7 September 2023

Poet and pilot Chris Huet inspires TEDx speakers to reach new heights

| Katrina Condie
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Chris Huet points ahead with one hand and at documents on his lap with the other

Chris Huet is coaching the TEDxCanberra – Beyond speakers ahead of the 2023 flagship event. Photo: Street Theatre and Helen Fletcher at Canberra Streets.

The incredible speakers at TEDxCanberra’s 2023 flagship event ‘Beyond’ will make you laugh, cry and – most importantly – feel inspired. But who inspires the speakers?

Who better than former Australian Air Force fighter pilot school commanding officer, business leader and national Poetry Slam Champion Chris Huet?

One of seven volunteer speaker coaches, Chris is drawing on his diverse background and speaking experience to help human rights lawyer Kieran Pender refine his “Whistleblowing, transparency and democracy” talk and prepare for the TEDx stage on Saturday 7 October.

As a fighter pilot and instructor, Chris was taught that speaking clearly and motivating others was not only part of his job, it sometimes meant life or death.

As a consultant, he developed a communication plan for a $20 billion aviation change program and led community forums on the environmental effects of a new Air Force aircraft. As a business leader, his listening, pitching and negotiating skills won billions of dollars worth of contracts for an international defence and security company.

Chris has presented twice on the TEDx stage and, through his company, mentors business leaders on communication skills. He’s also a certified organisational and leadership coach.

READ ALSO Respected human rights lawyer says courage too costly in Australia

He volunteers his time as a TEDx coach because he believes it’s important to provide a platform for visionaries and our future leaders to share their new ideas and inspire others.

“I want to help people realise the power of their idea and give them the confidence to share that idea in front of an audience,” Chris said.

“Some have never spoken at a TEDx event, but have a powerful strong idea, so coaching helps them to be prepared for that environment, regardless of their background.”

A senior lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, award-winning writer and an honorary lecturer at the ANU College of Law, Keiren hasn’t presented on the TEDx stage before.

“I’ve been working with Kieren, who is quite an experienced presenter, but I’m providing an opportunity for him to ask questions about the TEDx stage and helping him to refine his talk,” Chris said.

Kieran Pender speaks at a podium

Kieran Pender will present ‘Whistleblowing, transparency and democracy’ at TEDxCanberra. Photo: Supplied.

“The key feature of a TED talk is having a single, compelling idea that’s new or invigorated or hasn’t been presented before, and putting that idea in the mind of your audience and encouraging them to think about it or apply it to their own lives.

“You have around 10 minutes to break down and explain your idea in a way that people can easily understand, and that inspires them.”

Communication, in all its forms, has been key to Chris’s success. He has balanced the powerful and precise communication from his time as a fighter pilot and the head of Australia’s version of Top Gun, with the power of emotive communication as a poet.

He said it was important for TEDx speakers to avoid lectures, keynote or PowerPoint-style presentations in order to capture their audience.

“It’s just a single person, standing in front of an audience, personally sharing their idea with passion in a way that connects everybody in the room,” he said.

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‘Beyond’ is an opportunity for Canberrans to immerse themselves in a day of insightful talks, interactive sessions, and transformative performances that will challenge their perspectives and spark new ideas.

“People should come along to feel inspired and to be exposed to ideas they may not have heard of, to feel part of something bigger than themselves and to feel a sense of community,” Chris said.

“I believe in the TEDxCanberra model. It’s a fantastic environment for people in the audience to get excited about the future and to listen and learn from others.

“There is a lot of value in bringing people from diverse backgrounds together for a common purpose.”

The coaches will also run two half-day workshops for the nine speakers.

Since 2010, TEDxCanberra has brought together thousands of Canberrans to celebrate great ideas on science, technology, arts, culture and the humanities.

Members of the public are invited to join the ‘Beyond’ visionaries. The event will be emceed by disability and LGBTIQ+ advocate Wayne Herbert and also feature some of Canberra’s best emerging artistic talent including Phoenix Collective, Ruth O’Brien and Sam Sly.

Secure your spot for TEDxCanberra – Beyond at the Canberra Theatre Centre and explore the uncharted territories of knowledge and imagination.

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