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First speakers announced for TEDx Aberdeen conference

The first speakers for the inaugural TEDx Aberdeen event have been announced, including BrewDog president David McDowall.
The first speakers for the inaugural TEDx Aberdeen event have been announced, including BrewDog president David McDowall.

A West End actor who survived a 50ft drop, an aspiring vet and the president of a major drinks company have been announced as the first speakers for Aberdeen’s inaugural TEDx gathering.

The one-day conference will be held this summer, and is being organised by volunteers from the Vanguard project working to reignite the north-east economy.

TED began running events in 1984, initially focusing on technology, entertainment and design.

Its scope has since expanded to cover all manner of topics, with speakers hand-picked to deliver prestigious 18-minute “Ted Talks” at conferences throughout the world.

Community-led independent TEDx events have increased the scheme’s reach even further, including through the upcoming Aberdeen event.

With a theme of “new ways of seeing old things,” it will take place at Aberdeen Arts Centre on July 31.

Organisers received more than 100 speaker applications in just six weeks, and have unveiled the first three people who will be taking to the stage.

Speakers selected

Sam Stephen will share his story at the conference.
Sam Stephen will share his story at the conference.

When he was 30 years old, West End dancer and actor Sam Stephen fell 50ft from an apartment balcony in London.

He was left in a coma with broken bones all over his body and multiple brain bleeds, “effectively ending” his career.

But he said this new way of seeing his body and its capabilities has given him a new perspective on life.

“Trauma can present itself, after time, as a gift and provide you with the answers you didn’t know you were searching for,” he added.

“Limitations don’t limit your chances of living a happy, full and successful life.

“I’m thrilled to be able to walk back on stage, for the first time, to share my story at TEDx Aberdeen in July.”

Aspiring veterinarian Youssra Bennadji, a student at Cults Academy, will speak about the lessons people can learn from animals.

Coming from an Algerian background, she has learned “the importance of adaptation” and is “determined to choose her life, and not just settle for it.”

Youssra said: “We should see animals as teachers and full of lessons, opposed to organisms that are not on the ‘intellectual level of humans’.

Cults Academy student Youssra Bennadji is hoping to become a vet,
Cults Academy student Youssra Bennadji is hoping to become a vet,

“Animals fulfil everyday human roles and jobs just as well, if not better than humans – for example: architecture, parenting, acquiring resources, attitude, and behaviour.

“Just because animals haven’t made technological advancements, this doesn’t mean they can’t teach us a thing or two.”

David McDowall, the president and chief operations officer of drinks giant BrewDog will also share his story on the TEDx Aberdeen stage.

He will encourage audiences to “think David” but “be Goliath” as they learn from the past and look to the future.

Mr McDowall said: “The conventional headaches of business – managing shareholder expectations, satisfying the needs of a growing executive team, and all of the day-to-day grind of logistics, sales, people, recruitment, cash flow, expansion, ROI, and so, so much more – all get in the way of what was likely once a fantastically simple vision of what was important for your company.

“We have learnt this stuff the hard way, and have the bruises to show it.

“These things that we have learnt, as a team forged in the fire of adversity, are the small ideas that business needs to learn quickly in order to build organisations that are fit for the future, but that are rooted in the spirit of their past.”

TEDx Aberdeen ‘exceeding expectations’

TEDx Aberdeen’s organisers say the response to their efforts has surpassed their expectations.

Elisa Doucette, TEDx Aberdeen programme curator.
Elisa Doucette, TEDx Aberdeen programme curator.

Programme curator Elisa Doucette said: “We were completely blown away by the number of applications we received, but also the quality.

“From a diverse background of speakers, topics, and experiences, the programme we are putting together will be one that showcases the different and unique voices that make up the culture of the north-east.”

“The standard and range of ideas presented in the speaker applications is excellent, which is making our job of narrowing them down to fit into our one day event tricky.

“At the moment we could easily fill three days.

“Submissions have come from individuals, businesses, third sector organisations and community projects both in the city and Shire.

“Due to the overwhelming response, submissions effectively doubled in the last 24 hours before the deadline, we’ve been working hard over the weekend on our shortlist.”

TEDx Aberdeen licensee, Moray Barber, said: “The response to the call for speakers has exceeded our expectations.

“However, it demonstrates what we knew all along – the north-east is a hotbed of ideas, creativity and passion to succeed.

“Our history and culture demonstrates the adaptability of our region and we’re clearly forging our new future at this pivotal time.”

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