Interview: TEDxBrussels Director, Samia Lounis

By - November 14, 2011 (Updated: November 20, 2014)

TEDxBrussels 2011

TEDxBrussels 2011

On November 22, over 1300 people will descend on Bozar to listen to more than 30 speakers discuss, A Day in the Deep Future. TEDxBrussels is the biggest live event in the TED community, and there are still a few tickets left for this year’s event.

For those of you not familiar with TED, it began in 1984 as a conference for people in Technology, Entertainment and Design. Now it is a global, non-profit initiative, focused on ‘ideas worth spreading.’  TED’s free, on-line, TED talks are viewed around the world and past speakers include scientists, authors, actors, business innovators and activists.

We were fortunate enough to interview this year’s TEDxBrussels Director, Samia Lounis about the upcoming event. Read on for a sneak peek of what you can expect this year.

Why did you start a TEDx event in Brussels?

The concept is awesome: great content in a very appealing and understandable format. There was no TEDx in Brussels while it is the capital of Europe and Belgium. We needed a TEDx in the city of the EU.

This year is the 3rd edition of the TED format in Belgium. How has it evolved since the first year?

Every year is more complex. We started with 450 seats and had to extend to 650 with a waiting list of more than a 1000 people. First year was great, we did rebuild the EU hemicycle into a TED like auditorium with stage, sound and lights.In 2010 we moved to Bozar to host 1000 attendees, we had a bit more than 1300…Every year we develop a new theme, and new speakers. This year , the speakers offer a battle of visions about the world in 2061, 50 years from now. In 2009 the theme was “burn the box”, last year was “But who is going to save the world?” and this year is “A day in deep future”. We had a joke with the team a couple of weeks ago: “We are burning the box to save the world in the deep future”!

The TEDx speakers have very different backgrounds. How do you find them?

The TEDxBrussels team and friends is composed of a variety of people active in all kind of sectors, traveling and meeting with great minds all around the world….They become friends, it is easier then to invite them.

What are you looking for in a speaker?

Original content, inspirational ideas, challenging minds, world‐class reputation…

Where did the theme for this year’s event, “A Day in the Deep Future,” originate?

Many years ago I used to work in a lab which slogan was: “In this place a 100 years means nothing”. It was a blue‐sky research multidisciplinary lab with outstanding researchers from all over the world. It was all about “non applied research”, best time of my life! We cannot allow ourselves to think short term anymore. We all feel and know that EVERYTHING will be fundamentally different for the future generations. As technology has developed, we are more and more outsourcing our mental capacity to our tools, in some cases we are even becoming our tools. Our ability to manipulate the physical world has increased and time is shrinking, we all need to try to understand what is happening and play our part.

How does the large number of international institutions in Brussels (NGOs, gov’t, etc) influence the TEDx agenda?

We would like to influence them!

What kind of people attend TEDx?

This is our biggest satisfaction, I believe. The mix is awesome: EU people, expats, Belgians, entrepreneurs, creatives, politicians, students, artists, philosophers, programmers….

You had 1300 attendees last year, how many are you expecting this year?

About the same, we will not go up to 2000 as we thought in the first place, we are already at more than 1300 and we are closing next Tuesday. We will not go above 1400.

What are you most looking forward to from this year’s event?

No expectations, only surprises….and most of all people going home with their own narrative of an intense and multidisciplinary day.

Samia Lounis

Samia Lounis

Samia Lounis was born in Paris and  moved  to Brussels in the midst of the internet exuberance to set up one of the first online recruitment companies ‘Jobscape’ which was merged into Stepstone.  In the mid-nineties she became part of the initial Starlab team and ran the sponsorship department; that was her first experience with the MIT MediaLab. From 2001 until 2004, she was the director of the National Institute for Teleworkers in Belgium that designed the first micro-entrepreneurship courses together with the University of Antwerpen and the European Social Fund.

She serves as the Advocacy Director of OLPC Europe Brussels based since 2008 and is the organizer of TEDxBrussels since 2009, this first edition that took place  at the European Parliament She started TEDxkids@Brussels that took place for the very first time in Brussels on June 1st, 2011 that focused on “makers kids”.

We’ll be attending the TEDxBrussels event, and we hope to see you there. There are still a few tickets left, so book today!

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Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
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