TEDxKanata 2016 : Breaking Barriers



Located just west of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Kanata is a hub of captivating people with extraordinary ideas. In addition to its fascinating, talented community of thought leaders, Kanata is also home to world-class companies such as Mitel, Halogen and You.i.

With so much talent in its very own backyard, TEDxKanata’s organizers and partners came together on March 31 to deliver a second annual event filled with engaging speakers, innovators and collaborators that nurtured interesting ideas and generated thought-provoking discussion throughout the entire evening. This year’s theme—Breaking Barriers—was sure to live up to its title.

The evening kicked off at 4 PM in a conference room at the grand Brookstreet Hotel, which was transformed to reflect the Breaking Barriers theme. As the crowd of over 275 anxious attendees took their seats, Jenna Sudds, TEDxKanata’s Curator, delivered her opening remarks and acknowledgements.

Craig Gauthier

Jenna’s welcome was followed by the first speaker of the night—Craig Gauthier, who shared the importance of perspective in our ever-changing technological landscape. A successful entrepreneur, investor, filmmaker, author and speaker, Craig overcame several challenging health problems at an early age—which fueled his lifelong drive for success. Perspective is everything, he told the crowd during his time on stage, and technology is an incredible tool. But does it separate us, rather than connect us? Are we losing perspective on real world problems, and our ability to contribute to something meaningful? Craig ended his talk with a call to action: let’s engage and connect with one another more in the moment to drive change.

Doug Smith

The next speaker was former NHL star Doug Smith, who at 18 years old, was drafted 2nd overall into the NHL to play for the Los Angeles Kings as their youngest player ever. The next 11 years were defined by hockey successes, hockey failures, his lack of awareness and the culture of a collision sport. His career ended suddenly at 29 years old when he shattered his spine during a game. Doug spoke about the mental vs. physical effects of trauma, and how the mind could very well be one of the strongest barriers we consistently face. As such, we don’t know the power of the mind, nor do we know much about what goes on “behind the scenes” – even in our own bodies. What can be said for our physical versus our mental boundaries? The reality is, he pointed out, is that at one point or another, we all suffer from a trauma. There are blurred lines between the mental and the physical – and also, a surprising beauty, opportunity, and positive outcomes that can be teased out from any trauma, or initially perceived negative experience.

Bruce Linton

After a short break, the crowd was ready to welcome its next speaker, Bruce Linton, CEO of Martello Technologies and CEO and co-founder of Canopy Growth, a medical marijuana provider. Bruce began by sharing his thoughts of business and entrepreneurship, and “the opportunity that happens when you’re there early, and when you navigate quickly.” He tackled numerous barriers during his time on stage, from legislation and regulation, to criminalization – all challenging when it comes to the issue of certain substances, such as marijuana. Throughout his talk, Bruce demonstrated the ability of barriers to create opportunities. “Barriers” are often perceived in a negative light. But, maybe – if we change our semantics and associations, and if we learn to thank our barriers, and to use them as an opportunity for growth rather than as a limitation – we can create something useful to many.

Alex Munter

Alex Munter, President and CEO of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), was up next to discuss the barriers and limitations and the potential future trajectory of the Canadian health care system. He highlighted some major complex issues, such as childhood obesity, mental illness, poverty, creating healthy communities, and smoking. Behind solving these issues, he said, lies a question: do we want our collective interest to further the needs of society to trump or concede to our individual interests and beliefs? These often imply making controversial and difficult decisions, and involve using taxation and limitations on marketing and advertising.

Justina McCaffrey Antonia

The evening of inspiration kept right on rolling with the story of Justina Antonia, and her changing name. As a highly respected fashion designer, Justina shared her knowledge on the importance of branding. Businesses place a strong emphasis on the power of branding, she said, but also suggested that we should think of ourselves, individually, as brands as well. She asked, what happens when your name, or brand, becomes recognized not only locally, but globally? Is that success? And what happens when divorce hits? You realize that on top of the emotional turmoil, you’re also suddenly caught in the middle of negotiating in a heated battle of intellectual property. Who owned the brand? Who owned the designs? Protect your name, Justina urged the audience, and protect your work.

