Canada Promotes Openness Through Exclusive TED Event

Skift Take

Pollution, morality, cultural genocide — Destination Canada’s partnership with TED featured authentic presentations on uncomfortable topics. They spurred vulnerable conversations among guests. Openness was on tap, with no room for PR spin.

Destination Canada is re-writing the destination marketing organization (DMO) handbook. Its latest event replaced small talk with deep and meaningful conversations spurred by the often difficult subjects presented on the TED stage.

Canada’s Refreshing Approach

Destination Canada partnered with TED to spotlight 14 of the country’s brightest thinkers and change-makers at TED@DestinationCanada.

With passion, humor, and tears, the topics reflected the expansiveness of Canada’s people, places, and perspectives. The universal theme of openness is the country’s new global brand strategy.

The iconic 18-minute-or-less talks covered everything from climate change to cultural genocide. The event was the first time that TED partnered with a tourism organization.

“As a two-time TEDx speaker, I must say that I was blown away by the whole TED Destination Canada experience,” said Precious L. Williams, CEO of Perfect Pitches by Precious. “I could not believe I was learning about science, coastal expedition, change, youth activism, architecture, effort porn, Chat AI, game theory and design, and so much more. I loved the speakers who brought in cultural references like indigenous reconnection and even the bottling of meat to connect the present with the past.”

All the speakers were connected to Canada. “This was a new way to express what makes us unique, who we are as a nation, what we believe in, and how we can be better. We let TED curate the conversation of what it means to be open,” said Marsha Walden, president and CEO of Destination Canada. “There is a new sense of freedom, physically, mentally, and spiritually — it’s all about open spaces, open minds, and open hearts.”

A Unique Partnerhsip with TED

TED’s connection with Canada goes back to 2014 when the flagship TED conference moved to Vancouver from Monterey, California. The brainchild of Richard Saul Wurman, TED started as a small think tank merging the themes of technology, entertainment, and design. It is now a global phenomenon and has engaged in many partnerships over its 39-year history, but this is its first with a destination marketing organization.

“TED’s mission of ‘ideas worth spreading’ is perfectly aligned with Destination Canada’s theme of openness. We are thrilled to offer the TED stage as a place for extraordinary Canadians to share their ideas with the world,” said Lindsay Levin, head of partnerships + impact at TED.

Speakers Are Also Destination Ambassadors

Many of the 14 speakers are also destination ambassadors. Virginie De Visscher, senior director of business development – economic sectors, Destination Canada, explained how one of the speakers, Normand Voyer, a chemist and professor of chemistry at Université Laval, has helped attract three major conventions to Quebec City.

His TED talk was about the molecular richness of the Canadian Great White North and the chance of it containing remedies to some of the world’s greatest maladies. “This stage is incredibly meaningful to me. I am outside my comfort zone here, telling a story related to my research while not hiding my feelings about my work,” he said.

De Visscher highlighted that having speakers like Voyer on hand to address groups is yet another attractive benefit to meeting in Canada.

Destination Canada Lays Out the Red Carpet

Destination Canada invited a select group of 100 to come together at TED’s New York City SoHo headquarters. Senior representatives from other DMOs, including Brand USA, Tourism New Zealand, and Switzerland Tourism, were among the participants. “These are collaborative partners we wanted to share the room with and have the conversation with about how travel can be the force for good, making it the industry we aspire to be,” said Walden.

Flawlessly planned, attendees gathered for an opening reception with many Destination Canada reps on hand. The first session kicked off with an Inuit duo who blended different styles of traditional contemporary katajjaq throat singing. A wide range of inspiring speakers followed, interspersed with networking breaks and a champagne toast.

The event concluded with a post-show networking reception held at the nearby Arlo SoHo. It featured Canadian food and drink and a gifting station of authentic Bastien Industries moccasins.

Photo credit: Gilberto Tadday / TED