Recap: Pecha Kucha Night Edmonton #17

Edmonton’s seventeenth Pecha Kucha Night was held on Saturday evening at the Winspear Centre downtown. With nearly 1000 people in attendance, it was one of our city’s biggest PKNs yet. I kept thinking back to the first-ever PKN in Edmonton, which took place in the lobby of the Winspear Centre back in 2008 – it’s pretty incredible how much has changed over the last five years!

In a break from past PKNs, this Designing Downtown edition featured speakers from across the country. The theme? New ways to think about designing and developing our city cores. Here’s what Designing Downtown is all about:

Designing Downtown is a movement to transform downtowns founded by Progress Unlimited, MADE, and Edmonton’s NextGen. Designing Downtown is a vehicle for inter-city exchange for partnerships that seek to enrich and advance the conversations and actions we take to shape downtowns as spaces for everyone. Designing Downtown is an experiment and exchange; an opportunity to create dialogue that celebrates & critiques; and a space to be a fixture in and designer of the urban experience.

designing downtown

In order of appearance, these were the presenters at PKN17:

  1. Johanna Hurme, Occupy
  2. Sophie Mankowski, Architectural Translations: From Memory to Music
  3. Janice Abbott, Atira Women’s Resource Society
  4. Dalton Higgins, Hip Hop World
  5. Curtis Olson, Designing a Creative City
  6. Micheline Clouard, Place & Identity
  7. Simon Taylor, Harsh Optimism
  8. Kamala Todd, Indigenize Our Urban Eyes
  9. Waye Mason, Urban Halifax Rebounding

We were also treated to a live podcast recording of 99% Invisible with host and creator Roman Mars. He opened the show with a segment on how buildings tell stories, and he closed with a piece on city flags.

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For the most part I really enjoyed the presentations, partially because they were a return to “classic” PKN with a slant toward architecture and design. That said, I did find it someone disappointing that a few of the presenters relied on paper notes. Fumbling around with paper on stage is just awkward, but more importantly, it prevents the speaker’s passion from coming across. These are all talened, experienced individuals who know a lot about their topics – paper shouldn’t be needed for six minutes and forty seconds.

Johanna was up first and she talked about fighting the ambivalence of design. “There is power in the collective,” she told us. I found Sophie’s presentation a little difficult to follow, but ultimately she was talking about creating bridges between artists and architects. Her project, Portrait Sonore, is a collection of sound walks that guide you through cities, “revealing their architecture and their history in a lively and poetic manner.” Janice used her time to tell us about the innovative housing project Atira built in Vancouver’s downtown eastside using shipping containers. Last up before the intermission was Dalton, who provided us with the most upbeat and random presentation of the evening. While his energy was infectious, his message was a little less clear.

First up after the intermission was Curtis, who talked to us about some of the interesting projects he has undertaken in Saskatoon. He finished with an overturned car used as a garden, something the crowd seemed to really enjoy! Micheline spoke about some of her work in Montreal, and how it connects humans with nature. Simon talked about the school he worked on way up north in Cambridge Bay. It has become the central gathering place for the town, so he told us that “downtown can happen anywhere” (I disagree – there’s more to “downtown” than just being the central gathering place). Kamala spoke passionately about recognizing the indigenous narratives of our urban settings, using Vancouver as the focal point. The final presenter of the evening was Waye from Halifax, who shared some of the exciting changes that have been happening that city.

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I love hearing about interesting uses for things like shipping containers, so I really enjoyed Janice’s talk. Having grown up in Inuvik in the Northwest Territories, I was naturally drawn to Simon’s talk on the school in Cambridge Bay. I think Curtis had one of the strongest presentations, with great visuals and a tight narrative.

Though Roman’s two segments did not fit with the PKN format, I thought they were a great addition to the evening. His style is just so inviting! There were a lot of folks on Twitter who said they were immediately subscribing to the podcast as a result. His closing segment focused on city flags. Roman is a fan of Chicago’s flag, and he walked us through some of the do’s and don’ts of flag design. Keep it simple, avoid words or seals, etc. In case you were wondering, this is Edmonton’s flag. There was quite a bit of laughter when he put the slide up because it breaks most of the don’ts! Roman also earned loud cheers and applause for calling Canada’s flag the best one out there.

Instead of having speakers from Edmonton in the lineup, two videos featuring a number of Edmontonians passionate about downtown were shown. Here’s the first vignette:

Here’s the second vignette:

In contrast with the last PKN, I very much felt like a member of the target audience for PKN17. There were a lot of familiar faces in the large crowd, which suggests the organizers did a great job of reaching out to previous attendees to get them to return. Equally, I kept running into people who had never been to Pecha Kucha before, so it’s great to see that the series continues to reach new communities.

In addition to the presentations, there were also some great activities in the lobby. Guests could take part in a collaborative mural, check out the LEGO display, get their photo taken in WinterCity’s winter patio, and much more.

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Prior to the main event, Makescape took place in Centennial Plaza behind the Stanley Milner Library. Featuring food trucks, a live stream of the presentations, and Bench Talks, it was a neat complement to PKN. I missed the bench talks unfortunately, but I love the concept!

Kudos to Lisa Baroldi, the driving force behind PKN17 and Designing Downtown, on a fantastic event! I know it takes a big team of volunteers and the support of many sponsors to pull off an event like PKN, but you also need strong leadership. Well done to all involved!

You can see a few more photos from the evening here. Keep an eye on @EdmNextGen for details on upcoming events!

Recap: Pecha Kucha Night Edmonton #16

pkn16Edmonton’s sixteenth Pecha Kucha Night was held tonight at the Citadel Theatre downtown. I did my first Pecha Kucha talk at PKN7 back in 2010 which was held in the same venue, so it was nice to be back without the nervous feeling that you get before presenting! The vast majority of the not-sold-out crowd were newcomers who had never been to Pecha Kucha before, judging by the show of hands at the start.

In case you’re not familiar with Pecha Kucha, here’s what it’s all about:

PKN features presentations on local ideas, projects and musings in the 20 slides at 20 seconds per slide format made popular by worldwide by Klein Dytham Architecture. More than 150 presentations have been given at Edmonton Pecha Kucha Nights to date on wide-ranging topics, from lighting up Edmonton’s bridges to in vitro meat and everything in between.