Sheema Khan

After a second short break, the crowd returned refueled and recharged, and ready to welcome the next speaker—Sheema Khan. Sheema emigrated from India to Montreal at three years of age and earned her Masters in Physics and a Ph.D. in Chemical Physics from Harvard University. She also completed her post-doctoral research at MIT and McGill. She began her talk by asking the audience, who’s writing your story? Are you? Or are you living the story that has been written for you by others? “Writing our own story speaks to our individuality, our independence, our integrity,” she said. “It speaks to our humanity.” Sheema continued by discussing the spread of constructed narratives and agendas concerning the traditions, heritage and culture of Indigenous people – and how we apply this critical view to all cultural identities. She added that the Canadian landscape is a diverse and multicultural one, and posed the question, how do we preserve our cultural identities? How do we protect a culture, and prevent cultural genocide? Sheema closed with her most powerful question of the night: “I choose to write my own story, with the pen of my conscience. And so I ask you, will you buy into an official story, written for you, by others – or will you be your own author, and using the pen of your conscience, write your own story?”

Katherine Kortes-Miller

When you open your TEDxKanata talk with the line, “Life is a terminal illness, which is sexually transmitted” – you’ve officially got everyone’s attention. That’s what Dr. Katherine Kortes-Miller did as she took to the stage to share her insights on death and dying. A researcher, author, lecturer and former social worker, Kathy has also taught a variety of subjects including gerontology, social work, grief and loss. Kathy highlighted the importance of opening a dialogue about death and dying, and envisioned an ideal world where we no longer avoid “the elephant in the room” and feel comfortable to talk about, and explore, the reality of our mortality. She encouraged the audience to take back the narratives on death and rely on strengthening our communities and personal support systems in handling the transition to “the other side.”

Andrew Pelling

Dr. Andrew Pelling rounded out the evening as the final presenter at TEDxKanata. A biohacker and experimental scientist, Andrew uses low-cost, open source materials to create technologies of the future – including his team’s current work of growing human cells in apples and living skin on LEGOs. Andrew has studied around the world, earning a Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles, and was a senior research fellow at the London Centre for Nanotechnology. He has also been published in several patents, books and publications. Andrew began by asking the audience, how can we break the boundaries between the academic world, and the everyday world? Academia influences our culture, society, economy, politics, along with our relationships, our city’s stories – basically, every aspect or our lives, and yet, we rarely get to take a look, contribute, participate in, or sneak a peek behind the scenes at how all this research and intellectual community functions. Andrew shared his vision of relying on the curiosity and creativity of the community, in providing them with accessibility and resources, to accomplish great things. He believes that once you provide the necessary ingredients in the recipe, you are destined to yield a fruitful result. Bringing research off campus and into the local, accessible scene allows for people of the community to just walk in off the street and be transported into a world of real research, cutting-edge design, and brand new developments, all ahead of the curve.

That’s a Wrap for 2016

With tons of excitement, social media buzz, and over 275 attendees at this year’s extremely successful, sold-out show, not only did TEDxKanata have everyone reflecting on the question of the night: ‘What does the concept of “Breaking Barriers” mean to you?’ but it also firmly established Kanata as a collaborative and inspired community that is paving the way for Canada’s future.

Heidi’s Favourite TED Talk


Talk: re:Think Children’s Media by Lesli Rotenberg, Senior VP, Children’s Media at PBS

Link: http://www.tedxsmu.org/talks/leslie-rotenberg-rethink-childrens-media-tedxsmu-2012/

Why: I love Lesli Rotenberg’s talk because, as a mother and media professional, I think a lot about the impact of media on children and am interested in viewpoints offered on it. However, I have found that there is a tendency to paint all media – games, television, movies – with one broad stroke: BAD.

Lesli takes a nuanced approach. She concedes that there is actually good media out there and, while working with the world’s largest creator and distributor of high quality children’s programming may have an impact on her thinking, her arguments do not begin and end with public/educational television.

