TEDx: What is it? How can I host one in my community?

Quentin Weber
Quentin Weber
TEDxRuakura 2017 speakers
Ahead of the TEDxRuakura event on 20 August, we talk to license holder Quentin Weber about TEDx and what keeps him coming back each year.


TEDxRuakura is Hamilton (and Waikato's) local TEDx experience. This year the event will be held on 20 August, at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, the University of Waikato.

From fire-breathing entrepreneurs, equality champions and storytellers, to cyber security legends and technology disruptors, the 2017 programme is diverse but the speakers are all versed to present their unique ideas in the 18-minute format.

TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages.

TEDx was created in the spirit of TED's mission, "ideas worth spreading." It supports independent organizers who want to create a TED-like event in their own community. It is designed to help communities, organisations and individuals to spark conversation and connection through local TED-like experiences.

A TEDx event is organized independently by volunteers from the local community, and just like TED events, it lacks any commercial, religious or political agenda. Its goal is to spark conversation, connection and community. A free license granted by TED must be obtained before hosting an official TEDx event.

Quentin Weber is the license holder for TEDxRuakura, which began in 2015. After attending a TEDx event in Tauranga, self employed digital marketing professional Quentin was inspired to apply for a license and organise an event in his own community. “I’ve always been a curious person, curious about different ideas. I’ve always been drawn to TED talks, and the new ideas and innovations that they show,” he said.

With size restrictions in place for first-time event organisers, Quentin said they had 100 people at their first event in 2015. He has since attended a license workshop through TED, and is able to host larger events. Last year’s TEDx event drew 300 attendees, and he said they are hoping for a similar number this year.

Asked about some of the more memorable TEDx talks he’s enjoyed, Quentin said he went to an event where an award winning scientist with an impressive portfolio of career achievements spoke about something totally unexpected. Rather than speaking about their field of expertise as expected, they instead delivered a talk about gender issues with lego. About this year’s line up, Quentin said, “I don’t like to tell people too much about the talks. There are a few surprises in there though.”

An entirely voluntary role, Quentin said on average he spends about 10 hours a week organising TEDxRuakura events, which is a big ask for self employed business people. What keeps him coming back? “The people – the team you’re working with to create an event, the people that come along and the speakers sharing their ideas.” 

Quentin has an organising committee of 15, which he said swells significantly on the day of the event with a larger team of volunteers to cover catering, technology, tickets, hospitality etc.

For his first event in 2015, Quentin went out via social media and university channels to call for submissions, which resulted in a stack of 70 applications to read through. Through experience, support from other TEDx organisers around the country, and learnings from the TED Global event in Geneva held for TEDx organisers, he’s streamlined much of the process. This year Quentin outsourced the task of finding inspiring speakers to the coaches he uses to work with each speaker in crafting and polishing their talks.

The key to a successful event Quentin has learned, is in building a community throughout the year. TEDxRuakura host four events each year to build their community, and keep it connected. He has hosted smaller salon events, TEDx Cinema Experiences, and viewing parties of other TEDx events. “It’s still a secret in some ways. There are still a lot of people that don’t know it’s on. We’ve got a good following after doing it for three years though.”

The theme for this year’s event is ‘Beyond,’ – looking into the future at what might be possible, and reflecting on the past and what that means going forward. For tickets and details about the event, (August 20) visit https://tedxruakura.com/ Ticket availability is limited to create an intimate experience and spark deep discussion and connection with the ideas presented by the speakers.

Inspired to host a TEDx event in your community? Visit https://www.ted.com/about/programs-initiatives/tedx-program

Written by

Christine Mackintosh

3 Aug 2017

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