In order of appearance, these were the presenters at PKN16:

  1. Emerson Csorba, Make Something for Single Mothers
  2. Myles Curry, Grasscycling & Community Based Social Marketing
  3. Mark Connolly, Downtown Story
  4. Dan Jacob, The Future of Civic Engagement
  5. Andrew Whistance-Smith, What’s In a Smile?
  6. Alistair Henning & Gary Garrison, McCauley Then and Now
  7. Anna McRobbie, Open Space Technology & Unconferences
  8. Mara Erickson, Conservation Caravan: Going Beyond the BBQ
  9. Matthew Stepanic, Mythic Power
  10. Kuen Tang, The Ha Ling Project

I thought all of the presenters tonight did a great job. Everyone spoke clearly and for the most part confidently. There was a pretty good variety in terms of content too, with everything from climbing a mountain to teeth.

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Emerson kicked things off talking about SMART – Single Mothers Achieving Results Together. It’s an organization he is launching with his mother, focused on providing a space for single moms to learn from, collaborate with, and support one another. Next up was Myles from the City of Edmonton who told us all about grasscycling. During the summer, about 40% of all waste collected in Edmonton is grass. If everyone grasscycled, the emissions saved would be equivalent to taking 4,329 cars off the road. Mark from CBC used his time to talk about their new interactive web project called Downtown Story. They’ve got a collection of data and stories and invite you to take part. Dan was fourth and he talked about Urban Pulse, a new online platform for civic engagement that he’s building with Sean Healy. I liked the way he introduced it, with a story about Sean’s desire to better communicate with the City. Last up before the intermission was Andrew, who did a very entertaining talk on teeth. He connected the golden ratio and explained what we notice when looking at someone’s teeth.

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After the break, Alistair and Gary kicked things off with a talk on an upcoming book about McCauley. I’m such a sucker for local history, so I quite enjoyed hearing about some of the stories. Anna was up next to tell us about open spaces, unconferences, and Mosaic Minds. If you’ve ever been to an unconference you’ll know they don’t have an agenda, the law of two feet rules, etc. Mara was perhaps the strongest speaker of the evening, and she told us about Operation Grassland Community to the south. She encouraged everyone to ask not just where their beef comes from, but what it took to get it there. The penultimate talk was by Matthew, and I think it might have been the most powerful of the evening. He shared his story with us with a nice mix of heartfelt and funny moments. He told us that “every story has mythic power.” Our final presenter was Kuen, who shared the story of how along with the help of her co-workers she became the first quadriplegic to climb the Ha Ling mountain. It too was at times funny and at times serious, and inspirational throughout.

I think my favorite talk was Andrew’s. It was unexpected, educational, and entertaining. More than any of the others, it got people chit-chatting!

Tonight I came to the realization that I’m no longer the target audience for Pecha Kucha (and probably haven’t been for a while, honestly). I wish it could be all ideas and less promotions and launches, but I don’t think the majority feel that way. Judging by the amount of applause tonight, I think most people in attendance really enjoyed hearing about the various projects. After all, why shouldn’t it be a venue for nextgeners to learn more about what others are doing? There’s no rule that says you can’t talk about your own stuff at Pecha Kucha. I guess I just like the notion of a platform to throw out a controversial idea to get people talking, where the only benefit to the presenter is the conversation. But maybe that’s not the role of Pecha Kucha in Edmonton.

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Even though we’re halfway into the month already, Mayor Mandel was on hand tonight to proclaim June as NextGen Month. He had some really kind things to say about Edmonton’s NextGen, and said he felt confident that no matter what happens in October, nextgeners will speak their minds.

The next Pecha Kucha Night in Edmonton is actually going to be a pan-Canadian event featuring twelve speakers from across the country. The theme is downtown, and the event will take place on October 5. With an anticipated audience of 1,700, it’s going to be a big deal!  You can learn more at Designing Downtown.

Stay tuned to @EdmNextGen on Twitter for other upcoming events and have a look back at the #yegpkn hashtag for thoughts on this evening’s presentations.

Pecha Kucha Night: Edmonton #14

Edmonton’s fourteenth Pecha Kucha Night was held tonight at the Myer Horowitz Theatre on the University of Alberta campus. It looked like it was going to be a smaller crowd tonight, and though not quite a sell-out, the theatre did fill up just in time for the presentations! There were six women presenting tonight, the first time since PKN4 that women have outnumbered men on stage (I mention it only because many folks noticed the split tonight, and recent PKNs have indeed featured predominately male presenters).

In order of appearance, these were the presenters at PKN14:

  1. Dave Mowat, Light it Up, #yeg!
  2. Sunniva Van, Ride to Learn
  3. Pamela Colleen, The Universal Language: and No, It’s Not Love
  4. Wang Yip, Design Is…
  5. Shawn Kanungo, I Love the Spelling Bee
  6. Renee Vaugeois & Chelsea Freeborn, Imagine a Dream
  7. Jacqui Fraser, A Split Second
  8. Daniel Schneider, That John Denver is Full of S@#*
  9. David Zip, 3D Workflows for Historical Refacading
  10. Brittney Le Blanc, Bragging is Good

Alberta’s Minister of Human Services and Government House Leader Dave Hancock was slated to speak tonight but had to cancel at the last minute.

On the whole I’d say tonight’s slate of presentations was better than average. The presenters were all new to presenting at PKN, and I thought everyone did a great job! There was a good mix of newcomers in the audience, and more than a handful of people who had been to five or more PKNs. Only a few of us have been to every one though!

Pecha Kucha Night Edmonton #14

Dave kicked things off with a talk about light. Light makes people happy, he told us. He showed examples of some of our favorite cities from around the world, including New York and Paris, with their recognizable structures all beautifully lit up at night. He then showed Edmonton’s bridges at night, all very dark, and none that you would see on a postcard. He added some light to the Groat, High Level, and Low Level bridges to get us thinking about what could be. He then exited the stage on crutches that lit up! It was a really strong start to the evening.

