living management thinkers,” the entrepreneur advised the audience on how to create a culture of innovation, bringing creativity in a team by reconciling individual opposites.
TEDxAmsterdam: Out of the ordinary
Monique van Dusseldorp, a freelance event curator specialised in media and technology, is part of the founding team of TEDxAmsterdam, which was created 10 years ago. The US-based non-profit organisation TED has gained popularity with its TEDx program which has been devoted to spreading innovative ideas in the form of short talks since 1984. The events are usually organized by local foundations, with the purpose of bringing people together to share a TED-like experience. Van Dusseldorp’s mission is to “give an audience and a voice to people who want to change the world.” Indeed, the 52-year-old explains that even though there are many TEDx projects worldwide, TEDxAmsterdam stands out because of its focus. “[We] focus on Amsterdam’s peculiarities,” she said. “There is a difference between the ‘We-fix-everything’ American approach and ours. Maybe we are more skeptical, but more realistic, and hence closer to the truth.”
TEDxAmsterdam tries to capture the city’s innovative mind set. “In Amsterdam, you can say things before they are said anywhere else” explains van Dusseldorp. “For example, TEDxAmsterdam got the first talk on gay marriage. We try to explore the edges.” The TEDx spirit is affine to the one of Amsterdam where, according to the freelance event curator, people from different cultures and background meet. “That is the reason why so many new ideas flourish here. Here, you can be anything you want.”
29-year-old Edina Struhar, an employee in a recruiting agency in Rotterdam, enjoyed the event. The Hungarian woman was accompanied with a few to colleagues who together came to Amsterdam specifically to attend the event. “I love TEDx”, Struhar said. “[I]t allows you to make new friends and networking at the same time.” Indeed, Vincent Somers, a 54-year-old Dutch entrepreneur, believes TEDxAmsterdam is a useful tool for networking. and tries to apply the TEDx spirit in his daily life. “I make the world a better place by creating a real team in my company,” he said. “I try to be open with my employees, ask them advice, try to solve problems together with them.” At home, Somers teaches his two children this “do-it-together” philosophy. “I hope they will learn to be always interested in their neighbour.”
When announcing the break, van Dusseldorp encouraged the attendees to have a drink with a stranger. “If two of you go on a date after the talk you win two tickets for the TEDxAmsterdam event next November,” she said. “Don’t be shy, 15 minutes are enough to fall in love.” TEDxAmsterdam’s 10th edition, or “the big X,” is expecting 10,000 people on November 29 to continue to spread ideas.