Do you want to know how was our Pitch Night 2019? In one word: eclectic. We had 9 terrific pitchers from all over the Netherlands, who spread their ideas and passion to an audience eager to be inspired.
We got together in the Avans Hogeschool in Breda, who kindly let us use one of their lecture halls. Pitch Night started at 19:30 hrs with our host, Jessica Voets, who acted as the perfect guide throughout the event.

She introduced the jury for Pitch Night: Deborah van den Bos, professional coach and owner of Treeconnection, she has been collaborating with TEDxBreda several times. Her work with TEDxBreda includes being a coach for the speakers of our main event each year. She likes to help them to become better public speakers, to feel more confident and to enjoy their time on the stage of TEDx. The second jury member was Martin Kroos, who gave an introductory speech: “energy comes from your own motivation, energy makes a difference”. The third judge of the night was a key figure in our local organization, the chairman of TEDxBreda, Elin Ram, who contributed with her optimism and youth to give a fresh point of view to the participants.

Then it was time to introduce the first pitcher: Elisah Pals, founder of Zero Waste Netherlands. She is passionate about reducing people´s footprint in this world, inviting and educating people our community through different platforms, about the waste each of us produces, how does it affect our environment and what can we do to reduce it. She has been living a zero-waste lifestyle for the past three years and she would love everybody to replicate that, even with small and individual actions we can make the difference in the ecosystem. Jury member Martin said he was very inspired by her pitch to modify his habits in the office, reducing his waste of paper cups for his morning coffee.

The second pitcher of the night was Gert-Jan de Hoon who came up to the stage completely dressed up, even with his backpack and his hat, ready to take us with him through the Camino de Santiago in Spain. His story was truly motivating, as he not only has been walking the Camino like many other Dutch people every year. He has been doing it with a twist: he has been guiding people with visual imparities to take the Camino with him. It wasn’t an easy task, but Gert-Jan is a very optimistic and vigorous guy who can face any challenge with a big smile.

The following pitcher was Lotte Blum, a fashion lover, who is not only concerned by the looks or the materials of the clothes we wear. She is also troubled by the negative impact of the fashion industry in climate change, the enormous amount of waste and the pollution generated by the production of clothes and fabrics. “I think we are all responsible for the well-being of our planet” – with the information that she has gathered, decided to do something about it, and came up with the idea of creating “vegetable fur” made with hemp. She was inspired by the isolation system of the polar bear´s fur, and with a “vegetable fur” she affirms, keeping warm could be possible without making use of animal leather.

The next one was a surprising pitch by Marijn Machielsen, with his speech called: “From managing director to junkie”. He shocked everybody with a phrase on the screens in the hall with his motto “Thank God I´m addicted”. In his five minutes, Marijn explained a few episodes of his life, from his early adulthood, how he started taking drugs, lost everything that mattered to him, until he finally got a doctor to give him the right diagnose, and since then his life change, he started to understand his behavior and struggles through his life. His pitch was inspiring and full of optimism even after experiencing dark periods in his life.

The first half of Pitch Night was about to conclude, and Marjan Knippenberg came to close it with her pitch called “Let go of control”. She has a fascinating story of how one day she and her husband, after living normal lives, all of a sudden decided to have an adventure and hitchhike in the Netherlands. They found out it was actually not that difficult and they were having fun! She took the decision to repeat the experience every Wednesday morning on her way to the office. She would go to the street, and “let it go”, just waiting for somebody to stop and pick her up. Thanks to this, she got to meet a variety of characters, nationalities, religions and circumstances. But she also paid attention to each person she shared a ride with, taking notes of experiences and pictures. She told us about a soon-to-be father who was going to the hospital to attend the delivery of his baby boy, and a person on her way to receive chemotherapy, or how all of a sudden she was invited to a wedding. In 2 years, she met 166 different people and these encounters changed her life. She learned to let it go, enjoy the ride and receive with a smile whatever would come on her way. A truly inspiring story!

After a quick break for coffee, we heard the pitch of Smriti Dutta with “Empowerment costs nothing”. Throughout her speech, she made us evaluate, if we truly have a life which is worth living. During her five minutes, she reflected about our actions as a society and took us through very personal experiences with her family, which shaped her completely and transformed her point of view drastically.

The seventh pitcher of the night was Michiel Hulsbergen, who is passionate about emotions and how can we express them. But not only how do they affect us on a personal level, but also the importance of them in a professional arena, which is not always recognized. After a failed experience with a book which was never published, he took us in a journey to understand the effect of emotions in our daily lives, take them seriously and to never underestimate them again.

Krishna Thiruvengadam gave us an inspiring pitch, taking us with him to little villages in India, where with the help of little kids, he has been able to make a difference in the lives of many people, designing artifacts which have transformed the way of living in those areas. He invited us to listen to children instead of letting them aside. They are full of creative ideas which are valuable for the community. Guided by an experienced and curious adult like Krishna, great changes can occur.

The night is about to come to an end, and our last pitcher, Annemarie Bogers, left us perplexed. She started her pitch on her wheelchair, and she told us how does it feel to be in one, the looks she gets, how people avoid her or try to help her – “(the wheelchair) is the first thing people notice when they look at me, people often approach me only because of that”, – “they think my life must be really difficult”. And then she asked, how many of you think I can run? – and just like that, she stood up on the stage! In front of a confused audience. She can walk, but she has a condition that affects her severely, if she is standing for long periods of time. Her pitch was full of energy, laughs and gave us a small glimpse into her life, changing our perception towards people in a wheelchair. Did you know almost 50% of them can actually walk?

After almost two hours it was time for the jury to discuss privately and come to a difficult conclusion – who would be the winner of Pitch Night? Who would become the first speaker of the main event of TEDxBreda 2019?

It was a complicated deliberation for sure, but after ten minutes, the jury came back to the lecture hall with a unanimous winner: Marjan Knippenberg and her inspirational story about hitchhiking in the Netherlands!

We are looking forward to hearing the complete TEDxTalk of Marjan this year, and we know she is very excited to share it with us too!