7 Days at TEDSummit

by Cristina Juesas

If the 4 days at TEDGlobal>Geneva were a life-changing experience, the 7 at the TEDSummit in Banff, a beautiful town in the Canadian Rockies, have rocked again my world, well… for a couple of days anyway..

This time, and for the first time in TED’s life, the meeting gathered 400 TEDx organizers, plus another 600 translators, TED speakers, TED Fellows, TED partners, authors, educators, staff, and TEDsters; the whole TED community.

Banff was a perfect location. Situated aAmidst the Canadian Rockies, the town is well-prepared to welcome a crowd like ours. The venue was the Centre for Arts and Creativity, just perfect. We were even lucky with the weather, as it didn’t rain in the entire week we spent there.

The week started for TEDxers with two days of workshops where we tried to envision the future of TED in terms of mission, vision and values.

“We are a global community that challenges mindsets, introduces new ideas, and sparks conversations as catalysts for action.”

After these two days, the rest of the tribe* arrived and the TEDSummit started. One session of TED talks per day, in the morning or in the afternoon, physical activities aimed at getting people to know each other better, other activities organized by partners, and also some spare time to sit and rest, to jam with other musicians, or simply to recover from the last activity while getting ready for the next.

Getting lost was impossible with the lollipop sign system.

It was shocking to see the amount number of people required to make everything happen, from the registration staff, to the carriers of the lollipop-signs spread around to make our lives easier when needing to find any spot or activity.

At any given time, there was coffee, water and other drinks (some of them pretty exotic, like that birch tree sap), and also snacks.

The days were set up so we could meet the maximum number of people. Workshops (let’s call these the intellectual ones as opposed to the more physical ones) in the mornings, coffee break, and more workshops. Buffet lunch. Then physical activities in the afternoons, before the TED talk session, and prior to the themed dinner.

A concert under the stars, a couple of wild west soirées, a couple more involving talent shows or meetups, and the grand finale at the Banff Castle.

Before more time passes, there are some things that I would like to reflect on.

Aim higher. Together.

This was the motto of the Summit. Well thought out, taking into account we were in the middle of the Rockies.

We aimed to explore ideas around several themes: Human, Things we think we know, Building blocks, Pathways, Organizing principles, and Experiences.

1,000 people gathered together and in the mood for something great create a sort of aura, a beat of pure energy. It’s almost impossible not to aim higher just because we are together.

Gotcha! The official TED camera captured our selfie moment. With Oscar Ray, Belén Viloria, Norberto Amaral, and Herbert Reininger.

Adventures and Workshops

Before the Summit, we had to choose among a list of dozens of activities and workshops. I guess I chose wrong and because some of the top activities I picked were overbooked and I was stuck with those lower on my list of preferences, which I didn’t like that much in the end. And, in the same way, I didn’t like the workshops too much either, so I’m a little disappointed because I see pictures of other activities and I see everybody having fun… The one on creative photography was alright, though. Nice tips.

As a teaching experience, when organizing a bigger event, you need to take special care with workshops because they can ruin an experience. Not that it’s that’s my case, but yes, I’m definitely disappointed.

Latin Magia members from Bulgaria, Brasil, Spain, Mexico, Argentina, and Colombia.

The ‘Latin Magia’

“So, do you speak Spanish? You’re in.”

With that, we got a sticker on our accreditation badge — and that made others quite jealous.

We had a time for an unofficial gathering where TEDxers from Latin America, Spain and Portugal could know about the TED en Español project, thanks to the talented Gerry Garbulsky, its leader.

We really felt we were belonged to something special, and we really feel we can build something together.

The Meritocracy

Walking into the Summit, to me, reminded me of that 80s sitcom “Cheers”, the place “where everybody knows your name.” I was recognized and welcomed warmly, my name was known, because of what I had accomplished as a TEDxer. This is one of the most impressive features of TED — they know what you’ve done, they appreciate it, and they make sure you know that they know. I participate in the hangouts and forums, I have successfully organized three events so far, and I live the TED life. A cog in the machine, yes, but a cog with a heart that beats loud and clear and likes to be echoed.

The Soirées.

We had the chance to meet a lot (A LOT) of people. Everything was designed to meet people and facilitate exchange, but sessions (adventures and workshops) were just too short to deepen anything. The good times for diving deeper were the soirées.

Not just for eating or drinking (the freebie drinks were a nice bonus), but also for meeting new people or talking to old friends. It was almost impossible to talk a bit deeper under any other circumstance. This is something to consider also, because we were willing to talk to each other!

We need more spare time to talk, or to organize meetups.


I’m quite impressed because some of the big names were more accessible and open to hang out with us than some smaller ones. I know this happens, but it was especially irritating to discover that some of those who belong to the second group are not quite aware of their place, that place being a level playing field where we are all family..

However, people, as always, are the best part of any event. There’s no TED without people, where ideas are spread from one person to another one. The community considers itself as a global citizenship whose nationality is a the Republic of Ideas. In the world we now live in, this is revolutionary. There is one something, nevertheless, that stands out in TED gatherings, is the lack of black representation. Ok, maybe Canada’s authorities had problems with visas from certain nations, but… only from this these? And how about black people from western countries? This is just an open question, no further intention than my own thoughts.

But beyond all that, what I took home is that establishing an understanding amongst what is different people is possible. We are a big community (or tribe, call it as you wish), very plural, and we are committed to a cause that’s common to all of us, like a marriage.

There’s a lot of love 💚; let’s hope it lasts forever.

* Words matter. I like to say and think of a tribe to describe the TED community (no pejorative connotations to the word tribe). However, other TEDsters prefer community or family because they think community is wider than tribe. We are people. Period.