Close Encounters of the TED Kind - Part II

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Els, Tracy Jonathan, Elena and Hugo at the TED Salon on 10 May 2012

It was raining, and we didn’t want to get soaked, so we broke off our afternoon stroll and arrived early at the Unicorn Theatre. We got rid of our coats and got ourselves a drink. Hugo checked out how to access the wireless. Elena looked at the list of speakers. “Unseen narrative” was the theme of the day. That was perfect for Tracy Chevalier. I had been re-reading “The Lady and the Unicorn” on the Eurostar to London, renaissance music playing on my iPod. We were ready for the TED Salon.

And then I saw her. She was sitting on a bench, observing the people who were slowly arriving. “She’s alone. Let’s go and introduce ourselves”, I said to Elena. “Hi, we are your husband’s TED Translators: Els from Belgium, Elena from Italy and Hugo from France.” We didn’t add “and we suggested to Bruno Giussani that he should invite you here”, but I must admit the thought crossed our mind.

During the chat that followed, Tracy explained that although she had given many lectures before, this was her first TED experience, and she was a bit nervous. A friend of hers had suggested to watch Elizabeth Gilbert to get a better idea of the difference between a TEDTalk and a lecture. There were also her husband Jon Drori’s talks, of course, though she didn’t quite like watching them, because she knew him too well. We made her even more nervous, by telling that last year, one of the speakers completely lost her way and had to go back to her notes twice. "But don't worry, the audience was very supportive," we said. “I won’t be able to enjoy the first part very much," she replied. “I’m the first speaker after the break. But the person I really pity, is the very last one, Pam Warhurst. She'll be nervous throughout the evening.”

We found a prime spot on the second row of the Unicorn Theatre. We enjoyed the story of Beeban Kidron’s film clubs, where cinematic narrative is being shared across generations, with positive impact going way beyond the movies – “If you want boys to write, just get them involved in writing film reviews, they won’t even notice they’re writing.” The performance of Nerds, unashamedly geeky comedians explaining how a bar code scanner works will be a TED-ED-hit, I’m sure (“It’s all about lasers!” “It’s all about mathematics!”) .

After the break, we were happy to see that Tracy Chevalier didn’t disappoint us. Ever experienced gallery fatigue, when you feel guilty because you didn’t actually enjoy (or even see) all the master pieces in the exposition? Tracy has a solution for you. Just treat galleries like menus. You don’t have to eat it all, you can choose. Tracy tends to scan the room quickly, and then savour the pictures that have drawn her in. Usually, that is because there was something unresolved in them: a look that makes you wonder “is she happy, or is she sad?”, or a character looking away, so that you want to know who else was present in the scene.

Andy Puddicombe made a case for 10 minutes of meditation a day, “no sitting-in-fancy-positions-for-many-hours, no incense involved”. Just simple exercises to get to know your brain, so that you can create some headspace. Like many other TED speakers, much of Andy’s power as a speaker comes from authenticity: he is walking – and juggling – the talk.

Before we knew it, Pam Warhurst was on stage. With incredible energy, she shared the story of Todmorden, a town of 15,000 in Lancashire/Yorkshire, rallying around a theme that everyone can relate to: food. “We wanted to be inclusive. When they asked us who the target group was, we said: ‘If you eat, you’re in!’" Unlike the TED and TED Global conferences, the TED Salon rarely gives standing ovations. Pam Warhurst got one. I hope her talk is posted on soon, so that we can help spreading Todmorden’s Incredible Edible experience by translating it. To be honest, I already promised them we would, so I hope you’re all with me on this one …

Before leaving, we took a Hug Picture with Tracy and Jon. Next time we get together in London, Jon promised us a guided tour in Kew Gardens. Can’t wait! So yes, there probably will be a “Close Encounter of the TED Kind – Part III”. Stay tuned.

Els De Keyser, TED Translator, --User:ElsDK 8:40, 12 May 2012 (UTC)