She talks about how media, even the games that we as parents love to hate, can teach children powerful lessons in grit and tenacity and inspire curiosity.

Because, as she notes, our job as parents is to prepare our children for the rest of their lives. And, if media can live up to the aspirational goals of cultivating the positive qualities we wish to see them develop, then the media is doing its job, just as we expect our teachers and scout leaders and the other adults in our children’s lives to do.

She notes at 15:40 in the talk: “All media should spark children’s curiosity and should expand their possibilities and it should give them the confidence to keep trying and never give up. And if we could do that, then the content we create can have an impact so much longer.”


About Heidi Lasi (Design)

Heidi Lasi, an award-winning director, producer and writer with over 25 years of experience, is president of Communicarium, a firm specializing in strategic communications, marketing and PR.

At Communicarium, they believe in the value of strategy and a cohesive vision to bring your goals and objectives to life. While the media landscape changes, the message must remain focused and true. They integrate traditional media approaches with social and digital in all their forms, to their greatest benefit and effectiveness.

Their tagline “The playground for serious communications” says it all: They take a fun, creative dynamic approach to state of the art communications reflecting clients’ brands in a modern, dynamic, exciting and accessible ways integrating graphic design, copywriting, social and traditional media, video production, and digital.

Review of TED 2015 and TEDActive


I had the pleasure of travelling to Vancouver and Whistler last week to absorb TED 2015, and participate in TED Active.

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It was 5 days of talks and over 100 speakers yet somehow it seemed to abruptly end on Friday.  Just as quickly as it began, it was over.  This surprised me for some reason, and left me wanting more.

Many have asked me all about the experience, so I thought I’d share!


How was the conference?

Incredible. Overwhelming. And then incredible again. The people and conversations were unbelievable.

What is the difference between TED 2015 and Ted Active?

TED 2015, or “big TED” as it was often referred to during the week, is in Vancouver. It is the full lineup of talks happening live.

TED Active is hard to put to words.  TED Active mostly happens in Whistler, where the talks are broadcast live from Whistler.  The entire conference is organized to maximize conversations and activities for attendees.  The majority of attendees are TEDx organizers, who are able to take advantage of seminars and break out sessions answering our questions on all things TEDx. So although we do watch all the talks happening in Vancouver, we do a heck of a lot more between the sessions as well!

 Which speaker was the most inspiring and what was your favourite talk?

This is a really tough question. There were so many incredible talks.  However there were two sessions that definitely had me on the edge of my seat.  These were “Life Stories” and “Just and unjust”.  These sessions left me with a serious headache due to the emotion they evoked!

If I was to create my top ten list of talks from the week, these would be my favourites:

  1. Monica Lewinsky
  2. Gary Haugen, Human Rights Activist
  3. Anand Giridharadas, Author
  4. Alice Goffman, Professor of Sociology
  5. Sarah Jones, Playwright and Performer
  6. Roman Mars, Digital Storyteller
  7. Dame Stephanie Shirley, Philanthropist
  8. Abe Davis, Computer Scientist
  9. BJ Miller – Palliative Caregiver, moving. Compassion
  10. Tony Fadell, Product Creator

 Why is it better to attend in person than just watch the talks when they are released?

The TEDActive conference is not simply a conference room with the talk’s webcast. It was back-to-back events that connect you to the smartest and kindest people from around the world.  These TEDx organizers covered companies, Universities, Cities, States, and Countries.  I was constantly listening and learning from those around me.   The reflection and sharing of the ideas after those talks solidified a meaning around them.

 What did you learn?

A lot. I learned that the attendees really make the conference what it is, and we all have our own skills to contribute to a bigger cause. I have never felt out of my league in a room of international superstars, but I also have never felt more inspired.

TEDActive maintains a brand for not promoting a company agenda for a good reason.  When you strip a selfish layer of speaking-up at a conference and start to listen and contribute shared ideas, this is where real building and collaboration happens.

It was an incredible week.  One that will be hard to beat professionally in the years to come.  However, I`m happy to be home now and looking forward to our TEDxKanata event this week.

