After three wildly successful TEDx events, the team at TEDxAthens was faced with a challenge — how to bring something fresh and exciting to their 2013 event. “At TEDxAthens, we always like to try new things, be innovative and disruptive in order to develop and leverage the TEDx experience in the most creative way possible,” said team member Vasiliki Besiou. So, they chose a theme — “Uncharted Waters” — and ran with it, most notably, through their speaker announcements.
They asked themselves how they could flip the typical speaker announcement protocol on its head, trade website updates and social media posts for something new. With an outdoor adventurer as a team project lead and two expeditioners as speakers, the answer came easy: turn speaker announcements into outdoor adventures.
Two adventures were planned: a hike up Mount Olympus, home of the highest peak in Greece and a (short) sea kayaking trip in tandem with Greek sea kayaker George Potamianos’s 1,200km solo paddle from Greece to Italy.
For the Mount Olympus hike, the team set out to announce speaker Dawa Steven Sherpa, an eco-expeditioner who scaled Mt. Everest twice, from the top of the mountain, representing the intersectionality of Steven Sherpa’s global adventures with the local landscape of Greece. The hike also served as a way for the TEDxAthens team to challenge one another, work together, and to step out of their comfort zone.
Said organizer Dimitris Kalavros-Gousiou (pictured at top with kayak paddle) of the announcement adventure:
“The hike itself as an experience can challenge different aspects of someone’s character and most importantly, it can challenge his/her mental state. It was a bet the team was willing to play and that’s exactly what we did! Not everyone reached the peak, but that didn’t matter at all, because everyone gave everything they got, overcoming their fears, their fatigue, their physical pain, challenging what they thought was possible for them and their lives, up until that point! The team may have returned to Athens physically very tired, but were also very fulfilled, happy and rejuvenated!”
To announce speaker Steve Fisher, a champion white-water kayaker, the TEDxAthens team reached out to Greek kayaker, George Potamianos, who was on his way to attempt a solo kayak journey from Greece to Italy. “The idea was simple,” said Besiou. “If George managed to overcome all obstacles and complete his expedition, he was going to be the one to announce Steve Fisher at his finish line in Italy!”
While Potamianos paddled, the TEDxAthens team took on a much shorter sea kayaking expedition, which, said Besiou, allowed team members to experience a taste of what both Potamianos and Fisher experience on their kayaking journeys, and involved the local community and core team in the speaker announcement process.
Potamianos did finish his journey, and once on land, announced Fisher as a TEDxAthens speaker with a specially-designed sign.
“The fact that we tried and successfully managed to deliver a new way of team, speakers and audience engagement and communication was the most important outcome,” said Besiou. “In its current historical circumstance, Greece finds itself in dire straits: pessimism and depression are now at record-making levels. As citizens, we feel that the TEDxAthens initiative is a way of opening new channels of communication, new ways of creatively expressing solidarity to the fellow citizens,” and with adventures such as the these, the team hopes to continue bringing excitement, creativity, and big ideas to their community.