TEDx Wanaka

TEDx Wanaka

A capacity audience left The Rippon Hall on Saturday buzzing with ideas after the first ever TEDxWanaka. The event, which took place on a perfect winter solstice, could mark a turning point for many in more ways than one after an enlightening programme of seven speakers plus entertainment and local food and wine.


In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organised events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks videos and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organised events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organised TED event.

After welcomes from event MC, Liz Breslin and Rippon winemaker, Nick Mills, local author, filmmaker and fly-fishing guide, Derek Grzelewski delivered the first presentation entitled ‘Open mind and a way beyond conflict’.

He set the tone for the day perfectly by suggesting the pressure we feel to take an instant position on news stories and other people’s opinions is the genesis of conflict, whether on a personal level or between religions and nations. He offered a solution based on accepting the notion that we don’t know everything.

Next up was Auckland-based nanotechnologist, Michelle Dickinson who demonstrated ‘How to build a superhero in five easy steps’. In a fascinating explanation of cutting-edge research, Michelle showed how comic book fiction could be turned into science fact.

Spiderman’s sticky hands, Captain America’s lightweight shield and the power to turn invisible were all possible, she said, using the latest technology and meta-materials. The ultimate weapon though was knowledge – just as it helped Michelle push the boundaries of science, it also provided the power to unleash the superhero inside every one of us.

Retired psychiatrist Ken Bragan’s talk ‘Do not go gentle’ (referencing Dylan Thomas’s poem about old age and death, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night) received a standing ovation from the audience. Ken posited that his is the only generation alive that has experience of life “prior to the explosion of consumerism and technology” and said that although wisdom was “out of favour”, his generation may have something to offer. His call to younger generations included two pleas: “slow down” and “get with it”.

Ken said we spend too little time just being, enjoying contemplation. “Quiet is good for our well-being,” he said. “It gives us time to keep asking questions.”

He wanted people to “get with it” about two things: climate change and the impact of technology. He said generations need to get together to face the threats the future holds, and his generation can advise on how to live a simpler way of life and make do with less.

Ken was the oldest speaker and he was followed by the youngest, Liz Carlson, a full-time travel blogger whose site receives more than a million visitors a year. Liz talked on ‘The fear of disconnecting’ from technology.

After temporarily losing her smartphone while tramping in Iceland, and realising that being ‘connected’ had become more important than the actual experience of travel, she introduced three rules into her life to get over her phone addiction. She disconnects her phone when she is outside, she turns her phone off 30 minutes before she goes to bed and doesn’t turn it on again until 30 minutes after she wakes up, and she leaves her phone in her bag when she is with someone. Liz feels she now lives in a world “rooted in reality”.

Gisborne based ecological restoration business founder Steve Sawyer spoke on ‘Putting the mana back into eco-management’. Steve created a world first when he established breeding grounds for grey-faced petrels and fluttering shearwaters using acoustic attraction methods at Young Nick’s Head. He now advises others on how to do the same worldwide, but emphasises the best way to succeed is to engage local people to manage their own areas. Steve said New Zealand could lead the world in this field.

Leadership consultant, Andrea Thompson from Wellington talked about ‘The hidden source of success’. Her talk was full of sound advice and practical ways we can all drive the future we want.

Andrea said there are three keys to unlocking our potential: master your ‘stories’ (those we tell ourselves about why we and others are the way we/they are), choose your mood, and take action.

The final speaker, and a highlight for many, was Rob Cope also from the capital whose talk ‘Men wanted for hazardous journey’ was about how men need to get together and “talk about the real shit” if they want to be good fathers and husbands.

Rob’s epiphany came when his wife asked him to leave after 18 years of marriage. He hitchhiked around New Zealand with a fridge (simply to make things more challenging) and found himself having real conversations with people and “breaking the man code”. This inspired him to establish a project where other men could “sit round the fire and talk”.

License holder, Jo Guest said the event was a great success and fun to deliver.

“The day exceeded all our expectations as organisers and it’s incredibly rewarding to hear the positive feedback we’ve already received,” she said.

“We wanted to create an atmosphere that put people sufficiently at ease to spark conversation and challenge ideas. Providing locally sourced food and drinks throughout the day was important to us as a way of nourishing the body as well as the mind.

“TED is a non-profit organisation and TEDxWanaka has relied on the energy and ideas of a volunteer crew. Huge thanks to everyone who bought a ticket, the musicians and Mt Aspiring College students who provided excellent entertainment and all the local businesses who supported us. We’ll be back!” she said.

Videos, photos and reports of the day will be available online via the TEDx YouTube channel in the next couple of weeks. Anyone wanting more information should visit http://www.tedxwanaka.com and the event’s Facebook page.

Re – Blogged from 360 Queenstown-Wanaka

360 Queenstown - Wanaka
360 Queenstown – Wanaka

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