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Alan Warburton’s Story

Alan Warburton has been, and done, many things. But throughout his journey he has always been a leader, and he has always inspired people’s lives.

As a young boy growing up in London, England he dreamed of playing soccer for the national team. He moved to a small town outside of Brighton at the age of 8 or 9, leaving Big Ben and the capital city behind, but not his dreams of being a soccer player.

“I went everywhere with a ball”, he says. “Practically all I did was play soccer. I loved sports.” His dreams led him to being the captain of the University soccer team, but that was as far as his soccer dreams would go. When he finished school, he had no idea what to do, so he took a year off to work at home for paraplegics. The vast majority of spinal cord accidents at that time came from swimming, motorcycle or rugby accidents.

After working there, while having drinks with some friends who were studying to be teachers, he decided to apply for Teachers’ Training College. Three years later, he was in the Bahamas as a gym teacher. He spent 3 years there inspiring young people. 

Eventually moving to Canada where he taught for many years before moving on to becoming a vice principal and then a principal for the last 20 years of his career.

“When I retired, I joined Toastmasters and discovered that while I had done a great deal of public speaking as a principal, I had been doing it wrong the whole time!”

One of his speeches was inspired by his work at the home for paraplegics. “IN A MOMENT” was a speech that focussed on how one second you could be a vibrant, powerful, strapping young man and then, in the next instant you were in a wheelchair for the rest of your life. The speech was good enough to get Alan to the World Championships of Public Speaking semi-finals in 2009. He also qualified for the World Championships in 2013. “I was selected out of 300 Toastmasters clubs in British Columbia. It was quite an honour.”

In 2018 a friend was organizing a Tedx in White Rock. He asked Alan to be the curator. “It was an amazing experience”, he says. “I saw the transformational power of a TEDx event live and in person.”

After the event, he went on a cross Canada trip with his wife Beverley, who is a strong supporter of Alan’s dreams. He planned his next move – to apply for a license for a TEDx event in Surrey. “I made a list in my mind of people to ask to take on leadership roles. They all said yes. It was almost as if it was by design.”

And so, the team was established. The current leadership team consists of 5 people from that original list: Alan, Ron Newell, Trevor Marples, Noel Bentley, and Monica Neville have all been there from the start. Since then, they have added Tanya Ehman, Gary Drouillard, Ellie Newell, and Quintin Ehman. “Without the team it would be impossible to pull this off”, says Warburton. “Any dream is only as strong as the team that builds it.”

During the time that Alan curated TEDxWhiteRock, he went to see TEDxStanleyPark (2300 people) at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver. He was inspired by the possibilities of a larger event and realized that a smaller Tedx (100 people or less) was not enough. It was time to grow. He has become the Licensee/Curator for a major TEDx event. In  to do this, he had to participate in a major TED international event. Fortunately, the TED conference was held in Vancouver in 2019, so he just had to come up with the $10,000 entry fee and voila! After 5 full days of amazing high-level meetings and Alan could not be stopped.

TEDxBearCreekPark 2020 took place at the Bell Performing Arts Centre in Surrey and was a resounding success. A soldout show with multiple standing ovations and an amazing lineup allowed the team to apply to become TEDxSurrey, which they are now. 

Last year’s event was virtual because of covid but was live-streamed to over 3000 people in 30 countries. This years will be held at half-capacity at the Bell Performing Arts Centre because of government guidelines but, no matter what happens, Alan says it will go on. “We have a plan A, a plan B, a plan C and a plan D. Right now, we are at B.”

“I’ve seen the power of TED talks and TEDx talks. As you watch the speakers and you see how important their idea is to this to them, you realize that ideas can transform people’s thinking and potentially transform people’s lives. If people come with an open mind they leave transformed. It’s that powerful.”

We can’t be certain what comes next in Alan’s amazing journey. But we can be certain that he will continue to inspire and help people realize their full potential. Just like a good TEDx talk.

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