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Losing control: 11 TEDxBrighton learnings

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The main auditorium of the Brighton Dome is a catholic entertainment venue.

Over the past 17 years, I’ve graduated here – twice. The first time, I shook the hand, the second time enjoyed a warm embrace from the late Sussex VC, Richard “Dickie” Attenborough. I’ve also enjoyed: the Bootleg BeatlesMarc Ronson on the Version tour; a geekfest of designers and data journalists worshipping every word of their prophet, Information Is Beautiful’s David McCandless; Deadly 60’s Steve Backshall; and, AC Jimbo, Barry Glendenning and the team doing the Guardian’s Football Weekly Podcast live. A podcast, live, and one that’s never broadcast? I know …

Oh, and been to TEDxBrighton, today my second.

Hosted and directed by the deft hands (and words) of Horrible Histories’ Laurence Rickard, today we learned that Val Kilmer’s full name is Val. Val Kilmer.

We learned how to gyrate, not hate, from the English Disco Lovers, determined to subvert and reclaim the acronym EDL from … well, You Know Who.

We learned that people who feel emotionally isolated experience a decrease in body temperature. Those left out in the cold emotionally literally experience their bodies shutting down.

We learned that those helping the victims of war through their traumas – like seeing their families blown up at home in Gaza – eventually get traumatised themselves.

We learned that the first computer bug really WAS a bug – a moth that flew into an early North American computer.

We learned that “What really chopped my broccoli” is a brilliant euphemism for “What really pissed me off”. Particularly if you’re a Canadian jeweller who uses the rarest materials in his work to match his own idiosyncrasies. Good work, Black Badger.

We learned that the 1970s was characterised by a diet of sugar, superheroes and industrial unrest, a decade during which you could dress up and it was normal.

We learned that it IS possible to fill the shoes of Rory Sutherland, defatigable for once.

We learned that forgiveness is good for the health and wellbeing of the forgiver.

We learned that badger tastes like a combination of beef and venison.

We learned – through observation – that it’s fine to bring your teenage kids to a TEDx event, but don’t expect them not to play Minecraft on the iPad you planned to blog and tweet on after the first coffee break. It’s a perfectly acceptable way to babysit them during half-term, but don’t look disappointed that they’re not riveted by the unique fusion of complementary and conventional medicine.

And we learned that themes for TEDx conferences are ultimately pointless, particularly if you have a production team who can identify and nurture great speakers. The theme for this TEDx was losing control, and it was often more about gaining control than losing control.

But that’s picking nits – admittedly nits which, if I Ruled The World, I’d banish with combs and anti-nit shampoo. This perennial curate’s egg for the brain was its habitual smorgasbord, capturing and dropping the audience’s interest with see-saw unpredictability. A day well spent, for interest and innovation just as much as teaching one the value of patience when this talk doesn’t hold your attention. There’ll be another one along in 18 minutes.

 

Sam Knowles
Sam Knowles is Founder & MD of Insight Agents. He helps companies, brands, and third-sector organisations find simple, true, and authentic language. This gives them the tools, permission, and confidence they need to communicate effectively. His purpose is to help organisations talk like people.

Sam has recently written a book called “Narrative by Numbers: How to Tell Powerful and Purposeful Stories with Data”. It will be published in April 2018 by Routledge.

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