Next up was Sunniva who shared some great stories from Ride To Learn. Very inspiring and strong images too. Pamela took us through the universal language – that would be music, not love! She seemed to have a strong dislike for heavy metal, mentioning a few times that plants forced to listen to Metallica for too long would soon die. It was a very thoughtful talk, and definitely made me think more about how the music I listen to has an impact on what I’m doing. Wang was fourth, and he talked all about the power of design. His talk was sort of the prototypical Pecha Kucha talk, and I mean that in a good way. He showed a variety of designs and encouraged everyone to think about what design means to them. The highlight slide was a design for a divorce lawyer’s business card that featured a perforation down the middle.

Pecha Kucha Night Edmonton #14

Shawn gave the final talk before the intermission, and I think it’s safe to say he brought the house down! It was smart, funny, and he delivered it with such enthusiasm and stage presence. If there were ever a “Pecha Kucha All-Stars” in Edmonton, Shawn’s would no doubt make the cut. I won’t do it justice, so just watch it:

I also totally love that he was inspired by Omar’s wonderful talk on cats from PKN13:

First up after the break was the tag team of Renee and Chelsea. They had a cellist join them on stage and they delivered their talk over the music. It was a good concept, but it really didn’t work. I also thought their talk could have done with some focus. Jacqui was up next with a very thought-provoking talk that touched on everything from why some colors are used for certain things to why the Fibonacci sequence is so powerful. Daniel had the eighth talk of the night, a cleverly crafted talk about why he loves being a country boy. It was a bit slow starting, but finished strong. I loved the hand-drawn images that illustrated most of the talk! David had the penultimate slot, and talked about historical refacading. He didn’t touch as much on the 3D workflows part as I thought he might, but he did certainly point out some intriguing architectural observations. For instance, he noted that Starbucks does a great job of making its locations look as though they have been in the neighbourhood for decades (as opposed to say a McDonald’s where each location looks the same on the outside).

Pecha Kucha Night Edmonton #14

The final talk of the night was the much anticipated presentation from Brittney. I didn’t know what to expect based on the title “Bragging is Good” but I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was a call to action for Edmontonians to speak up about the great things we have in our city. I am not a fan of the giant baseball bat on 118th Avenue, but Brittney is, and she speaks up about it (and notes that it spins!). I also like that she touched on the importance of going from “should” to actually doing something. It’s easy to say something should be done, and much more difficult to actually do it. Here is Brittney’s talk:

Like I said, everyone did a great job tonight, but my favorite has to be Shawn’s. Based on my completely unscientific read of audience reaction in the room and on Twitter, my guess is I’m not alone in feeling that way either!

Edmonton’s NextGen received a lot of complaints about the service charges that Prime Box Office charged for tickets. I was even charged $3 per ticket when purchasing at the door. NextGen was not happy about the charges either, but couldn’t do anything about it as PBO is the exclusive ticket retailer for the venue. If you want to complain, get in touch with Prime Box Office and the Myer Horowitz Theatre. This was the third PKN at the Myer Horowitz (the only repeat venue) and while the size of the audience has greatly reduced the number of potential venues, perhaps it was the last.

Our hosts tonight were Doug McLean and Karen Unger, and they did a nice job of keeping us on track while adding a dash of humor. As has become customary, the Edmonton Journal was once again livestreaming the event. Major props to Ryan Jackson for an amazing job and for getting all of the videos uploaded to YouTube before the event even ended!

Pecha Kucha Night Edmonton #14

Stay tuned to @EdmNextGen on Twitter and check out the website for updates on PKN and other events. Also note there’s a new hashtag in use: “#pkn14 is just one night, #yegpkn is forever.” See you at PKN15 in March 2013!

You can see more photos of tonight’s event here, and check out all the videos here. You can read about past Pecha Kucha Nights in Edmonton here.

Pecha Kucha Night: Edmonton #13

Edmonton’s thirteenth and first outdoor Pecha Kucha Night was held last night at the Heritage Amphitheatre in Hawrelak Park. With more than 800 tickets sold in advance, there was a big crowd in attendance (both people and fearless squirrels), though the venue could have held even more people. As a result, tickets were available at the door for the first time in a long time! One of my favorite things about Pecha Kucha is that the venue changes each time. Organizers have flirted with the idea of being outside before, and after last night I think it’s safe to say that it can work. Fortunately the weather held out – aside from a little wind, it was a lovely evening!

In order of appearance, these were the presenters at PKN13:

  1. Sarah Jackson, Coffee Boss, Entrepreneur
  2. Michael Cenkner, Inventor, Educator, Artist
  3. Vanessa Higgins, Watershed Specialist
  4. David Faber & Lewis Cardinal, Community Leaders
  5. Adam Henley, Student
  6. Ken Bautista, Entrepreneur
  7. Pieter de Vos, Community Development Practitioner
  8. Nadine Riopel, The Savvy Do Gooder
  9. Amy Beaith & Mike Johnson, Fruit Rescuers
  10. Omar Mouallem, Associate Editor, Avenue Edmonton

I thought everyone did a great job delivering their talks last night. There were more notes-in-hand than at previous PKNs, but no one stumbled as a result. I wonder if the larger outdoor vendor was more intimidating than the smaller enclosed spaces or less? As always, our hosts asked for a show of hands to see how many people had never been to PKN before. I think the majority of the audience were first-timers!

Pecha Kucha Night Edmonton #13

Sarah kicked things off with a talk that I would best describe as a lecture on the perils of engaging online at the expense of face-to-face communication. She encouraged people to lay down their devices and meet people for coffee. It’s a good message, but I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. I would say I’m fairly active online, but I also meet people for coffee all the time. Seriously, ask the folks at Credo, they’ll tell you! Michael’s talk explored monoculture and permaculture, among other things. I thought his idea that monoculture is often characterized by straight lines was really interesting. I thought Vanessa was one of the best speakers of the evening, even if I didn’t really connect with the content of her talk. Her delivery was spot-on, and even with the technical difficulties of the screen behind her, she powered forward without hesitation. As Brittney said, Vanessa deserves huge props for getting up in front a crowd to talk about her depression.

