TED/TEDx Talks, Another Great Way to Communicate Science
Joaquim Vives, PhD
Editorial Board Member
Banc de Sang i Teixits
I did it! I gave a TEDx Talk.
TEDxUABarcelona was a space for disseminating talent around the “Innovative Mindset” theme in the sphere of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (Spain). The event had 9 speakers presenting different developments and proposals at the level of technology, design, education and science. Photo credit: Alumni UAB
What is TED/TEDx?
TED Talks (for Technology, Entertainment and Design) are concise and focused talks to present an idea, to inspire the audience or call them to action. It is considered that its 18 min (or less) formula is optimal to successfully deliver an impactful message, so audience can take in, digest, and understand the key information. TED has in some ways changed public awareness, discourse and action around many hot topics (including science, business, arts, technology, social and global issues) by effectively connecting to non-specialized audiences. The flagship TED Conference is held annually on the North American West Coast (currently in Vancouver, Canada) and showcases ideas across diverse disciplines exploring how they interconnect, so attendees and speakers from different fields interact and draw inspiration from unlikely places. This is the magic of TED!
On the other hand, TEDx brings the spirit of TED to local communities around the globe through events organized by passionate individuals who seek to uncover new ideas (that is “ideas worth spreading!” according to the TED’s mission) in their communities to spark mind stimulating conversations. TEDx events include live speakers and recorded TED Talks, and are organized independently under a free license granted by TED and adhere to the same format, following guidelines for curation, speaker coaching, or event organization. More than 3000 TEDx events are now held annually.
Why a scientist would want to give a TED talk?
I’ve watched many TED talks and love its attractive format, and the selection of topics and speakers. TED is an extraordinary powerful channel to i) reach the general public (it’s on youtube!) and ii) deliver compelling messages with impact. In my talk, I presented the act of donation of cells and tissues as the very first and crucial step in the creation of personalized therapies in today’s regenerative medicine, and this way recognize the value added by the donors with their individual decision and generosity that helps to save lives or improve the quality of life of patients in need (I was particularly focusing on allogeneic cell-based therapies). In this context, I highlighted the ethical and regulatory aspects involved in the development of such innovative medicinal products and described our concerns about excessive hype, cost and unrealistic time-lines. The feedback I received during the preparation and after the conference reassured me that the talk was necessary and it indeed sparked some debate that I hope will be amplified now that the video is available on Youtube. I truly believe that it should be in our mission, as a scientists, to look beyond conferences and scientific journals, and explore other communication channels that may contribute more efficiently to promote a better understanding of Science by a responsible citizenship. Today, most scientific collaborative projects already include work packages on outreach activities to engage and bring knowledge to the general public. This is key to build up a Science-educated society, facilitating the understanding of potential benefits and risks not only to patients but to the many and diverse stakeholders involved, and challenge us, as a Society, to promote Health equity and ensure access to safe and effective treatments. Scientific literacy is essential for surviving in the news jungle (and Google!), navigating through confusing (sometimes unproven) cell-based therapy options.
My TEDx experience
I’ve given all types of talks to different audiences. Although all presentations require an investment of time and effort to make them effective, the creation of a high-stakes, beautifully staged TED-style talk proved to be especially difficult for me. However, I feel so privileged for being selected and met such an incredibly talented team of speakers and coaches. I learnt a lot from all of them! It was a great opportunity for me to receive specific training in conferencing to the general public by two outstanding coaches: Silvia Solá Viñals and David Hernández-Salazar. We spent approximately two months working together on the contents, the format and the presentation (e.g. selection of the right words and proper English pronunciation, body language). Some of the work was done as homework (e.g. self-recording videos, editing the speech, creating the slides) with continuous online feedback from our coaches. We also met face-to-face at the University, either all speakers together or individually with the coaches. Their support was crucial to craft and deliver maximum impact. And there was also a lot of field-work too! searching and contrasting information, photo sessions with actual cell donors, rehearsals, etc.
It took me some time to craft the talk, and then even more to try making the delivery sound (somehow) natural. Well, I don’t think I succeed here but, in any case, I found this format of talks a very instructive model for scientists like me hoping to engage wide ranges of audiences.
Curious about compelling scientific TED talks?
There are so many TED/TEDx videos… Let’s warm up with a couple of recommendations: starting with Dr. Crystal Ruff, a former member of ISCT’s North America Legal & Regulatory Affairs (NA LRA) Committee, who gave a very educational TEDxLondonBusinessSchool Talk on “Changing the future with stem cells”. Then, the Nobel prize-winning Dr. Jennifer Doudna describing CRISPR technology in this amazing TED Global London entitled “How CRISPR lets us edit our DNA“. Also, ethics is a hot topic in our field, and I specially recommend this TEDxViena by Dr. Paul Knoepfler on “The ethical dilemma of designer babies”. Finally, a very inspiring talk on “How nanoparticles could change the way we treat cancer“, by Dr. Joy Wolfram at TEDxJacksonville, highlighting the potential of extracellular vesicles.
I’d love to hear your favourite talks! Please use the comment box underneath to share with the ISCT community your favourite TED/TEDx talks. Also, which communication channels you prefer for science?
And, why not? if there is something you want to TEDx, here you can also learn how to do it!
I would like to express my special thanks and gratitude to our coaches (Silvia and David) and the organisers of the TEDxUABarcelona (UAB’s Vice-Rector for Communication and Culture, Vice-Rector for Innovation and Strategic Projects, Alumni, Languages Campus & Research Park). And also a huge Thank You to family, friends and colleagues who backed me and gave me their personal feedback; and institutions who supported and helped me in the making of the presentation: Blood & Tissue Bank (BST), Catalan Transplant Organization (OCATT), Catalan Federation of Blood Donors, European Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT), and the Spanish Network for Advanced Therapies (TERAV-TERCEL). Finally, I want to thank all the TEDxUABarcelona team (Jordi, Andrea, Lila, Patricia, Elena, Eduard, Neus, Carles, Tomàs, and Karma). We did it together!