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Angela’s Favourite TED Talk


Talk: Changing Education Paradigms by Ken Robinson

Why: Ken Robinson’s TED talk “Changing Education Paradigms” is one of my favourites.

There are many different types of learning and many different types of intelligence. Unfortunately, as Robinson notes, our current system doesn’t always encourage people to work with their strengths, and thus limits them from achieving their full potential – perhaps achieving something the world has yet to conceive.

Through my years in high school, I often found myself thinking that my time would be better spent doing other tasks, or learning more about subjects that I genuinely wanted to pursue instead of solely those in the assigned curriculum. Fortunately for me, I was still able to pursue my interests outside of school and later on in life, but things don’t work out like this for everyone.

In fact, I’ve seen many people become lost after high school because they weren’t prepared to make a decision on how to move forward. They were stuck in the conveyor belt mentality, waiting to be told where to go next. This is an unfortunate reality facing youth and—with the job market being as competitive as it is—a troubling one.

I think that different people, with different specialties, working together is key to driving innovation. Though I think there are pros and cons to the current public school system, the reality is that everyone has a different set of strengths and our society could benefit greatly by taking advantage of these differences.

Link: http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_changing_education_paradigms

About Angela Stairs (Social Media)

Angela has been trained in the art of the communication, with a particular agility on social media. She believes that different points of view make the world a more vibrant place and is always open to discovering a journey through a new perspective.

Currently Media Relations Specialist at JS Communications, she is an adaptable storyteller with experience in writing and editing for newspapers, magazines, and online publications, as well as developing targeted messaging for communications and marketing projects in both for-profit and not-for-profit sectors.

Deborah’s Favourite TED Talk


Talk: TEDxFlanders – Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHEMVhNEIuI

Why: A World Champion Skydiver’s Story of Survival and What It Taught Him About Fear, Adversity, and Success!

This is not only a story of survival, it is an inspirational story of following your dreams, overcoming obstacles and achieving success.  Dan B.C., as he is known in the skydiving circles, delivers an excellent talk about facing hardships and misfortunes and how to overcome them to achieve success. His philosophy is if you truly want it bad enough, you can achieve it.

We all have something we are passionate about, whether it is flying, traveling or writing. It is our strength and determination in pursuing that passion that defines us. As the saying goes, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life, as by the obstacles which he/she has overcome.

I know Dan personally and have jumped and trained with him in Perris Valley, CA on the Woman’s World Record, so I have a unique attachment to this particular TED talk. It’s truly an amazing story of what can be achieved if you put your mind to it, and how this determination can apply to our everyday lives.

Find out more about Deborah in the Team section of the website.


Marise’s Favourite TED Talk


Talk: “Your body language shapes who you are” by Amy Cuddy

Link: http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en

Why: Aside from using humour and scientific evidence (which happen to be two of my favourite things) to back her claims about body language and its effect on life outcomes, Amy Cuddy’s TED talk mostly appealed to me because it was just at the right place at the right time.

When this talk started to circulate the Internet, I had recently surpassed the confusing-yet-terrifying-yet-exciting milestone in my life known as “graduating university”. I felt like I was at a crossroads in my life and I wasn’t quite sure which way to turn. Carleton’s Journalism School had armed me with all these excellent skills, but was I ready to apply them in the big bad world of business?

The essence of this talk, in my opinion, is that new chapters in life will always be a bit scary. Whether it’s a new job, a new role, moving to a new city, making the switch from public sector to private sector, many will often hesitate and wonder whether they are cut out for the switch.

As an esteemed social psychologist at Harvard with quite the impressive resume, Cuddy’s most important advice is that you need to “fake it until you become it”. Not to downplay the importance of hard work, Cuddy uses touching anecdotes and exciting facts to reach this conclusion.

This talk gave me the confidence I needed to pursue new job opportunities, and it still remains in the back of my mind anytime I’m looking to make a career or life move. It’s a must-watch!