After a quick break, David and Lewis told us about the Spirit of Edmonton, an initiative to reclaim and connect our city’s spirit, art, culture, and history. I had not heard about this before, so it was great to learn a little about what is being planned. Lewis told us that Edmonton’s “pehonan” is the Rossdale Flats, where our city was born eight to ten thousand years ago. Adam’s talk on our healthcare system was one of the most intriguing of the night. He talked about the changes being precipitated by technology, and touched on some of the things that could be possible if only we could move past paper and steel vaults (think big data analysis). After another quick break, Ken shared with us some thoughts on TEDx and what the program has achieved and is capable of. It’s amazing how many events have been organized all around the world! Oh and Ken, I love that you included the falcon picture. Pieter was up next and he talked about some of the work he has done in places like Vancouver and Haiti with photography. In addition to telling stories about his travels, Pieter has taught others in the places he has visited how to use photography to tell their own stories.

Pecha Kucha Night Edmonton #13

Nadine was up next to talk about the charitable sector. As promised, it was very different than her last PKN talk. In fact, I think it was my favorite presentation of the whole evening, because Nadine put forward an idea that inspired conversation. She challenged us to think differently about the charitable sector – why do we always ask charities about their costs and whether they are keeping them low but never if they are achieving their outcomes? Why is it okay to get rich mining for diamonds or drilling for oil, but not saving lives? Nadine said that we treat the charitable sector as if we want it to cut costs. Instead, we should treat it as if we want it to do good!

Amy and Mike told us about Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton (OFRE) and the work they are doing to rescue fruit and build community. It’s pretty amazing what the group has been able to achieve in just a few short years, and I’m sure the best is yet to come. You can learn more about what they do and where the fruit goes here. The final presentation of the evening was Omar’s hilarious talk on cats. He was the perfect choice for a closer, because he made everyone laugh but also expertly snuck in some serious points about cats as well! He started with LOLCats and the idea that cats are more popular now than ever before. Unfortunately, because most people don’t pay anything for their cats, they are also among the most abused and least looked after pets. There was one moment in particular when everyone in the crowd looked at each other in disbelief – Omar told us about the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Cat Association. Yes, search and rescue cats save lives. I can’t remember ever experiencing such a full-on “are you serious?!” moment at Pecha Kucha, so nice job Omar!

I have to say that while I enjoyed myself and loved the venue, I didn’t exactly walk away from PKN13 feeling inspired nor particularly challenged. I guess that’s okay – people can share whatever they like – but I prefer the presentations that really do lead to interesting conversations and discussions.

Pecha Kucha Night Edmonton #13

Before the show got started, Mayor Mandel joined a few NextGeners on stage to proclaim June as Next Gen Month in our city. He remarked to me afterward that he is really impressed by how much the community has accomplished! There’s a lot of great stuff happening throughout the month, so check out Edmonton Next Gen for updates.

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Our hosts for the evening were Thomas Scott and John Loveseth, and I thought they both did an excellent job. The giant LED screen on stage was provided by Allstar Show Industries, and despite a few technical difficulties at the beginning, it worked really well. DJ Justin Foosh from All Out DJs provided the musical ambiance, while Molly’s Eats and The Act served hungry attendees all evening long. It was great to have the food trucks on site! Sharon and I took the free PKN Shuttle Bus from the University to Hawrelak Park – thanks NextGen for arranging that! One other sponsor note – everyone in attendance received a gift card from Famoso Neapolitan Pizza for a free pizza before June 30!

Stay tuned to @EdmNextGen on Twitter and check out the website for updates on PKN and other events. See you at PKN14 in the fall!

You can see a few more photos from the evening here, and you can read about past Pecha Kucha Nights in Edmonton here.

Pecha Kucha Night: Edmonton #12

pkn12Edmonton’s twelfth Pecha Kucha Night was held last night at the historic Garneau Theatre in Old Strathcona. More than 500 people attended to see 10 presentations on a variety of topics, all delivered in the now familiar 20-slides-at-20-seconds-per-slide format. Most Pecha Kucha Nights in Edmonton have featured something unique, and last night the spotlight and red carpet outside the theatre welcomed attendees in style. The popcorn was free, the seats were comfy, and the energy in the room was infectious.

In order of appearance, these were the presenters at PKN12:

  1. Erin Monaghan, Blogger
  2. Ben Henderson, City Councillor
  3. Duncan Kinney, Polynerd
  4. Leroy Schultz, Photographer
  5. Stephen Visser & Dawn Lamothe, Yoga Lovers
  6. Joseph Ahorro, U2 Fan
  7. Michael Walters, Community Organizer
  8. Chris Falconer & Owen Petersen, Foodies
  9. Sue Huff, MLA Candidate
  10. Steve Sandor, Journalist

It takes guts to get up in front of such a large crowd, especially when you have a limited period of time and high expectations! I thought all of the presenters did a great job. All of them seemed to have fun too! Sharon remarked that PKN12 was probably in the middle of the pack in terms of presentations, and I agree.

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Erin kicked off the evening with her discussion of street fashion, drawing mainly on her experiences writing The Vestiary. I thought her approach, treating Edmonton as her “little sister”, added a nice touch of humor, even if the overall flow was at times difficult to follow. I love that Erin and others like her are doing something about the perception of Edmonton’s fashion scene! Duncan’s presentation was packed with information, and I thought he did a nice job of discussing what a credit union is and why you should consider one. Duncan recently organized the Local Money Summit and is running to be a director of Servus Credit Union. One of the more moving presentations of the evening was Leroy’s overview of Miguelito’s Little Green Car. It’s an amazing story really, he has taken this little green car all over the world and photographed it people from all walks of life. He wants to show that everyone is connected. Here is the photo he took of the audience with the little green car:

First up after the intermission was Joseph, who talked about his experiences travelling to U2 concerts all around the world. We’re not talking one or two concerns, we’re talking dozens, on four different continents! The human connection is what made the story interesting, that and Joseph’s occasional singing! Michael Walters spent his twenty slides talking about local food, and in particular, the northeast part of our city which is home to some of the best farmland in the country. He talked about The Great Potato Giveaway, and about the importance of building a local food hub. The next presentation featured foodies Chris and Owen who wore matching plaid shirts and aprons. Their high energy talk was focused on bread – the history of it, why bread is great, and even some science behind it. They finished with the quickest bread making I have ever seen! Sue was up next with an interesting talk on creative politics. It was a solid talk with some good ideas, but it just couldn’t match the energy of some of the other talks. The final presentation was all about why Edmonton needs an SCTV monument. Steven made the case and had some really interesting visuals (I like the one of Melonville). I can definitely get behind the notion that we should celebrate more than just our sports heroes, but I think we can do better than SCTV. I think the association between ‘Edmonton’ and ‘SCTV’ is incredibly low for the vast majority of people, and a monument isn’t going to change that. On the other hand, maybe I am just too young.

