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How TED's First-of-Its-Kind Partnership with Destination Canada Led to a Cool Speaker Event in NYC

The two companies brought together 14 speakers from around the country to show meeting profs that Canada is open for business.

All About TED's Partnership with Destination Canada
This is the first time TED has partnered with a national tourism organization.
Photo: Daniel Seung Lee

NEW YORK—An unprecedented (and just plain cool) partnership between TED and Destination Canada was the impetus of a speaker series event that took place Feb. 23 in New York. Some of the topics the 14 impressive Canadian speakers touched on? Polar bears, fungi, effort porn, AI, and legacy. 

This is the first time the nonprofit media organization has partnered with a national tourism organization. The event, dubbed TED@DestinationCanada, was held at the TED World Theater in SoHo and brought together more than a dozen Canadian thought leaders and change-makers to helm one of those famous short but powerful talks—with the goal to inspire a new era of travel. 

The theme for the event was openness, and while each talk enjoyably varied in topic—with speakers spanning many regions of the country—all touched on Canada's diversity in people and cultures, and inspired positive change. 

All About TED's Partnership with Destination CanadaThe 14 speakers for TED@DestinationCanada pose together on the stage at TED World Theater in New York (in matching cozy Destination Canada socks to boot).Photo: Daniel Seung Lee

"Our audience guests were surprised and delighted by how imaginatively the theme of openness was explored," Destination Canada president and CEO Marsha Walden told BizBash. "These stories, ideas, and actions will carry forward. This is only the start of how we will showcase Canada in a different and inspiring light. From here, we will share the talks with a global audience through TED, as well as our own consumer, trade, and events platforms."

Beginning this month, you'll be able to watch the talks online, including ones from Alysa McCall of Polar Bears International on how people in the arctic are co-existing with the animals today, and Matricia Bauer on searching for the truth about her Indigenous heritage. 

"It's all about the people with TED," said Virginie De Visscher, senior director of business development for Destination Canada, adding that the speakers at this event shared "their expertise, their knowledge, and their hearts, because some of them have very intimate stories."

All About TED's Partnership with Destination CanadaChemist Normand Voyer (pictured) from Québec City was one of the 14 speakers at TED@DestinationCanada. His talk covered the recent discoveries in the Great White North at a molecular level, and how those discoveries are providing medicinal chemists with inspiration to create new drugs and treatments.Photo: Daniel Seung Lee

She explained that this event allowed the audience to see Canada in different light—something she said is important for those in the meetings industry. "We had someone like [chemist] Normand Voyer from Québec City; he has attracted three major international conferences because he's world renowned in his field," De Visscher said. "His passion is what's gotten these conferences to come. That openness is really what makes that difference."

The event was also meant to highlight some of Canada's lesser known regions when it comes to meetings and events. 

"This is all about connecting that knowledge capital, because you hear about the big cities, but what about what's happening in nanotechnology in Edmonton, or cold weather testing in Yellowknife and Winnipeg, or infectious disease research in Saskatoon?" De Visscher posed. "Bringing TED alive like this is connecting that innovation and thought leadership to those destinations. It's going behind the scenes and beyond the well-known paths."

In addition, although it might go without saying, TED@DestinationCanada offered plenty of inspo for meeting planners looking for top-notch speakers in Canada.

"We have so many other amazing individuals and thought leaders, and the real message we want to push out is that openness," De Visscher explained. "So when you meet in Canada or come to Canada, you get access to that. If you want one of these speakers to be a speaker at your conference, that is something we can make happen. That spark? We can bring that magic to your event. And that's really what I would love people to take away—that collaboration, that openness is at the touch of your fingertips."

All About TED's Partnership with Destination CanadaAt the start of the TED@DestinationCanada event, Canadian music group Silla performed Inuit throat-singing for a captivated audience.Photo: Gilberto Tadday/TED

Speaking of that spark, we'd be remiss not to mention the engaging way TED and Destination Canada kicked off the event. Before the first set of speakers took the stage, Canadian music group Silla impressed the audience with Inuit throat-singing. After their performance, the duo described the art form as almost like a "friendly competition," and that it is traditionally done by two Inuit women. It was a surprise-and-delight moment that the audience (including us) won't soon forget.

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