The impact of the ‘X-factor’

by Jan Scheele  

The Mount Everest, prisons and a boat on the Amazon. All have been amazing hosts for one of the 14000 TEDx events that have happened since the establishment of the brand in 2009. Locations and speakers usually impress our partners, but a frequently asked question is always concerning the impact of the events. What is happening the day after with the giant pill of inspiration we gave to our visitors?


Several TEDxMaastricht speakers have used the red dot perfectly as a jumping board for further growth in their personal and corporate live, resulting in amazing outcomes. Mosquito-hunter Bart Knols not only got international acknowledgements in the press, but also a funding from the Gates Foundation to start implementing his ideas in Africa. Maastricht University Professor Mark Post made his world-famous lab-grown hamburger already 30000 times cheaper and change-maker Sheila Oroschin keeps on rocking with her project ‘The Masters’, pulling handicapped children out of mental institutions and giving them jobs and a bright future. Hasmik Matevosyan caused a paradigm shift in fashion with her talk and developed a new design system and business model for fashion brands, helping them to produce clothing much more sustainable. Anna Verhulst has inspired thousands with her impressive, personal talk about obesity, her struggle and ways how to deal with it. Finally, Rutger Bregman’s talk about a ‘base income’ has been watched over 120.000 times and inspired dozens of policy makers and politicians to start several experiments on local and national level.


Not just a day of inspiration, but facilitating activation and causing mind shifts at all attendees. TEDx is not just a ‘day out’ for the hungry intellectuals, but has developed into a movement of energized, engaged individuals who are seeking a deeper understanding of the world and wanting to turn that understanding into a better future for us all. This starts with the invitation procedure, where a broad mix of enthusiasts from all levels and parts of society are hand picked from the applications. Speakers are selected not on their function or past performances, but the expected mind shift caused by and uniqueness of their story. This careful approach has not just delivered great speakers, but also unforeseen outcomes. Companies have been found by visitors who’ve randomly met each other at TEDxMaastricht and several other projects and communities have been grown with a bulk of inspiration from the events.


Where the ‘E’ of TED usually implicated ‘Entertainment’, it seems anno 2015 it’s going more into the direction of ‘Education’, focusing more on (young) students and their hunger for new, unconditional ways of simplified, authentic storytelling. The TED Ed program has developed into an impressive online classroom platform with loads of great talks, created by knowledge institutions. Furthermore, the amount of TEDxYouth events has grown significantly. These TEDx events, organized by and for young children have always been one of my favorite parts of the TEDx concept. In Maastricht we’ve collaborated with the highly energetic students of the United World College to setup a TEDx especially for students ranging from 8-18yo. Malaria is being explained with ‘swinging cucumbers’, Indian and African dances are performed by young children and an Afghani student is giving a workshop about what Star Wars can learn us about peace. It are these events, always giving me the idea that a young generation is rocking the boat.


The most memorable moment in my TEDx ‘career’ has been the first TEDxBaghdad. At the start of the event, the Prime Minister of Iraq came on stage and told the audience that this was the most amazing concept he had seen in the past years, connecting the people of his nation with each other. As cherry on the cake, dozens of projects, companies and NGO’s have been found after team members, partners and visitors met each other during the events, ranging from construction to peace.
The rollercoaster keeps on moving; it are not only cities and schools who are hosting TEDx events nowadays. In the past years I was very excited, helping out with the organization of TEDx events at the Dutch Ministry of Defence, CERN in Geneva and the United Nations in New York. All institutions who’ve hosted these events and turned them into an excellent way of facilitating internal discussions about the future of leadership, communities and CSR.
It seems like there is simply no end to all this fun. Everyday I’m amazed again by all the beautiful outcomes of TEDx events, organized worldwide. TEDx events held in Cuba, soccer stadia, with an astronaut speaking live from space, in ‘Holy Land’ with a team from both Palestina and Israel … looking to the numbers and ideas for new events, this ‘startup’ which started as an experiment has developed into a global tribe with an open end.

As I’m frequently asked to give corporate events the ‘X-Factor’, my next blog will be about the lessons learnt for event organizers.

Picture: TEDxAmsterdam