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I think a lot of people in the audience really enjoyed Stephen and Dawn’s “presentation” but it didn’t work for me. Instead of a typical presentation, they did yoga on stage for the six minutes and forty seconds, with a different position for each slide. Obviously they worked very hard at the presentation, and as Michael Brechtel commented to me, it was executed perfectly, and for that I commend them. For me though, it wasn’t a Pecha Kucha talk. The voiceover was pre-recorded There was a third, unannounced presenter off to the side who provided the voiceover for each slide, and I found I wasn’t even listening to it because I was distracted/enthralled by the acrobatics on stage.

My favorite presentation of the evening (and Sharon’s favorite too) was Ben Henderson’s discussion on winter. He showed images from his trip to Oslo, Helsinki, and other winter cities in northern Europe. Ben was full of energy, full of passion for his subject, and I think he did a nice job of being serious and fun at the same time. I hope he made as much of an impression on everyone else as he did on me, and if you’re interested in learning more about the City’s WinterCity strategy, visit the website and also check out the IdeaScale site.

Twitter always plays a large role in Pecha Kucha. The #pkn12 hashtag was buzzing last night! Here are a few tweets from the evening that I thought were worth capturing:

Proceeds from the bar went to the food bank, and there were a bunch of great prize giveaways too. I seem to have pretty good luck with prizes at Pecha Kucha, because I was one of the winners! Once again the event was livestreamed by the Edmonton Journal. I didn’t see as much chatter about quality or connection issues, so hopefully it worked well for everyone. In case you missed it, you can watch the recorded video here.

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Keep an eye on @EdmNextGen for details on the next Pecha Kucha Night, tentatively scheduled for June.

You can read about past Pecha Kucha Nights in Edmonton here.

Pecha Kucha Night: Edmonton #11

pkn11Edmonton’s eleventh Pecha Kucha Night was held last night at the Myer Horowitz Theatre on the University of Alberta campus (if you’re new to Pecha Kucha, read this). More than 600 people attended the event which featured ten presentations on a variety of topics. As usual, attendees were asked if this was their first ever Pecha Kucha Night and most of the hands in the audience shot up. It’s great that Edmonton NextGen continues to reach new people, but I do wonder where everyone else has gone and if they ever come back!

In order of appearance, these were the presenters at PKN11:

  1. Jeremy Derksen, Adventure Writer
  2. Chris Samuel, Lawyer/ Starcraft Enthusiast
  3. Ryan Saunders, PhD Candidate in Mechanical Engineering and Co-Founder of ABCampusTec
  4. David Papp, Technology Advisor
  5. Darren Wagner, PhD Student, University of York
  6. Wendy Caplan & Wade Kelly, Educators
  7. Larry Retzlaff, Senior Planner, City of Edmonton
  8. Joshua Le, Business Student, University of Alberta
  9. Jeff Senger & Paul Cabaj, Co-Founders of SPARK
  10. Karen Unland, Journalism Educator and Consultant

The range of topics certainly seemed a lot broader than at PKNs past, with everything from Starcraft to Raw Denim. Generally I think the themed evenings work better, though I suppose there are hits and misses with both approaches. Last night had its share of both.

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Jeremy Derksen kicked things off with a bold statement, saying “Edmonton is a great place to have an adventure.” He argued for the consideration of urban adventure as we build the Edmonton of the future, and pointed out that risk can be healthy. I loved that he touched on graffiti – provide a legitimate space for it, and I think you get rewarded. Chris Samuel was up next with his introduction to Starcraft and the world of competitive gameplay as a sport. He taught us that there are official leagues, commentators, heroes, and everything else that you might expect with other professional sports. His highly entertaining presentation probably had the most tweeted phrase of the evening, apparently adlibbed on the fly: “Nerds come in all shapes and sizes.” Ryan Saunders gave a nice introduction to ABCampusTec, though the presentation was basically just a commercial for the organization. I really wanted to like David Papp’s presentation – he did a phenomenal job of bringing energy and passion to the stage – but I personally found it difficult to get past the fact that he was basically saying “look at how much traffic my site got” for 20 slides. I was also looking for the social media experiment, but it never came. Darren Wagner closed out the first half of the show with perhaps the most controversial presentation of the evening, a look at “nature’s naughty bits” though it was more of a historical look at how human societies have displayed genitalia.

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In a change from past events, door prizes were given out right before the break (Sharon suggested it may have been so that the winners were more likely to still be in attendance). If the opening presentations didn’t entertain you, Ryan Jespersen most certainly did. He was responsible for handing out the prizes, but of course, he had fun with it. He’s totally at home with a microphone in his hand – there’s a reason this has become his segment at PKN. I think @squiish said it best: “Ryan, you made door prizes pleasurable for the losers too.”

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While the Myer Horowitz is a great venue, it doesn’t work so well for drinks. That’s a picture of the one and only one bar at the break. If you were patient enough to get a drink, my guess is that you didn’t have time to drink it before the second half started up again! It was great to see two local beers on offer though, Alley Kat and Wild Rose.

Pecha Kucha Night 11

First up after the break was the duo of Wendy Caplan and Wade Kelly. As soon as they started their presentation – “4000 friends and 140 characters: Redefining our Social Lexicon” – I tweeted that I didn’t want to be preached at about Twitter and how it doesn’t bring people together. While their presentation was an interesting recap of long-forgotten behaviors (like taking film to the store and waiting weeks for it to be developed) I thought it was probably delivered at the wrong event. A large number of people in the audience met and became friends precisely thanks to the new tools and technologies Wendy and Wade were questioning. Larry Retzlaff was up next, to talk about Transit Oriented Development and the guidelines the City is currently developing. Important topic that I hope more Edmontonians get engaged with, and as far as awareness goes I suppose the presentation was a success, but when we’ve had outstanding TOD-as-LEGO presentations in the past, it sort of missed the mark. Joshua Le’s presentation on raw denim was interesting and educational, though it was somewhat similar to David’s – a recap of how far and wide word of his project spread. Jeff Senger and Paul Cabaj were up next, to talk about cooperatives. I learned that 2012 is the International Year of Cooperatives, but unfortunately I didn’t take much else away from the presentation. Karen Unland had the final presentation of the evening, a passionate discussion of what journalism needs now. I thought she did a great job of balancing humor and seriousness to get her message across.

