Councillor seeks big ideas at new speakers' event

· The Pulse

Coun. Michael Janz is piloting a speakers' series that aims to fulfill a need once met by Pecha Kucha Night.

"Edmontonians are known for finding ways to come together and make cool things happen," the councillor for Ward papastew told Taproot. "I'm just trying to build off that spirit and keep things going."

That's why he's hosting ED TALK: Big Ideas for Edmonton on Nov. 28 at Metro Cinema. Inspired by events like Pecha Kucha Night, TED Talks, and ChangeCamp Edmonton, ED TALK will feature about a dozen speakers presenting for seven to 10 minutes each.

There hasn't been a Pecha Kucha Night in town since the now-defunct Edmonton's NextGen held its 40th and final edition in March. Janz said his event will deviate from the stringent rules around Pecha Kucha, where each speaker has six minutes and 40 seconds to discuss 20 slides.

"The benefit of not being an official Pecha Kucha is that we can play with format," he said. "We're going to start the event with Naloxone training, and we may also have video presentations." (The optional Naloxone training will be run by 4B Harm Reduction Society.)

Janz doesn't want to "let the cat out of the bag" when it comes to specific speakers or topics. But he said a group of Blatchford residents will present on forming a community league, and Paths for People will discuss how to make Whyte Avenue more welcoming. While the format will be loose, each presentation needs to be a catalyst.

"I want each of the presentations to have a solid call to action, like an ask for the audience to get more involved in the community," he said. "You come to the event, and then you're connected to either a cause or a volunteer opportunity, some way for you to keep your passion going."

Janz announced the event on Oct. 24, and he's still working out some details. Speaker submissions are still welcome via direct message on Instagram or by email. Janz is asking guests to RSVP on his website and to bring a little cash.

"I'm asking everybody to bring $10, or admission by donation. We're still working this out, but we'll have a number of causes nominated, and we will vote with the dollar, so to speak, at the end of the night," he said.

The interior of a theatre with red curtains and people milling about features a superimposed graphic over a movie screen reading "ED TALK: Big Ideas for Edmonton."

Coun. Michael Janz's inaugural ED TALK is inspired by speakers' series like Pecha Kucha Night and TED. It takes place at the Metro Cinema on Nov. 28. (Supplied)

Whether this event will be a one-off or ongoing depends on how the inaugural edition goes, Janz said. He said that Nerd Nite Edmonton is another great avenue to meet and hear from passionate people. That event, which happens monthly, is more focused on personal passions than city development.

"We're a big city. There's more than enough room to go 'round … I'm more than happy to work with and support any organization who wants to do cool things to bring people together in Edmonton," Janz said. "The genesis of this one was very much focused on challenges facing Edmonton."

Pecha Kucha Night itself may well be revived soon. Former NextGen vice-president Anika Zettel told Taproot via email that negotiations are underway to transfer the event licence to a new community group.

One might wonder why presentation-style speaker events need to be revived at all. A 2017 Esquire article lists The 10 Most Annoying TED Talks of All Time, and Julie Bindel skewered the format in The Guardian in 2018. However, PowerPoint presentations have become a TikTok phenomenon in the past few years, and Janz said he's seen these types of events lead to real change.

"I can still think of people today that I'm friends or acquaintances with that I met or heard from, or saw something happen (because of Pecha Kucha Night)," he said. Janz himself gave a talk at Pecha Kucha Night 5 in 2009 about the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues.

Janz has regularly organized panel discussions and speaker-oriented events since taking office in 2021. Up next is an evening with Charles Marohn of Strong Towns on Dec. 13, which Janz is co-presenting with Ward Métis Coun. Ashley Salvador and the University of Alberta's school of urban and regional planning and sustainability council.