About Marise Varanda (Volunteer Extraordinaire)

A natural curiosity and a knack for storytelling led Marise Varanda straight into an early career of print and broadcast journalism. Now a Communications Specialist for JS Communications, Marise manages public relations strategies, social media accounts and advocacy campaigns on behalf of clients in the life sciences, automotive, petroleum, technology, and not-for-profit sectors.

Worldwide TEDx Statistics Worth Sharing



TEDx image with stats 2015

TEDxKanata – The Burning Question


As March 26th approaches, and I continue to discuss our upcoming TEDx event with anyone who will listen.  The burning question I am repeatedly asked seems to be Why?

Why are you doing this? Why do you want to bring TEDx to Kanata?

The answer for me is quite simple.  Why not?  Why wouldn’t we want to provide a stage for innovators and thought leaders to share their great ideas with our community?  Why wouldn’t we want to provide a forum of discussion around new, great ideas right here in Kanata.   It all just makes sense to me.

Our City is ripe with entrepreneurs, innovators, thought leaders.  Imagine the power of strengthening those networks and relationships and ideas.

It just makes sense.  The opportunities are endless.

So my question for you is – Why wouldn’t you attend?


Jenna Sudds

Curator – TEDxKanata

Roxanna’s Favourite TED talk


Talk: Shawn Achor TEDxBloomington – The happy secret to better work.

Link: http://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work

Why: When asked to write about my favourite TED talk, I thought this would be easy. I was wrong! I enjoy so many that I had a hard time narrowing it down to just one. After spending some time going through my list I decided to pick one that matches our TEDxKanata theme of “Driving Innovation.” Shawn Achor a speaker at TEDxBloomington speaks to his audience about “The Happiness Advantage: Linking Positive Brains to Performance.” A true and proven fact that when training yourself to think more positively you are healthier, happier and you have the ability to reach your business success. Shawn’s talk motivated me and reminds me to avoid the lows and find the positive in my personal and business life. I hope you find it just as insightful and entertaining as I did.

About Roxanna Grecco ( Sponsorship, Event Day Lead )

Sometimes jobs are tailor-made for people… With Roxanna Grecco she was tailor-made for her job, and she loves it!

With over 20 years of business, group insurance and pension experience there are not many people in Canada who are more qualified to head up and be the President of a Private Group Benefit and Pension Firm.

Roxanna started with Baird Benefits Plus in February 2011 and she has never looked back. Her work ethic and interpersonal skills have catapulted the firm to industry leading status. Outside the office you could find Roxanna on the school council, managing her son’s hockey team, skiing down a mountain with her family or thoroughly enjoying an evening of golf with the Women’s Golf Society at the Marshes Golf Course.

TEDxKanata – The Journey Begins


When I think of Kanata, I think of innovation. I think about all the incredible companies located here that are constantly creating, and innovating and pushing the limits of what is possible. There are many ideas worth sharing in the Kanata business community. For that very reason, bringing a TEDx event to Kanata seems like the perfect fit. This event is an opportunity to bring together thought leaders in a forum perfectly set up to share ideas, discuss and innovate.

Obtaining a TEDx license is no easy feat. I was slightly naive going into the process of what this really entailed. Suffice it to say, a few long months after I applied for a TEDxKanata license – the email arrived. We were successful.

Then the hard work began! I am very fortunate to have an incredible group of volunteers step up who have formed our TEDxKanata Committee. These individuals are all incredible business leaders who see the value, and share the excitement at bringing TEDxKanata to our community.

Over the next two months leading up to the event, I will continue to share with you details about the journey. Most recently I had the pleasure of meeting with one of our TEDx speakers, Canadian Astronaut Jeremy Hansen. Not often does one get to meet with an astronaut – let alone guide them through producing a TEDx talk!

Jenna and Jeremy

Stay tuned for more updates as the event unfolds. In the meantime, be sure to check back often to the website.

The audience is will be limited to 100 thought leaders. Please  apply for your ticket today. It will be an incredible evening – full of ideas worth sharing. Hope to see you there.

Jenna Sudds, Executive Director, Kanata North BIA