Anna Ivanova: ''TED as a platform for speeches is losing credibility, but I will continue developing it''

The organizer of the first TEDx conference in Kazan tells about finding ideas, dealing with the American organizers and refusals to eminent speakers

Kazan hosted the conference TEDxWomen, the fourth organized by Anna Ivanova under TED license in Kazan, on 4 November. What speakers correspond to the level of TEDx, why the organisers have to refuse even to the most eminent speakers and many other interesting things — read in an exclusive interview of Realnoe Vremya.

''I got frightened because everything was real''

TEDx founders claim that anyone can organize a conference, but the very few succeed. How have you managed to do this?

I came across an article by Aksana Prutskova, the organizer of TEDxPokrovkaSt, on how to organise your TEDx event. I liked the idea, as many did. I had a goal to do something global, I thought it was very cool. I applied for a license three times, the first time — about 2.5 years ago. Then I filled it out, TED began to write to me, and I got frightened.

Because everything was real?

Yes, when it became clear that it worked out. I didn't resolve on taking such responsibility and gave up. The story repeated for the second time. I succeeded only from the third time. We have big time difference with America, so I saw the message that my application was accepted only in the morning, then I realized that I didn't know what to do next. That is why I decided to look for a team. I started to write to people with whom I was not acquainted, who I thought could help me. It turned out to be interesting with Dilbar Sadykova (the head of the section Young Diplomats, part of the club Euroyouth-Kazan – editor's note), who was also thinking about organizing TEDx in Kazan. It was she who got in touch first. The first event was successful. Then we organised TEDxWoman and TEDxYouth.

TED stands for technology, entertainment and design. In TED you need to give an idea, and it is not necessarily should be connected with a personal story. It has to be something new. Unfortunately, speakers often neglect preparation

The speakers ignore preparation

TED — it is benchmarks speeches, strictly selected speakers, from whom then the entire world learn the art of presentation. How attentive TED is to selection of speakers at the regional conference and what requirements do they impose?

The organizers in the United States draw attention to the fact that the speeches should not be tied to 'I-statements', to personal history. It is possible that they won't like it. A large part of feedback comes after the event. I am still receiving feedback on the first event of TED.

But isn't the speech 'in TED style' a personal story?

Initially, TED stands for technology, entertainment and design. In TED you need to give an idea, and it is not necessarily should be connected with a personal story. It has to be something new. Unfortunately, speakers often neglect preparation. It often happens like this: there is an idea, but there is no willingness to perform on stage. The speaker has to learn to plan the speech. Not everyone is ready for this, so you have to consider those who have practice. After all, even the most professional people very rarely train the skill of public speaking. Usually business coaches do this.

TED has many restrictions on this account: it has to be not motivational speakers, not business coaches...

Yes, there are always a lot of applications from them because for business coaches TED is a platform for self-advertising. But their speeches often contain no innovative information.

I remember at least one business coach, who was a speaker at TEDxBaumanSt – Guzel Khismatullina.

I think that if you have something to say, we should give the person an opportunity to speak out. We control with what message a person goes. If there is no any, we refuse. We met with some coaches, and it didn't bring us to anything, it was solid 'blah-blah'.

We have become stricter to the quality. If the first TEDx was built on enthusiasm, now we have become more demanding in selection of speakers for the subsequent conferences

Did they retell books?

Yes, exactly. It often happens. A young woman once wrote: I have read a lot of books, I want to go on stage, I have something to say. But everything that has been read must be processed because TED — it is, first of all, discoveries. Jill Bolte Taylor once gave a speech at TED, she told how she had a stroke and thus she got the opportunity to examine how the functions of her own brain were changing. It is a discovery. Or the speech of an African woman who told about female circumcision. Personally for me as well as for many people it became a discovery. A closer example. A woman speaker from Novosibirsk promoted the idea that the child after birth should be with mother. She fought for this and achieved a solution to the problem on the legislative level. Of course, it is difficult to find such speakers.

How do you solve this problem?

We have demand on some topics, for example, medicine, and we are looking for discoveries, new ideas in this area and people related to this topic. But the main difficulties begin when we find the right person, we tell them what TED is, what the format requirements are. People easily agree, but when it comes down to it, when they find out that they need to write speaking notes, to show drafts… For example, this time we have considered 12 people to select 6 of them. It is very difficult to communicate with super busy people because they often have high self-esteem, they believe that they know everything and they don't have to prepare for the speech in advance.

Ideas become more controversial

What speeches given at TEDx in Kazan you find to be the worthiest?

If to highlight someone separately, it is Vrezh Sarkisyan (Armenian talented artist suffering from a terminal illness — spinal muscular atrophy — editor's note). He turned my world because in the past I didn't notice them at all. So when I saw Vrezh for the first time, I thought, ''Oh, my God!'' Then I collected my thoughts.

''Some children in these 'hobbies' were more successful than adults, and they have considerable experience. There was a guy, Daniyar Sadykov, who at his 17 makes more money than I do. Or 12-year-old Tigran Zakirov, who talked about how he lived in America without parents.'' Photo: includevmk.tumblr.com

It was a special story with him. When I filed the application to TED, I bore him in mind as a speaker. But we couldn't find sponsors for a long time to bring Vrezh to Kazan with his family and helpers. One or two days before the event, they called and said that they had come to Kazan. We almost didn't have time for preparation, we were risking by allowing him to go on stage, but everything turned out well. The audience gave him a standing ovation.

One of your conferences was held in the format TEDxYouth@BaumanSt where children gave speeches. How hard it is to work with so young speakers?

It was the only event with children. Probably, I have not found a common language with them. It is difficult with children. They try to memorize the text, it is quite hard for them to find some idea, so we created performances based on their hobbies. Although some children in these 'hobbies' were more successful than adults, and they have considerable experience. There was a guy, Daniyar Sadykov, who at his 17 makes more money than I do (Daniyar Sadykov, a student of IT Lyceum, deputy director of EVROKORP PLC and project manager at Yu-Systems PLC — editor's note). Or 12-year-old Tigran Zakirov, who talked about how he lived in America without parents.

Aren't your doubts connected with the fact that TED movement is losing popularity, and the scandals with selection choice of speakers makes the site less credible?

I agree with that the site is losing credibility. The speeches have become 'miscellaneous' and sometimes strange. In TED there appeared many controversial speeches, although the rules clearly state that the speeches should not relate to politics, alcohol, religion, terrorism. For example, the speech by Snowden was clearly political. Apparently, the organizers in the US have their own ideas about format, for us it is difficult to maintain the quality. But in the meantime I will continue being guided by my vision because in Kazan there are enough people who like TED, who are waiting for it because here you can see a variety of people. For example, in Moscow there was Polunin, it was so unexpected to see him as a speaker for TEDx! Or astronauts directly from space – it is a truly cosmic experience.

By Aygul Chuprina. Photo: vk.com/anna_loten
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