An XL TEDxOTP Experience

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TEDx events tend to be a shorter than TED Conferences: a day, an evening, an afternoon. They pass in an instant. Unless you turn them into an XL experience. This is the story of my XL TEDxFlanders weekend.

DDay Minus 2

5 PM. I rush to catch my train to Antwerp. At the station, I hop on a city bike to Huis Happaert. This gorgeous 16th century house in the centre of Antwerp is the venue of the TEDxFlanders Speakers’ Dinner. Inside, I find my TEDActive Belgian Villa house mates and TEDxFlanders Organizers, Christophe and Denis. Fellow LC Ivana has arrived from Novi Sad, Serbia. We get a message from our Polish colleague Krystian, confirming that he is at the hostel with Lidia, who has arrived from Cologne. We meet volunteers, organizers and speakers.

I knew Denis was a great cook. He made us the best omelet ever in Palm Springs, even though he forgot to buy the eggs. The dinner is worth the waiting. At 10:30 PM, I rush to the station to catch the last train.

DDay Minus 1

The first person to bring me five stickers gets the tray

I have a day off. I plan to rehearse my short talk in the morning and discover Antwerp with my OTP tribe in the afternoon. I take a walk along the canal between Mechelen and Leuven and speak to the water, timing myself and repeating my short talk 15 times. I feel relaxed.

I prepare a set of Words Worth Spreading stickers for tomorrow. Every attendee will get one. The first person to bring me five different stickers, will get a Words Worth Spreading tray.

TEDxLeuven’s Bruno sends me a message about our gift to the translators at TEDxFlanders: T-shirts with the symbol and the word “happonomy”. The green T-shirts will make us stand out in the crowd and will make it easier for people to come and talk to us about the OTP. We have been trying to arrange a handover of the T-shirts to my son, who studies in Leuven, but we have been unsuccessful up to now. I decide to change my plans and go to Leuven to pick up the shirts myself.

A 5 PM, I meet my OTP friends, including fellow Dutch LC Christel, backstage at the opera. During the dress rehearsal, TEDxFlanders Production Lead Thomas explains about the lights, the sound monitors, the velvet ‘cocoon’ on stage. All speakers try on a microphone and get to ‘feel the stage’.

We have dinner at Wagamama’s and chat about the past day, the day to come, and the OTP, of course. Krystian hands us a special Qapla’ badge. Thank you, Krystian, I will need it tomorrow.


Mmm ...

This is my first family TEDx experience: I take an early train to Antwerp with my husband Jan and my eldest son (and fellow TED Translator) Matthias. TEDxFlanders attendees have to arrive early and join the ‘path’ they were assigned to, based on a short questionnaire they had to fill in when they registered. Before the event and during the breaks they will be invited to workshops that ‘fit their profile’. These things happen when psychologists like Christophe become TEDxOrganizers…

I go backstage. I’m glad to be in the first session. I will have time to enjoy the other speakers. Unfortunately, I cannot see nor hear Bart Moeyaert, one of my favorite authors. But I will catch up later, when I transcribe him. The OTP movie starts. That means I’m due in less than 3 minutes. I am moved when I realize that I met all the people in the movie and that 3 of them are in the room. Thomas taps my shoulder – my turn. “I feel a bit lonely on stage. I miss my friend Anwar. We were supposed to give this talk together.” Anwar, you were on stage. We heard your voice and we felt your positive energy. After my talk, I announce the WWS-contest: a tray for the first person to give me 5 Words Worth Spreading.

Lunch and workshops are at the Atheneum, a school near the Opera. As we are crossing the street, a man comes running to me. “Els! Els! Am I first? I have five stickers!” It’s TEDxGhent organizer Tim Govaert, who collected far more than five stickers to secure his WWS tray. At least 15 other people come up to me after him. I have to disappoint them, there’s only one tray. But they can enjoy the conversations started by the stickers.

After a short lunch, we go to the computer room for our open workshop. Since our group is international, we decided to do a Compression exercise. I prepared a mind map based on Krystian’s OTP Page. We selected a talk by Rory Sutherland, known for his verbosity. Before we start, I get a delightful surprise from my colleagues: a most delicious OTP present, which they bought at the shop of Dominique Persoone, chocolatier of the Rolling Stones and remarkable speaker at TEDxLeuven in March 2012.

The workshop is open and hands-on. We have 7 translators: Krystian, Lidia, Ivana, Christel, Rik, Matthias and me. 7 interested attendees join us. Most of them speak Dutch, but there is also a Persian couple. Krystian invites us to try extreme compression. We take some time to work in pairs, one OTP veteran, one newcomer. After 15 minutes, we discuss the outcome. We also use the opportunity to show the newcomers where they can register and we give them a quick view on Amara.

In the afternoon, we enjoy the rest of the talks together. The day ends at the Kleine Hedonist, the café in Antwerp that also hosts small TEDxSalon events. We enjoy Belgian beer in good company.

DDay Plus 1

Translations Inside

Our “day after” starts with a few logistical challenges. The plan was for Krystian, Ivana and Lidia to drive to my home in Mechelen, have a short workshop in the morning and have lunch together. But Lidia had to drive back to Cologne early. Krystian and Ivana arrive by train, just in time for Ivana to have 10 minutes of FaceTime with Christel, to grab a bite and to hop on the train to Charleroi South Airport.

In the afternoon, Krystian and I visit Mechelen by bike. We buy tickets for [ Newtopia], an exhibition about human rights, located in four beautiful venues. We see only two of them. A café in front of the third venue has a sign “Translations Inside”. We need to check it out. Before we know it, it’s time to go home. We invited a couple of people to an improvised Google Hangout (my first) at 5 PM. We don’t even know if they’re home. Will anyone show up? Yes, there’s Aliaksandr! We have a nice chat with him.

I take the opportunity to ask Krystian for a live demo of Subtitle Edit, his favorite subtitle editing software. We work on a short talk, to make it even shorter. We upload it to Amara, but unfortunately we do not succeed in publishing the subtitles, so we write a ticket to Amara.

Krystian shares a family meal with us, a vegetarian tajine prepared by my husband. Krystian and I do the dishes together. We don’t have a guest room, but we prepared a bed for Krystian in the music room, next to the piano.

DDay Plus 2

Krystian and I take the train to Brussels together. He will visit Brussels before going back to Poland. I go to work.

Thanks a lot to all OTP and TEDx friends who shared this XL experience with us.