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The crowd favorite of the evening was probably Chris Samuel’s really unique presentation on Starcraft. I know I’m curious about the viewing parties that are held at local bars! It seems as though each PKN usually has a particularly memorable quote or phrase. With PKNX, it was “magpie town”. I think Karen’s quote (she had lots of great ones) was probably the winner last night: “French kiss change. Hump change’s leg!” Those were probably my two favorite presentations, though I quite enjoyed Jeremy Derksen’s as well.

Other thoughts: I think NextGen might have set a record last night for starting so close to the advertised time! The Edmonton Journal once again livestreamed the event, but a number of technical issues made it a less than smooth experience for viewers. This PKN was the first in Edmonton to be held at a venue that has already been used – PKN5 was at the Myer Horowitz back in October 2009. The event featured music by DJ Blue Jay and a visual art showcase presented by Timeraiser, coming up on October 15. There’s a great collection of photos by Dave DeGagné, the event’s official photographer, here. You can see my much crappier ones here.

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NextGen is currently planning Pecha Kucha Night 12 for February. Keep an eye on @EdmNextGen for updates!

Pecha Kucha Night: Edmonton #10 (PKNX)

Last night was Edmonton’s tenth Pecha Kucha Night, a completely sold out event held at the Alberta Aviation Museum. It was the second straight to sell-out in advance of the doors opening, and judging by the number of hands that went up when our hosts asked how many people had never been to a Pecha Kucha Night before, the event’s reach continues to expand. PKNX focused on downtown:

With the redevelopment of the City Centre Airport lands on the horizon, PKNX explores the potential for a Do-It-Yourself Downtown and features presenters exploring the architectural, social, environmental and cultural potential for our urban core in the 20 slides x 20 sec per slide format made popular world-wide by Klein Dytham Architecture.

I saw a few comments on Twitter asking why the event was held on the City Centre Airport lands if the focus was on downtown, but that’s exactly the kind of controversy that Edmonton NextGen was going for. And without question the redevelopment of the ECCA lands will have a big impact on downtown. I just wish NextGen had gone all-in and made Ryan Jespersen’s suggestion a reality – his idea was to setup a stage on the closed runway! How cool would that have been, presenting with the runway lights all around you?!

Being the tenth iteration of Pecha Kucha Night in Edmonton, last night was a bit of a milestone so NextGen setup posters from all the previous events (you can see my previous recaps here). It was probably interesting for people new to PKN to see, and even for someone like myself who has been to every single one, it was good to look back.


In order of appearance, these were the presenters at PKNX:

  1. Michael Strong, Urban Planner
  2. Shafraaz Kaba, Architect
  3. Tom Sutherland, Architect
  4. Myron Belej, Urban Planner
  5. Ron Gilbertson, CEO of EEDC
  6. Chelsea Boos, Designer
  7. Mike Weinmaster, Botanical Artist
  8. Ian O’Donnell, Downtown Community Guy
  9. Doug Carlyle, Landscape Architect
  10. Tai Ziola & Craig Dorward, Intern Architects
  11. Mack Male, Edmonton Blogger
  12. Todd Babiak, Writer, Hustler

Our hosts for the evening were Ryan Stark and Brian Murray, and they embraced the location dressing up as airmen! I thought they did a much better job of just having fun on stage last night. At the break they did a flight attendant routine to direct people to the washrooms and bar, it was pretty funny!


I sensed a bit of nervousness among the presenters last night, but having been up on stage myself I can totally understand why. The venue was great, but it was also really daunting to be able to see all 400 people seated in front of you. Some talks had more energy than others, and overall there was a nice flow to the evening.


The night got off to a strong start with Mike’s presentation on downtown. He’s the man that really brought Pecha Kucha to Edmonton, so it was cool to see him up on stage. I didn’t care much for Tom’s talk on the Capital City Downtown Plan. It’s important for people to know about, definitely, but I’m not sure it made for the best PKN presentation. Chelsea presented a visual diary of Edmonton’s urban culture, a really thoughtful and beautifully worded talk. Mike joined us all the way from Vancouver to talk about greening Edmonton. He shared some of his experiences covering buildings with vertical greenery. Ian’s concept, that “downtown should be a big patio”, was intriguing though it didn’t translate on stage as well as it could have. He’s right though, who doesn’t love patios and beer? Doug talked about some of the aspects of Paris that make it such a desirable city, and I like that touched on the potential for West Rossdale in here in Edmonton. Tai and Craig had some great concept visuals in their presentation which focused on the potential for urban farming.

I really enjoyed Ron’s talk, and based on the laughter in the audience I think others did as well. He issued a warning that the changes we always talk about for downtown will dramatically change the character of downtown. The 25 cent movies, easy access to parking, and alleys for selling non-prescription drugs will all disappear! He had some excellent visuals too.

Three of us made our third Pecha Kucha appearance last night. Shafraaz talked about the One Planet Living proposal he was a part of for transforming the City Centre Airport. Myron delivered an excellent tongue-in-cheek talk about the history of plans for downtown and how they haven’t panned out (kind of akin to this post I did back in February). And I made my second-straight PKN appearance to talk about the Alley of Light project.

Without a doubt Todd stole the show last night. He was the correct choice to close out the evening, as he delivered a really strong, high energy talk on interventions. I would argue he had the most memorable moments of the evening. One slide showed a before and after of a wall. The before featured some beautiful artwork on the wall, while the after had the wall blank with some inappropriate graffiti scribbled on top: “This wall used to have art, now it has cocks!” He called Edmonton a “magpie town” and implored everyone to say it loudly and proudly! Finally, one statement he made about his interventions project really stuck with me: “I should have asked people to DO something, then email me.”

