The story behind TEDxAarhus


Have you ever wondered what the ‘x’ in TEDx is all about? Most people know the logo and have heard about the concept, but what is TEDx really all about? And how did it start in Aarhus?

By Julie Dahlgren Korr, photos by Sugar Cube Studios.

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. TEDx events are organized by passionate individuals who seek to uncover new ideas and the latest research in their local areas and spark conversations in their communities.

These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event.

TEDx events are organized independently under a free license granted by TED. These events are not controlled by TED, but event organizers agree to abide by certain guidelines for curation, speaker coaching, event organizing and more.

More than 3000 TEDx events are now held annually around the globe.

But how did it all start in Aarhus?

The beginning of TEDxAarhus is a story about two internationals living in Aarhus with a shared passion for ‘ideas worth spreading’ and their local community.

Back in 2013 Bélen Jimenez-Mena had just moved from Paris to Aarhus to continue her PhD. Here she met Andrea Klassen – another international living in Aarhus. The two women shared the same interests and were both invested in their local community. They kept bumping into each other at workshops, talks and events in Aarhus and soon they became friends.

Bélen Jimenez-Mena’s passion for TED and TEDx started in Paris where her mentor introduced her to the concept and showed her videos of TED talks on Youtube. This inspired Bélen Jimenez-Mena to become a better speaker and learn how to communicate her own scientific research in a way that would engage the audience. Andrea Klassen shared Bélen Jimenez-Mena’s passion for public speaking. Their mutual interest eventually led to a conversation about buckets lists and dreams. A conversation that would end up being the very beginning of TEDx in Aarhus. Bélen Jimenez-Mena recalls:

“Just after Christmas in January 2014, one afternoon, we bumped into each other in Vennelyst Boulevard. I was heading my way into my workplace at the Bioinformatics Research Center at the campus of Aarhus University, and Andrea was heading the north part of the city. As typical conversation topics within the first days of the year, we started talking about our new year’s resolutions for 2014, and somehow we finished diving deeper into our life bucket list. “I would really love to organize a TEDx!” – I said. And it was not a surprise that Andrea had the same thing in mind. OK, let’s do it. Let’s bring TEDx to Aarhus. Surprisingly, this had not been done before, so we decided to go for it.”

It took Bélen Jimenez-Mena and Andrea Klassen one month to define the idea and apply for a license to host a TEDx event. In May 2014 they received their license approval from TED and they could now start planning. First they needed a name – and what better choice than the place where it all started and the idea was born. So they decided to name the event TEDxVennelystBlvd.

They built a small team of seven core volunteers in charge of Marketing, Sponsorship, Event, Speaker selection, and Design. They were Juraj, Alexandra, Zofia, Alfonso, Edgar, Galuh and Freja. And in January 2015 they officially kicked-off the organization of TEDxVennelystBlvd 2015.

The first TEDx team in Aarhus in early 2015. Above, from left to right: Freja, Alexandra, Zofia, Edgar, Alfonso, Andrea and Bélen. Below, from left to right: Juraj, Galuh.

But it wasn’t always an easy process. One of the challenges the team faced was getting sponsorships. As Bélen Jimenez-Mena expresses it:

“It was difficult getting funding because people didn’t know what TEDx was. Therefore we had to tell the story over and over again for every call we made. But eventually we got a lot of involvement.”

In the end they succeeded in getting sponsorships and raising the necessary funds. Along the way new volunteers joined to help organize the event. Their hard work and dedication led to the first ever TEDx event in Aarhus, which was held at Navitas in May 2015. The theme of 2015 was “Time and timing” – which were brought to light by four speakers and one singer who had all encountered their own valuable experience with time.

TEDxVennelystBlvd has since evolved into what we know as TEDxAarhus.

Today, TEDxAarhus is organized by approximately 30 volunteers who are all passionate about TEDx and their local community. The volunteers are divided into five different teams to help organize, prepare and communicate this year’s TEDx experiences, talks and events.

We are looking forward to share this year’s events with you.

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