Speakers and Speaking at TEDWomen


There were so many informative and inspiring speakers at TEDWomen, it’s hard to know where to begin. The audience was full of type A women (and some men), and I saw many of them taking notes furiously.  While some may call me a type A, I decided not to take notes and instead rely on my impressions and my memory.

It was quite a varied group of speakers from around the globe, ranging from high profile names such as Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Arianna Huffington, Nancy Pelosi, Eve Ensler, Donna Karan and Ted Turner to incredible, but perhaps less well-known presenters such as Beverly and Dereck Joubert, Sejal Hathi, Aicha El-Wafi and Phyllis Rodriguez, Amber Case, Kiran Bedi, Jody Williams, Halla Tomasdottir, Hana Rosin, Courtney Martin, Sally Osberg,  and Tony Porter to name just a few (their profiles are on the TEDWomen site). It was a mixture of story-telling, innovation and information. I learned about bean production in Liberia, breast cancer research, frogs and environmental toxins, robotics, cyborg anthropology,  the prison system in India, Icelandic finance, the power of girls’ education, what it’s like to be a first lady in Africa, and the astonishingly poor gender-equity record of the United Nations. There were TEDx events around the world, and we communicated with them throughout the conference. They are beginning to post the videos of the talks, and they can be found here.

There was a wonderful band called Asphalt Orchestra, and we heard from the Ahn Trio, the amazing Bernice Johnson Reagon and Toshi Reagon, fabulous Morley, and the incredible Angelique Kidjo.

Before it all began, on Monday, I had a rehearsal for my speech in front of producer Pat Mitchell and Chris Anderson, the man who curates TED.  That went well, but not perfect. The rest of the day was free, so I walked to the White House just to see it again and then returned to my room to relax and practice my speech for the zillionth time. Monday evening, we had a speakers reception, and it was fun to hang with some of the speakers,  just laughing and sharing our stories.

Then Tuesday came, the day of my talk.  There was a speakers meeting, where we were all invited to climb onto the stage to feel what it was like. Then make-up and before I knew it, I was ON.  It happened so quickly.  I didn’t exactly know whom I was to follow, which was good because my nerves would have gotten the better of me.  I walked onto the stage, and relaxed. It was very odd.  The first slide got some laughs, and that made me comfortable.  After a few slides that were not intended to elicit laughter, the fourth one got so much that I was immediately transported into another zone. I see now how stand-up can be addictive. In fact, so many of the slides got such great laughter, that I had to stop and wait for the audience before I could proceed.  It was wonderful. Since I had drilled the talk into my brain, I didn’t worry about forgetting.  It was a new level of speaking, and one I want to use again.  Memorization is difficult, but so well worth it.

I convinced myself before the talk that what I was going to say was a) not about me,  b) being delivered to just one person, and c) that people love to laugh.  This got me through, and, frankly, I can’t wait to do it again.

The women and men I met and spent time with over the past few days were so funny, generous and compassionate that I come away with renewed enthusiasm for what I do and what I hope to do with my work.  I just need to figure out what that next step will be. Stay tuned.

To see some of the cartoons I showed in my talk, The Power of Cartoons, go to The New Yorker blog, here.

I also curated an exhibit at TEDWomen of international cartoonists called “The Fun, Folly and Flexibility of Women.”  Here is a link to those cartoons and artists on the section I edit, World Ink, on dsriber.com .

And finally, some random photos!

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About Liza Donnelly

New Book: Women On Men, http://www.narrativemagazine.com/store/book/women-men New Yorker and Forbes cartoonist and writer, TED speaker
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5 Responses to Speakers and Speaking at TEDWomen

  1. Pingback: TEDWomen, In Their Own Words « Helping Women Helps the World

  2. menchu says:

    Sounds like such an inspiring event, makes me wish we had something similar here, to encourage our women further. Love your cartoons!

  3. Tanya says:

    Experienced my first TEDx event in La Jolla in 2010 and was wondering if there was one for women as well. (Very few women speakers at this one)

    Enjoyed learning about how TED is building TEDWomen – and wondered how they reached out to the globe of women who aren’t the “Hillary Clinton’s” in order to hear from them? I see your list of less well-known, but no less interesting!, women and I’d love to help support other women find a speaking role at one of these Conferences.

    Thank you.
    Tanya Maslach

    • Dear Tanya, Good to hear from you! Pat Mitchell of the Paley Center was one of the producers of TEDWomen, as well as June Cohen from TED. If you are interested in being involved in some way, they would be the ones to reach out to. Good luck–your supportive efforts are wonderful. We have to redress the balance of women speaking at TED, most definitely. Many thanks, Liza

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