The most common piece of feedback I heard after the presentations were done was along the lines of “I’m glad you and Todd went last”. I think people appreciated the fact that we talked about actually doing something, as you could argue that the other presentations, while inspirational, were more about ideas and plans than execution.


Pecha Kucha is always a hot topic on Twitter, and last night was no different. The #pknx hashtag was busy! Since midnight on June 17, more than 900 tweets have been posted about PKNX. Here are your top ten #pknx tweeters:

  1. britl
  2. gscratch
  3. TamaraStecyk
  4. lancetay
  5. DavidPapp
  6. SavageTiner
  7. EdmNextGen
  8. AvenueEdmonton
  9. CaryWilliams
  10. kevinlovestech

Here’s a word cloud of #pknx tweets from that same time period (with #pknx, #yeg, and RT removed):

As with PKN9, last night’s presentations were live-streamed by the Edmonton Journal – you can watch the archived video here.

Once again, Graphos was responsible for the visual design of PKNX. I really love the red X. Graphos really took it to the next level this time, creating an entire physical installation for the poster (you can watch the making of here). It was setup at the museum last night, so we snagged a photo:


The next Pecha Kucha Night in Edmonton, PKN11, is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, September 14 at the University of Alberta (in conjunction with Alumni Week). Keep an eye on @EdmNextGen for updates.

I received some really great feedback on my “I ❤ #yegdt” t-shirt. I had it made at Bang-On Edmonton specifically for last night’s event (I can now wear it to any number of downtown-related events). There were some pretty intense prize last night as well, including a Molson beer fridge! Presenting sponsor BT Edmonton gave away an iPod touch that I won (actually it was Sharon’s ticket). I went up and told Ryan to redraw for it – I’m the last person to need yet another electronic device! To make up for it, he plugged both my site and What the Truck?! – thanks Ryan!

Thanks to Edmonton Next Gen for another great event, to all of the volunteers for making it happen, and to everyone who attended or watched online! You can see the rest of my photos from last night here.

Pecha Kucha Night: Edmonton #9

Last night was Edmonton’s ninth Pecha Kucha Night, a completely sold out event held at the Royal Alberta Museum. It was the first time in Edmonton that Pecha Kucha has been sold out in advance of the doors opening. Last night was also the first PKN in Edmonton to be live-streamed, thanks to the Edmonton Journal. You can check out their video archive here. Edmonton Next Gen also recorded the event, and will be posting video to YouTube in the near future.

In order of appearance, these were the presenters at PKN9:

  1. Mack Male, Edmonton Blogger
  2. Bryce Croucher, Print Designer
  3. Dr. Kim Raine, Co-Director & Professor
  4. Kevin Kossowan, Food Writer
  5. Joseph Ahorro, Researcher and Ph D Candidate
  6. Duncan Kinney, Sustainability Nerd
  7. Jennifer Hoyer, Librarian
  8. Jennifer Livermore, Architectural Technology Student, Closet Activist, Renovator
  9. Nadine Riopel, Philanthropy Enthusiast
  10. Sean Healy, Software Developer & Man About Town and Adam Rozenhart, Digital Strategist & Man About Town

Our hosts for the evening were Ryan Stark and Next Gen’s new Community Co-Chair, Tegan Martin-Drysdale. They once again used iPad’s during their introduction to the evening, which was very obviously scripted. I kind of wish they had gone a bit more free-form and had some fun with it. Their job really was to keep things on track however, and they did just that.

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Overall I thought last night’s presentations were pretty good. Most people even decided to leave the cue cards and other notes behind! The evening had its usual up and down feel as topics varied from serious to funny and presenters brought different levels of energy to the stage. I was up first, so I did my best to set the bar high! I felt like my talk went well, but I’ll be writing more about that later.

Without a doubt my favorite talk of the evening was Sean and Adam’s finale. They did such a great job of presenting a topic that is of great interest to nextgenners in a completely accessible and fun way. Who knew you could talk about curbing suburban growth and the importance of public transportation in that way?! Their six minutes and forty seconds were filled with laughter, cheers, and some light-hearted jabs at Councillor Iveson and Mayor Mandel. Sean and Adam absolutely nailed it – great job guys!

Kevin’s talk on his family’s food system was another favorite of mine. He did a great job of talking about something personal without sounding self-interested. He was authentic, funny, and got his story across very effectively. If you haven’t already checked out his blog, do it now. I also really enjoyed Nadine’s talk on philanthropy. I thought she gave us food for thought and I loved her ignore-the-images-and-just-talk approach. It doesn’t always work, but for Nadine it did. Aside from myself, Nadine was the only other presenter who had spoken at PKN before, and I’m glad she was able to put PKN5 behind her. Duncan’s talk on energy was really great as well – I especially enjoyed his graph on the percentage of Albertans that are awesome.

Joseph, Kim, and Jennifer L. had the more serious talks of the evening. Jennifer H. delivered a really interesting talk on storytelling, and Bryce was perhaps the most memorable of all the presenters last night. He broke all the rules and basically went on a high-energy rant for 7 or 8 minutes!

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Twitter was busy as always, this time with the hashtag #pkn9. Since midnight on March 4, there have been 974 related tweets posted here in Edmonton. Here are your top ten #pkn9 tweeters:

  1. EdmNextGen
  2. TamaraStecyk
  3. zsaher
  4. SavageTiner
  5. DebraWard
  6. britl
  7. Sirthinks
  8. ZoomJer
  9. Neumanic
  10. stellal

Here’s a word cloud of #pkn9 tweets from that same time period (with #pkn9, #yeg, and RT removed):

If you’d like to read through the stream, you can do so here. I archived it (seemed appropriate given my topic).

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Some other thoughts on the evening:

The next Pecha Kucha Night in Edmonton, known as PKNX, is scheduled to take place in June at the Alberta Aviation Museum. Thanks to Edmonton Next Gen for another great event, to all of the volunteers for making it happen, and to everyone who attended or watched online! Stay tuned to @EdmNextGen for updates.

You can see the rest of my photos from last night here.

Pecha Kucha Night: Edmonton #8

Last night was Edmonton’s eighth Pecha Kucha Night, the first public event to be held at the University of Alberta’s brand new Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science. The lecture theatre we were in was massive, but the crowd was equally as large. Edmonton loves Pecha Kucha!

