TEDxRiga organizer Mara Bukovska organized the first TEDx in Latvia with live speakers. Here she explains why TEDxRiga is important to her, her community and her country.

In recent years, my country — Latvia — has gone through quite a devastating economic downturn. Its economy has contracted by around 25%, and is just finally facing slow recovery. Dealing with this crisis is very controversial, and the level of pessimism and lack of confidence I’ve seen in my fellow Latvians has been a very frustrating experience.

Being quite worried about the state of people around me, I decided to express my impressions and emotions in a constructive way — with the aim to nudge change. This is when I thought of TEDx.

Riga is the capital of Latvia and it is also the hot spot of economic activity, the financial market, cultural life, innovation and — to many foreigners — the whole country. Thus, holding the first TEDx with live speakers in Latvia in Riga was key.

Few locals were aware of TED and TEDx before the event took place. It was very inspiring and very cutting-edge intellectual entertainment, which I realized would be the perfect tool to help restore people’s confidence in Latvia, as they would see and hear many talented, intelligent, and inspiring local people as well as Latvians living abroad.

As I registered the license, I was gradually approached by other people as passionate and enthusiastic about the whole concept as I. TEDxRiga really had to take place and it had to be great, inspiring, positive and encouraging.

The event was not only a great tool to tell the local community that their disbelief and lack of confidence in our country is exaggerated, but also, given the global exposure TEDx events hold, TEDxRiga seemed a more than great opportunity to show other communities what inspiring and talented people we have.

As we approached our potential partners, we told them that TEDxRiga was not meant to be just another conference: it was about true change and creating meaningful impact that would persist.

We tried hard and spent a huge amount of time on brainstorms and discussions to create a speaker line-up as diverse as possible and help these speakers find their ultimate topic.

Most of the time actually was spent on helping the speakers and performers to prepare. I must confess I was glad to see how excited and sometimes even very nervous our speakers were about the whole preparation process. Some were unable to focus on a single key idea and were worried about every slightest detail. This all showed how important TEDxRiga was to them — and afterwards many speakers admitted that this was a very enriching experience for them — one that would remain vividly encoded in their memories forever.

I firmly believe that organizing TEDxRiga has never been one person’s show, and there has to be strong an united team behind any great event. It was great to hear that people loved organizing the event and that they are excitingly waiting to start planning the next.

We have also received amazing feedback from our attendees and webcast viewers. On the day of conference, Twitter was buzzing and bubbling about TEDxRiga and while flipping through those tweets we saw how many great words were devoted to the event.

To share a few:

  • “We need to keep moving forward! To take risk, believe in oneself and learn. Unknown & impossible = great starting point. Conclusions from TEDxRiga today. Thank you!”
  • “TEDxRiga in one day exposed more than 20 great success stories and bright Latvian personalities. Great job!”
  • "Honor and glory to TEDxRiga organizers and speakers. The event was very successful and exciting. Keep going and looking forward to the next conference.”

Even though the event could only be attended by no more than 100 people, we are so proud that people expressed huge interest in our webcast, which was viewed by around 8,000 unique viewers. For a city with 1 million inhabitants, that might not seem like a lot, but that number makes it probably the most watched conference in Riga of all time.

And the interest has not diminished after the event, as there has been thousands of views on YouTube.

In the end, I believe that the true sign of a work well done is the fact that speakers and performers are inspired by a freshly gained experience; viewers are keenly looking forward to recorded TEDxRiga talks being published online; and that the whole team is excited to start planning the next TEDxRiga event.

Of course TEDxRiga was not without its challenges. There were very serious moments of doubt about the likelihood of the event taking place, but just as TEDx adminstration  expressed their trust by issuing us a license, there was no choice for us but to bring it to the end with greatness.

I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who put effort into making this wonderful experience happen. TEDxRiga has been life-changing for me and hopefully for others as well.

Submitted by Mara Bukovska, TEDxRiga organizer