Going beyond TED: Singapore’s vibrant talks scene

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Techies, creatives, entrepreneurs, job seekers, event organizers, serial daters and generic busybodies rejoice – there are plenty of regular talks going on in Singapore to cater to all your specific interests. Dannon Har discovers which community suits you best.

First published on 8 Apr 2014. Updated on 27 May 2014.

A typical night at Pecha Kucha can be filled with laughter, or not

Of the many talks you can be attending, Pecha Kucha nights are your best bet for a fun time out. Going to one of these nights is like playing Russian Roulette, without the gun and the danger, but with the same amount of foreboding anticipation: you never know whether the next round will bore you to death.

For the uninitiated, Pecha Kucha (Japanese for chit-chat) is a format of presentation where each speaker gets 20 slides, with each slide only showing for 20 seconds, for them to make their point. Highly visual and speedy, Pecha Kucha nights often feature a large number of speakers from a wide range of backgrounds in quick succession and are great for broadening your interests because of sheer variety. If one speaker gets dull, take comfort in knowing that it won’t be long before the next hopeful takes the stage. Expect a good crowd of young professionals and creatives at these casual nights.

PHP workshop conducted at Hackerspace

Then there’s the uber cool Hackerspace, a cowork space which also plays host to a number of events related to tech, programming, and the like. If words like CSS, Scala and Raspberry Pi (no, not the sweet pastry commonly found on window sills) are familiar, this is probably the place for you to keep an eye out for seminars, workshops and meetups using their user-friendly calendar.

Attracting similar crowds to Hackerspace is JFDI.Asia, a startup incubator located at Ayer Rajar Crescent’s Block 71 – a popular haunt for entrepreneurs and small business owners. While best known for its business accelerator bootcamp conducted by industry experts, JFDI.Asia occaisionaly (about once a month) hosts guest speakers giving one-off talks. Prominent speakers include names such as Werner Vogels of Amazon.com and Tan Yinglan of Sequoia Capital. But contrary to Hackerspace, JFDI.Asia isn’t just for techies (although the bulk of Singaporean startups are tech enterprises); entrepreneurs and innovators of all kinds will feel right at home amongst fellow startup aspirants here.

Over at The Co., a coworking space housing a varied collection of outstanding startups, entrepreneur-friendly talks and meetups are also being organized at their first floor events space frequently. Expect a similar crowd to JFDI.Asia here but with a stronger emphasis on community. Themes covered are also often more varied, ranging from tech to fashion to food and drinks.

Mostly attentive audiences at Backstage Pass

For those planning events of their own, head down to Backstage Pass first. Organized by independent ticketing platform Peatix, this every-six-weeks affair features a well-curated roster of speakers brimming with first-hand experience in events organization and are eager to share. Those brave enough to have taken the (back)stage include Florian Cornu of Secret Cooks Club, Khee Shihui of OH! Open House, Mylinh Cheung of Epic PR, Jonathan Kwan of Audacity and many more.

The best part? There is even an open mic ‘lightning round’ after the speakers are done where you can steal the limelight for a precious few moments – excellent for letting the entire floor know who you are and what you do. This makes for smoother conversations during the mixing and mingling session at the end, which, of course, comes with refreshments as social lubricants.

Kevin Ou, director, photographer, entrepreneur and more

As for the creatives among you, CreativeMornings held at The Hub Singapore is a dependable choice to get into the scene. Photographers, designers, writers, and artists of all kinds gather monthly (despite the earliness) to mutually inspire while free coffee from Chris’ Cafe keeps everyone energized. Past speakers at CreativeMornings include world-famous photographer Kevin Ou, Audrey Tan of PlayMoolah and Wendy Chua of Outofstock Design.

Finally, for a more eclectic range of events that are fun, educational, sometimes irreverant but always a great way to meet new people, Meetup.com is the place to look. Set it to locations within Singapore and browse away at the many groups organizing talks and other gatherings running the gamut from nature walking to singles dating.

Follow Dannon Har on Twitter: @dannonhar

By Dannon Har
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