In order of appearance, here were the presenters at PKN8:

  1. Dr. Indira Samarasekera, President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Alberta
  2. Robert Rogers, Herbalist
  3. Carol Neuman, Board Member, LitFest: Edmonton’s Nonfiction Festival
  4. Dustin Bajer, Teacher & Permaculture Designer
  5. Ben Gardner, Intern Architect
  6. Nadir Bellahmer, Designer, and Michael Rivest, Intern Architect, M.A.D.E
  7. Leslee Greenaway, Edmonton-based Realtor, Save A Village
  8. Marcelo Figueira, Civil Engineer and Land Use Planner
  9. Anita Gregoire, Developer of Urban Food Production
  10. Isha Datar, Researcher

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For the most part, I thought all of the presentations were good. All of the presenters seemed as though they had practiced at least once, and no one really let nerves get the better of them. In contrast with PKN7, where the presenters could barely see the audience, last night’s presenters could probably see everyone, and I imagine that would have been quite daunting in such an imposing room.

I think my favorite talk of the evening was Dustin’s talk on permaculture. He started with a sort of introduction to the topic, before sharing the project he has been working on at Jasper Place School. Though he spoke pretty fast, he was loud, clear, and made permaculture sound very interesting. I really like the idea that “resiliency is the measure of connections.”

I also thought Carol’s talk was very good. She was very successful at promoting LitFest without actually talking about the event! That was in contrast to Nadir and Michael. Although they were entertaining, there wasn’t a lot of substance in their talk, and I don’t even think it was a very good introduction to M.A.D.E.

In talking with others after the event, Isha’s presentation seemed to be a favorite (she also spoke at PKN5). Anita’s talk on community supported agriculture was informative, and Robert took what seemed at first to be a very dry topic and ended up giving a talk with the most memorable quote of the night: “It tastes like chocolate, and it gives you sweet, sweet dreams.” Leslee’s presentation was very well done, but seemed out of place with the rest of the talks. I thought the topics that Ben and Marcelo chose were interesting, especially Ben’s on some new buildings in Edmonton, but perhaps could have been presented differently.

I also have to mention Indira’s talk. She’s a really great speaker, but I would say that her presentation last night probably wasn’t my favorite. She also went over time and bolted from the room as soon as she was done, but I realize she’s a busy lady.

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Some other thoughts on the evening:

  • Our hosts were Ryan Stark and Brian Murray, and once again they did a pretty good job of keeping the evening flowing. They also ditched cue cards in favor of iPads!
  • There wasn’t a theme last night, but “food” kind of emerged as the theme.
  • Edmonton was big on Twitter last night! #pkn8 trended in Canada (as did #yegvote). It seems that more and more people are using Twitter to enhance the Pecha Kucha experience.
  • Though it was cool to be the first ones in the new venue, it really didn’t work as well as it could have. The space outside the lecture room was tight and narrow, which made it difficult to move. Inside, the room had odd lighting and the occasional sound issue. And the event started a half hour late, due to technical difficulties.
  • There were free cookies! And a free photo booth (use password “Nextgen780” once the photos are uploaded).
  • The wonderful graphics for the event were done by Sarah Krzyzek. I understand she painted them on canvas and then scanned them in, which sounds like an incredible amount of work!

Edmonton Next Gen is planning the next Pecha Kucha Night in Edmonton for March 2011. Thanks to them for a great event, to all of the volunteers for making it happen! Stay tuned to @EdmNextGen on Twitter for updates.

You can see a few more photos from last night here.

Local Action, Global Recognition at PKN7

I was one of the presenters at yesterday’s Pecha Kucha Night 7 here in Edmonton. I’ve been thinking about pitching a topic for a while, but for whatever reason never submitted anything. This time around, however, I felt compelled to at least apply to speak. As Jeff said in his post, I sort of became the face of the disappointment over Pecha Kucha 6. I’ve been to every Pecha Kucha Night we’ve had in Edmonton, and I’ve blogged about each one. I have been both critical and positive about past events and speakers, but I’ve tried to be fair. In any case, I figured if I was going to dish it out I had to be willing to take it as well.

Pecha Kucha Night 7

I approached my talk at PKN7 the way I think it should be done. The topic had to be something I was passionate about (it’s almost always immediately obvious when a speaker is not passionate about their topic) and had already given some thought to. I worked hard to find images that represented my ideas, and I consciously stuck to Creative Commons licensed photos (see below). I created an outline for my talk, and then researched each idea to ensure I could back up what I was saying. Then I practiced – a few times on my own to get the timing right, and then a few times for Sharon, and once for my parents over Skype. I wanted to practice enough that I could pull it off, but not so many times that I’d be thrown off track when something inevitably changed during the actual talk.

Here’s the video of me presenting last night. I guess I went a few seconds longer than I should have. During my presentation I ended up saying slightly different things than I had practiced. Notably, I threw in the “feel free to cheer for your favorite” line which worked great for audience participation, but also meant my timing wasn’t quite as tight as I had practiced.

Here are my slides with the audio overlaid on top:

I received some great feedback on my talk, which was great to hear! I’m definitely harder on myself than others are, and if I could do it again I’d try to improve a few things. I think I looked down too much, and my excuse for that is that all I could see was the first row or two of people. I guess six minutes and forty seconds wasn’t enough time to adjust. I also would have tried to slow the pace down a little. Overall though, I am happy with it!

Here are the images I used (minus the two slides that just contained logos). You can click on each one to get the original.

Edmonton SkylineBendy RoadEpcor Tower
Edmonton Skyline
TEDxEdmontonEdmonton Skyline

Local Action, Global Recognition

The premise of my talk was that Edmonton can be recognized on the world stage if we focus on making Edmonton a better place for Edmontonians. I think there’s three key things we need in order to achieve the recognition that we seek:

  1. Density
  2. Storytelling
  3. Creative Economy

If we can succeed at all three, I think there’s no question that we’ll become recognized around the world. Other cities will strive to be more like Edmonton.

With more time, I’d have expanded on the “how” in all of this, but last night I simply encouraged the audience to find something they’re passionate about and to do it here in Edmonton.

I would welcome any thoughts or comments on this – thanks!