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World Changing Ideas

TED Talks, But Anonymous: "Sincerely, X" Is A New Podcast Meant For Secret Big Ideas

For people with powerful stories to tell—but who are too vulnerable to do it publicly—TED has an answer.

[Photo: jaym-z/iStock]

Typical TED speakers want all the publicity they can get, but not those who are featured on TED’s newest radio show. The show, Sincerely, X, will feature people with ideas to share—but only because they remain anonymous.

So far, Sincerely, X has received many hundreds of submissions, as TED producers have reached out to organizations that work with sensitive communities, such as people living with mental health disorders. With the show aiming to debut on Audible by the end of the year, now TED is opening up a call for submissions to the general public.

"Many of the ideas we’re seeing are based on personal experience, from people with vulnerability at home or in the workplace," says co-executive producer Deron Triff. "They want to share their idea because it changed their lives, but they wouldn’t want a public association with what happened. So it’s a very different kind of story—it’s very intimate."

The podcast hopes to provide a platform for stories that otherwise remain hidden and elevate them with the intimacy of audio. Many media outlets will grant a platform to anonymous sources who want to spill dirt on the government, businesses, or celebrities. But for people with more personal experiences or opinions who want to stay hidden, it’s not easy to find an audience beyond publishing an unsigned blog or comment into the internet void. (TED will work to factually verify the stories though their personalized coaching process for each talk they air, Triff says.)

In one episode, a woman talks about putting her life back together after learning her long-time husband and father of her children was gay. Her idea is that legalized gay marriage is a victory not only for gay people, but for straight spouses who have been the collateral damage of intolerance. In another, an executive talks about her difficult transition back from maternity leave, and suggests a way the business world could be reconfigured to change that dynamic. Many of the submissions have been from women.

Triff says TED would also like to feature stories about professionals, like doctors or businesspeople who have made mistakes and learned from them, "online vigilantes" who are "safely taking justice into their own hands in creative ways," and people who have lived with unrealized love, as just a few examples.

The talks will generally be delivered in the speaker’s real voice, though TED is working with Audible to find methods of disguising voices in ways that still seem intimate and not robotic. Along with the delivered talks, Sincerely, X will look behind the scenes at the process of speakers working with coaches to develop and polish their talks. Obviously the anonymity can't be perfect, Triff says, so people who would be put in danger if discovered are discouraged from submitting.

For TED, the show is an expansion of its work in audio formats, which includes its popular TED Radio Hour on NPR. Sincerely, X will be a featured part of Audible’s new podcast network (note: the company prefers to not call them podcasts, but "original audio series," in case the idea of podcasts turns you off for some reason) on the "Channels" section of its mobile app. You can pitch your own anonymous talk here.

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