Thai OTP + TEDxChiangMai collaboration

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OTP activities at TEDxChiangMai 2013

Written by : Kelwalin Dhanasarnsombut (Note) & Unnawut Leepaisalsuwanna (O), TED OTP Thai Language Coordinators

Contributed by : Martin Venzky-Stalling, TEDxChiangMai License Holder, Organizer and Curator


Event: TEDxChiangMai

In the spirit of TED, the TEDxChiangMai organizing team invited us to bring this event to public attention and wished that TEDx talks from the event would spread widely into local communities. Although English was the main language of this, the team understood that having content in Thai would attract more people, and would allow these great ideas to spread beyond just these attendees. On the actual event, simultaneous translation into Thai was also provided, but this was done by translators from a specialist company.

Thai language coordinators of TED Open Translation Project and TEDxChiangMai core team had continuous discussions for about 3 months prior to the event date. We, as language coordinators and representatives of Thai OTP translators, were invited to be a part of the TEDxChiangMai organizing team. In addition, to allowing us to promote the TED Open Translation Project and work with us on promoting TED(x) more with Thais (where English language is still a barrier), Martin also wanted to strengthen the TEDx community in Thailand and hence invited other current or interested TEDx organizers and co-organizers to come to TEDxChiangMai. He also helped to promote our initiative during the event and on the TEDxChiangMai social media channels.

In this occasion, we executed 4 core activities building up to and during the event. Each are prepared separately, but all were managed in parallel up to the day of the event. Here’s the list of activities with some brief details:

1. Event materials translation into Thai

The two earliest event materials that we had in hands were the press release from TEDxChiangMai team and TEDx talks from previous events. We helped translating the press release so that it could be distributed to Thai media, thus allowing wider media coverage that penetrated into Thai-speaking communities. Closer to the event, we translated speaker profiles into Thai, which are used for promoting the event further as well as included in the informational leaflet distributed during the event. We also gathered interesting TEDx talks from previous events in Thailand and translate a few of them. We then used these translated talks to promote the event in our next step below.

2. Social media

In collaboration with TEDxChiangMai’s Facebook page, we used our 1) Facebook page at and 2) Twitter account to promote for 2 - 3 months prior to the event. We shared the translated TEDx talks from previous events, included designing pictorial quotes of those talks for sharing. We also kept our Thai OTP audience informed by sharing updates on event venue, early-bird tickets, ticket discounts, shared introductory information of the speakers especially the well-known speakers, shared TEDx talks from previous events in Thailand, pictures, etc. The hashtag #TEDxChiangMai was also used in our Facebook/Twitter/Instagram accounts, so people can follow us easily.

Since the Thai translators team had quite a strong recognition on social media especially from our Facebook page, we helped TEDxChiangMai in having an additional access channel to Thai audiences.

One of the biggest contributions that we feel OTP translators helped was that we helped thee TEDx event, an event format still mostly known by foreigners and small circles within universities, to be more widely exposed to the general public by spreading the words out in Thai. By having a communication channel in Thai, especially in a friendly informal tone, made it much more approachable by the non-English speaking audience. We received a number of inquiries about event venues, ticketing, livestreaming, etc. So it’s definitely a sign that we were able to convert some of our TED translations followers into TEDx followers.

3. During the event: Open Translation Project presentation on stage

We were thankful that Martin invited us to give a short presentation on stage about Open Translation Project, especially the effort from Thai translators team. One of our OTP language coordinators, Unnawut, provided a 3-minute overview of what Open Translation Project is, facts about how many translations were available in Thai, as well as the impact that these translations have already made to the community.

The presentation included interesting insights such as Thai translators are actually living in 13 different countries across the world. But best of all, we presented feedbacks from our followers that our translated talks are impacting their lives: “I happen to come across your translations, I’m really happy about it because I love TED so much but my English is not so strong. I’m happy that we have you translating the talks for us.” or “Thank you so much. These translations are very helpful to a to-be-20-year-old like me. You guys have my full support.” The presentation was definitely helpful to us OTP translators by acting as a hook for people to go visit the activity booth. Resulting from the presentation, we had attendees who approached us and asked if they could provide any help to our OTP project. It also excited people to visit the activity booth as we became busy conversing to attendees at the booth right after the presentation!

4. Off stage: Come talk to us! :)

It was a great pleasure that TEDxChiangMai allowed us a good spot at their activity area just outside the auditorium. This allowed the audience to have friendly and relaxing chat with us after the talk on stage. The corner was easily set up the day before the event for we only needed some leaflets, light boards, and some stationaries. Two boards were up for people to write their opinions on OTP, suggestions for future activities, their expectations toward OTP community, how this activity could be more effective, and anything at all they wanted us to know.

This off-stage activity went very well. The organizer mentioned several times on the stage about our activity booth. And many people stopped by to congratulate and thank us for the success so far. They asked us to pass their kind words to all the volunteers and everybody who made this happen, and tell us about their personal experiences on TED subtitles/translations. We were overwhelmed and inspired with many warm stories. We also believe that many new people joined OTP after the learnt about it during this event. Some of the more interesting conversations included university lecturers and course designers who promised to use TED talks in inspiring their students in class. Some attendees approached to offer us any help they could provide to the OTP effort.

One of the most uplifting comments we had is about a lady and her parents. She said she's been a fan of TED Talks for quite some time. There are talks that she'd like to share with her dad, but her dad's English is not as strong as to comprehend these TED Talks. She then realized that the talks have Thai subtitles, and so she shared the subtitled talks to her dad. After some time, now her dad is the one who's sharing TED Talks back to her. A sharing of knowledge and ideas that could not happen without the work of TED OTP Translators, and a story that we would not have known without TEDxChiangMai’s kind invitation for OTP translators to take part in the event.

We realized from the conversations that the OTP project presentation brought TED and TEDx closer to the attendees. OTP offered the fact that anyone could help contribute to TED, and also showed that TED, TEDx and their activities could indeed make impact to the local community. We’re also very hopeful that via these translated talks, we’re able to maintain the attendee’s interest in TED talks until the next event, by providing them a continuous stream of TED content during the gap while we prepare for the next TEDx event.

Next steps:

After the event, we as OTP translators are still receiving inquiries whether the talks from TEDxChiangMai will be available to the public. We’re expecting the talks to be published shortly, and of course the talks will be transcribed and translated by the OTP translators. And we’ll also continue the effort to spread these ideas online and keep the conversation and excitement going and growing, while waiting for the next TEDx event to come.

The cooperation between TEDx and Open Translation Project multiplied the impact otherwise could not be done as separate efforts. While the TEDx event engaged the attendees with the speakers’ ideas and impacts, TED Open Translation Project help made TED and TEDx more personal and approachable by providing content in local language, as well as letting attendees know that not only speakers, but individuals like them are also making a contribution and an impact to the society. Note that all of this is a result of what was started only a few months earlier. It’ll be interesting to find out how much more we could collaborate in the future!