- Language Tips
Author Milan Kundera quoted the ancient Jewish proverb, "Man thinks, God laughs", in his acceptance speech for the 1985 Jerusalem Prize.
More than two decades later and far away in China, Wang Dong in an apparent response, adopts, "Let's think aloud, louder than God's laughter", as his slogan.
Wang founded Think Plus, a motivational seminar consisting of brief and powerful lectures given by elites from different industries. Each speaker is given just 16 minutes to talk about the most interesting things he or she does. They can choose to verbalize their thoughts, act it out, have a dialog or Q&A with the audiences, or use multimedia tools to convey their message.
The event, held for the first time at China Millennium Monument, Beijing, on Aug 4, attracted nearly 500 people from all over the country.
Wang fulfilled his pledge of "inviting different people from different industries". The speakers for the first run included online apparel seller Vancl's founder Chen Nian, paleontologist Xu Xing, environmentalist Ma Jun, founder of Orange Hotel Wu Hai, anthropologist Xiao Ke, physician Li Miao, firebug analyst Fu Xinhua, and director Zhang Yuan.
Some of the speakers employed unique presentation styles.
When firebug analyst Fu went onstage, the lights were dimmed. He started with a fairy tale about a Chinese scholar, who was too poor to afford an oil lamp and had to resort to catching fireflies to be placed in glass bottles, to brighten up his surroundings. Fu then turned around to ask the audience if they thought the fireflies were bright enough to light up the room for the scholar to read.
Paleontologist Xu Xing showed some pictures of giant dinosaurs. His speech was about the probable existence of flying dinosaurs.
When Orange Hotel founder Wu Hai appeared, the audience gasped and laughed: He was half-naked. His talk was about thinking out of the box.
The seminar borrows its idea from TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design), a global conference by the non-profit Sapling Foundation.
TED conferences, with the tagline "Ideas Worth Spreading", have invited top-notch presenters such as Bill Clinton, Bill Gates and Google founder Larry Page. It has become extremely popular in the last two years as many of the talks are available online for free and many young Chinese have watched it.
"We are inspired by TED. This seminar is a good platform that encourages people to create, to present their ideas. We want Think Plus to inspire audiences and help them think," Wang says.
Wang came up with Think Plus because of the requirements of his job. As the executive director of the marketing and commercial business unit of Lenovo China, he and his team were required to launch an event to celebrate ThinkPad's 20th anniversary this year. A fan of TED, Wang proposed the idea of having a Chinese TED conference, and that was how Think Plus came about.
Presenters have to be professionals in their field of expertise and it would be better if they are already household names.
While sourcing for presenters, Wang realized that he knew many professionals in IT, physics, science and business, but not those in the areas of art, society and media. That's when he thought of Chen Mingyang, deputy executive editor-in-chief of Southern Weekend, which has been described as "China's most influential liberal newspaper" by The New York Times. Both decided to work together.
Chen and his team soon started inviting influential speakers they knew. "We laid down the criteria that the speakers should not be limited to one area. They should be cross-disciplinary," Chen says.
Another criteria that defers from TED is - while TED requires presenters to speak for 18 minutes, Think Plus gives speakers only 16 minutes. That's after Think Plus organizers did some research on the Chinese language and discovered that a person needs only 16 minutes to convey what he or she thinks in Chinese, in contrast to 18 minutes in English.
"At the same time, most people have a short attention span, they can only focus for about 20 minutes. So, we decided to limit the presentation time, enough for listeners to think, to interact with the speaker," Chen says.
Unlike TED conferences, which have a history of 28 years, Think Plus is a newborn baby.
The organizers plan to conduct Think Plus in Guangdong's provincial capital Guangzhou, Sichuan's provincial capital Chengdu and Shanghai in the coming months. They have a list of more than 30 professionals who have agreed to be speakers.
When firebug analyst Fu ended his speech, he turned off all the lights in the room. Then, he took out a glass bottle with fireflies inside.
Though the light emitted by the bugs was dim, the innovative presentation style wowed the audience - many of whom are city dwellers who have never seen fireflies. That's exactly what Think Plus hopes to achieve - seminars that wow the audience, and inspire them.
(China Daily 08/11/2012 page11)