Confluence – “the coming together of people or things and the junction of two or more streams flowing together” – was the theme of TEDxVancouver 2012, where 2,350+ attendees, 170+ volunteers, 20+ performers and 13 speakers came together to share “ideas worth spreading”

If you’re a fan of TEDtalks, attending a TED conference in the flesh will blow your mind – in a really good way. Let me rewind if I’ve already lost you.

TED stands for “Technology, Entertainment, Design.” It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from those three realms and grew into a massive global phenomenon that now includes a broader range of topics and many events around the world.

TEDx events, like TEDxVancouver, are independently organized events. TEDtalks are videos of select talks in which speakers have 18 minutes or less to make their point at TED events across the globe, and they're free for everyone to watch.

TEDxVancouver has sold out every year it’s run since 2009. This year’s event saw over 2,350 people pack the magnificent Orpheum Theatre to hear 13 speakers share moving messages of environmental concern, the power of seduction, charitable impact, global espionage, and hope for humanity, all seamlessly woven together by host Riaz Meghji, from Vancouver’s Breakfast Television – now that’s confluence!


Dancers from the Goh Ballet perform to music by organist Ay-Lang Wang (not pictured) and DJ SKLA, along with visuals from Stuart Ward. (Image: Maurice Li Photography, Flickr | TEDxVancouver)

Best TEDtalks from TedxVancouver 2012

Stay tuned to TEDxVancouver.com for some incredible videos of the 2012 gathering and announcements for next year’s sure-to-be-totally-awesome event, and check out more pictures from the inspirational day.

In the meantime, here are seven talks from TEDxVancouver 2012 that I can’t stop thinking about. 

1. Kristin Westdal – The Unseen Threat of Noise in Our Oceans


(Image: Maurice Li Photography, Flickr | TEDxVancouver)

Westdal is a marine biologist who studies beluga whales, narwhals, and other marine mammals in the Arctic. Her talk, The Unseen Threat of Noise in Our Oceans, highlighted the fact that not all of the environmental damage we’re doing can be seen. Whales can communicate over tens of kilometres underwater and need sound for their very survival, which is being threatened by increasing noise pollution due to seismic surveys, ice breakers and tanker traffic. 

2. Natalie DeFreitas – Rethinking the Impact of Traditional Justice


(Image: Maurice Li Photography, Flickr | TEDxVancouver)

DeFreitas is a counsellor and alternative justice advocate. Her talk, Rethinking the Impact of Traditional Justice, presented our justice system in a whole new light and advocated for a process called restorative justice, which gives convicts the option of taking a different route than court and prison – where, she says, 70 percent of convicted criminals reoffend after serving jail time – by participating in counselling sessions where they have the chance to be heard as well as see the impact of their actions.

3. Joel Solomon – A Journey of Mortality, Renewal and Ethical Investment


(Image: Maurice Li Photography, Flickr | TEDxVancouver)

Solomon is an investor who stressed the importance of making money while aligning with your values in his talk, A Journey of Mortality, Renewal and Ethical Investment. He received the first standing ovation of the day after telling the story of his affluent upbringing, subsequent self-imposed isolation and foraging off the earth as caretaker at a killer whale research facility, diagnosis with polycystic kidney disease, and reckoning as a social venture capitalist through Renewal Partners and Renewal2 Investment Fund. As someone who’s received an organ donation, Solomon pointed out that BC has the lowest percentage of organ donors in the country and encouraged people to register through BC Transplant.

4. Dr. Jean Carruthers – Beneath the Surface of Botox


(Image: Maurice Li Photography, Flickr | TEDxVancouver)

Carruthers is an opthamologist who came across the cosmetic use of botulinum toxin by accident. She was one of the first doctors in the world to use minute amounts of botulinum toxin to treat muscular disorders of the eyes and, during one treatment, a female patient asked her not to miss injecting her forehead, as the last time she’d done so had resulted in a “beautiful, untroubled expression.” A light bulb went off for Carruthers. “I haven’t frowned since 1987!” she proclaimed during her talk. Along with her husband, a dermatologist, she pioneered the cosmetic use of botulinum toxin, now known as Botox. Their research into the drug has led to many other uses including treatment of excessive sweating, migraine headaches, and urinary incontinence.

5. Mark Brand – The Impact of an Unconventional Solution


(Image: Maurice Li Photography, Flickr | TEDxVancouver)

Brand is an entrepreneur who co-owns a number of businesses in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) including Boneta, The Diamond, Sea Monstr Sushi, Catalog Gallery, Sharks + Hammers and Save On Meats, which gained wide attention through the TV show Gastown Gamble on the Oprah Winfrey Network, and whose meal program provides food for hundreds of people every day. Brand’s talk, The Impact of an Unconventional Solution, centered around community and supporting those who are less fortunate, specifically the residents of the DTES struggling with poverty, addiction and mental health issues. His battle cry, "There is nothing more invigorating than realizing how flawed you are and still believing you can do good," led to a roaring standing ovation.

6. Robin Esrock – Learn to Travel: Travel to Learn


(Image: Maurice Li Photography, Flickr | TEDxVancouver)

Esrock is an adventure travel writer – look for his new book, The Great Canadian Bucket List, in fall 2013 – and co-host of the TV show World Travels, ventures that have seen him travel to more than 100 countries around the world. He stressed that people are mostly generous and kind. "People would rather help you than hurt you," he said, adding that he’s never been robbed or attacked during his travels. He talked about overcoming the decision-paralysis that can plague new travellers – “Wherever you are is where you’re supposed to be” – and finding joy in the now – “People you meet create the paradise you find.”

7. Elaine Lui – The Sociology of Gossip


(Image: Maurice Li Photography, Flickr | TEDxVancouver)

Lui is best known for her celebrity gossip blog, LaineyGossip.com, and as a reporter for the entertainment TV show eTalk. Her talk, The Sociology of Gossip, was an unexpectedly fascinating look at gossip as anthropology. She said, “you can't consume gossip without bias,” and used the example of how Chris Brown’s assault on Rihanna got a broad global conversation going about domestic violence. She compared Egyptian hieroglyphics to present-day tabloids, saying future generations may gain insight into our time through celebrity gossip rags, as we’ve gained insight into ancient Egypt through their drawings.

See who was in the audience at TEDxVancouver on BCBusiness.