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TEDxCuraçao: Boosting Curaçao’s Knowledge Industry in Creative Ways


On 12 March 2016, TED once again made its way to Curaçao with a TEDx event titled Bridging the Gap. TED is a nonprofit organization that aims to spread ideas, through short, powerful talks. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, and was launched in 1984. Since then, they’ve developed into a global community, under the slogan, “Ideas worth spreading.” Each year, TED hosts an annual conference in North America, and TEDGlobal which is held in a different country every year. In addition, more than 2000 TEDx events, independent TED-like events, are organized per year.


Curaçao Business Magazine spoke to Ms. Nephtalie Demei, the license holder for TEDxCuraçao about her experience organizing TEDxCuraçao 2016, and the plans for the next TEDx event in 2017. TEDx events are non-profit, but may apply an admission fee and sponsorship to cover costs. Speakers are not paid, and relinquish the copyrights to their materials, which TED may distribute and edit under a Creative Commons license.

About the Organizers
Nephtalie Demei and a team of committed professional volunteers spent tireless hours in their free time organizing TEDx Curaçao in 2016. According to Demei, “It’s incredibly inspiring to work with such a dedicated team for TEDx, sometimes we were sending apps and emails after midnight and getting answers from each other immediately.”

Demei was born and raised in Curaçao, and upon completing her studies in ‘Leisurology’ and working for some time in the Netherlands, she moved to Curaçao where she worked in the hospitality sector for a couple years. She then moved back to the Netherlands where she pursued her second degree, this time in education, and proceeded to get a job in a school in the Netherlands, first working with at-risk youth, and thereafter at a private school with upper and middle-class students. “I was intellectually bored at my day job as a teacher. I enjoyed being around my students and I worked at a very nice school, but something was missing. I started watching some of my favorite old TED talks to feel inspired and my search led me to TEDxAmsterdam. The next day, I was sitting in a meeting organizing a TEDx event. I was hooked.”

TEDxAmsterdam was one of the first TEDx events organized with a TED license – and until today, it is still considered one of the most popular TEDx events across the globe. After a year of working on TEDxAmsterdam, Demei built her own team and organized TEDxEducation, a high profile event where participants too were curated. “In TED events, the audience is as important as the speakers. Their role is crucial – it’s important to have the right mix of people.” The idea of a specialized TEDx conference on education was a reflection of Demei’s thoughts on the education system and reform needed to give teachers space to be more creative in the classroom.

Finding Partners for TEDxCuraçao
Moving back to Curaçao, Demei recognized the power that a TEDx event could have. “People really needed to be inspired, and needed to have platforms to share their ideas and experiences. There was a clear need for TED.” It was Demei’s first time organizing a TEDx event in Curaçao and the team encountered many challenges along the way. Sometimes they had to explain the concept and the brand, sometimes they didn’t. All in all potential sponsors were enthusiastic. “Sponsoring a TEDx event is a great way for a company to profile themselves. It says a lot about how the company works, and its ‘why.’ TED is all about innovation and exploration – ideas central to so many brands.” As such, Demei mentioned that when people learned more about what the event was and what TED stood for, they were very willing to work with the team.

As such, they developed partnerships to fly in their speakers with InselAir and KLM, and provided their international speakers with free accommodation at Blue Bay. Digicel was also a sponsor and provided complimentary sim cards for the speakers. In addition, the Movies Curaçao provided them with two theaters to be used to host the event and District 1850’s sponsored the reception and after-party space. These and many other partnerships were imperative in determining the success of the TED conference, and really contributed to what TEDx Curaçao could offer in its first year.

In contrary to what Demei had done previously, TEDx, although non-profit, covered the additional costs of the event’s organization by charging participants for tickets. Tickets for a first theater sold out far quicker than the organization expected, and therefore a second theater was booked to meet the demand.

When looking for sponsors, the sponsoring team, led by Peter Reijmer, often approached progressive companies, where innovation and creativity are central. “TED is a cool and professional brand – and there are many companies that want to be linked to it. The international marketing of TED talks in general really impacts how we are able to sell TED in Curaçao. Sponsoring a TED event is a clear sign to employees and customers alike – it really adds a positive upgrade a company’s image.” Companies should ask themselves: do I stand for innovation and new ideas, creativity, social responsibility and planning for the future? If the answer is yes, then TED is definitely for you.

Why TEDx?
TEDxCuraçao, like other TEDx events, is meant to be a local event, not a global one, this means it caters to the needs of the community and focuses on finding speakers that can inspire change on a local level. According to Demei, “We want TEDxCuraçao to be a ‘brain spa’. People come to TED and get interesting stories, that are long enough to get you interested and keep you engrossed. You leave out refreshed and tingly. Happy, bubbly and ready to take action. To me, that makes a TEDx event successful.”

According to Demei, there is no event anywhere on the island that can be compared to TEDxCuraçao. Not only is it a conference, but all speakers get one-on-one speakers’ training. TEDxCuraçao has also partnered up with TEDxAruba and has, since then attended the TEDx conference in Aruba, that focused mostly on sustainability. Curaçao’s TEDx attempts to keep it broad. “Our main requirement is to find speakers who touch the audience. Whether they burst out crying, or wail with laughter, it’s important that you can see – really see – that people are touched. You can feel the shift in minds when you’re at a good TED event, and that’s what happened in 2016, and what can happen again in 2017.”

TEDxCuraçao 2017
Demei and her team have already started organizing TEDxCuraçao 2017, which will take place on Saturday 13 May 2017. This year, the TEDxCuraçao team hopes to innovate further, creating online platforms before and after, and working with more partners to create a different TED experience. According to Demei, “There’s nothing more inspiring than watching the light bulb going on in people’s head; walking in and feeling all the energy, seeing people connect while inspired.”

“I always look forward to the moment I walk on stage, and feel the curiosity… excitement… and inspiration in the room,” said Demei, “That’s why I love TED, and that’s why other people love it too. It doesn’t matter what field you are in, this conference is meant to spark your mind.” Jason Silva, one of her favorite philosophers and a futurist says that pulling people out of their intellectual comfort zone and presenting ideas in unique ways that challenge people to question their assumptions is one of the most rewarding things to do. That’s TED and that’s what TEDxCuraçao strive to create on 13 May 2017.