TEDxParkvilleWomen began with a chance meeting in the Doha airport. I was halfway through the long journey home to Australia after 5 months overseas, during which I had traveled from Slovenia to Spain, Croatia to Canada. TEDTalks had been my playlist throughout the journey.

Accustomed to starting conversations with fellow travelers after being on my own for months, I couldn’t resist commenting on the TED sticker on the laptop of the only other person in the airport coffee shop. The owner turned out to be Ramzi Jaber, organizer of TEDxRamallah, Palestine’s first TEDx event.

During our conversation, Ramzi made me realize that if I was really passionate about showcasing the variety of ways women are successful, dedicated, and inspiring, and believed in the power of TED to do that, then I had to jump in and create my own TEDxWomen event. After a bit of research, I soon realized that TEDxWomen was a mere month away.

I spent the entire next week on my laptop: Skyping, emailing, writing, brainstorming, researching—finally coming up with a theme for this event in Melbourne—self-determination.

The more I worked on my TEDx event, the stronger I felt about why people needed  to hear the insights and ideas of the women of Australia. I felt completely overjoyed at having a mission in Melbourne after so many months away from my city: to unite, engage, inspire and share.

There were hard times—planning the event definitely taught me I must trust myself more. Many times the voice of self-doubt would whisper (yell, even) that I wasn’t cut out for this—that there was no way I was going to pull this off. But I would remember Ramzi in Doha airport and his conviction that all it takes to run a successful TEDx event is to believe in the format and commit passionately to your vision.

Indeed this is what I had to do, because my speakers were counting on me. 5 of the 6 speakers were not necessarily accustomed to public speaking. They included teachers, founders of social enterprises, dancers, and lawyers. I remember sitting opposite a woman I deeply respect, trying to convince her that her ideas, which I had found so profound and important in my own life, were of course worth sharing.

On the night of the event, women poured into our auditorium after long weeks at work, ready for an evening of new ideas, strong examples, and new connections.

The atmosphere in the auditorium was buzzing as women connected, re-acquainted, laughed and hugged. By the time we reconvened after break to the stream, the audience was enraptured with the voices and ideas of women who were courageous and accomplished: not just pretty.

My six speakers did TEDxWomen so proud. There were reoccurring ideas shared: acceptance, risk-taking, community and the building of awareness of what serves and what does not serve women. None of them knew each other and yet they now plan to meet for brunch together.

Who would’ve known a coffee in an airport miles and miles away from Australia would inspire an event motivating the women of one of its most thriving cities?

Submitted by Emily Hehir, organizer of TEDxParkvilleWomen

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