On Monday, June 18th 2012 I discovered an e-mail in the ever growing pile of spam, titled ‘Kees Moeliker | Invitation to TED@Amsterdam [EXTREMELY URGENT]’. It was send a week earlier by Kelly Stoetzel, TED Content Director, based in New York:
Dear Kees, We’ve been following your work and are excited to invite you to come and give a short 6-minute talk at our TED@Amsterdam salon event, taking place the evening of Wednesday June 20, 2012. Some of the speakers for TED@Amsterdam have applied to participate and have been chosen from a group of applicants … but we wanted to be sure to involve people whose work we’ve had on our radar and admired, and that’s why we’re writing to you.
Thanks to the weird selection criteria of my spam filter, this was a short-notice invitation, but I gladly accepted it. I had a good experience speaking at TEDxRotterdam in 2011, and liked the idea to perform in Boom Chicago, the comedy club where the ‘TED salon’ would take place.
Minutes after I agreed to participate, my e-mail box filled with nice messages from various TED-people, about my slides, with forms to be signed, with call-sheets and rehearsing times. Yes, REHEARSING TIMES. I politely replied that I could not make it to the American Hotel the next day, for rehearsals. I had to work, bring kids to school, and – minor detail – prepare my talk. With friendly perseverance, the sweet TED-production team offered me the opportunity to rehearse my talk that Wednesday, in the early morning. I soon learned the secret of the TED-talk is practice, practice, and practice. So I took an early train to Amsterdam and reported at the American Hotel at 8.30 am. Fueled with remarkable good coffee, I gave my talk ‘How a dead duck changed my life’, showing slides on a macbook, right in front of TED curator Chris Anderson, Content Director Kelly Stoetzel and some of my fellow speakers. Chris smiled, and said: ‘Don’t change a thing!’. That was nice feedback.
After talking to my fellow speakers, I slowly realized I was taking part in a TED world wide talent search. Hundreds of speakers, from all over Europe had applied for this opportunity to speak, only twenty were invited to come to Amsterdam. The aim: to get selected as a speaker for TED2013, in Long Beach, California.
I truly enjoyed taking part in this thoroughly organized event. [Thanks for the unforgettable e-mail, Sean: "If you are not at the venue you are LATE! Come immediately. You were supposed to be here at 1:15p"]
The evening in Boom Chicago, including giving my own talk there, was very inspiring. My fellow speakers are among the most remarkable people I had ever met, to name just a few Linda Monique, Peter Holmes a Court, Bas Lansdorp, Sabatina James, Kate Stone, Jeroen van Loon, and Rasmus Ankerson. And the audience even included some friends!
In summer, the voting started on a special website with video-registration of all talks.
Completely unexpected (I somehow suspected they had added me to the speakers list for some ‘couleur locale’), TED e-mailed me on 28 September 2012:
Dear Kees, Thank you so much for participating in our TED Worldwide Talent Search and for the time and effort you put into preparing for it. We heard a whopping 293 talks and performances in the 14 different cities, and had to narrow our choices for the Long Beach TED stage to just a tiny subset of that.
We’re thrilled to invite you to come and speak at TED2013!
We can offer you 12 minutes on the stage this time around, and we can’t wait for the rest of the TED community to hear your story.
I am thrilled too! Stay tuned.