The lights dimmed, a hush overcame the crowd, and backstage, our senses became heightened. For a moment, time seemed to stand still. Like a video being rewound on triple speed, my mind reminisced the nine months of careful planning and preparation leading up to this day, November 5, 2016. And then, a slight panic set in. Are the slides in order? Has the next speaker arrived? Does the clicker work? Breathe, Melissa. It’s showtime.
February 21, 2016 marked the beginning of my term as TEDxSFU’s Director of Content Development. I was greeted by a number of emotions that first day—I was anxious but ecstatic, nervous but eager. After our first team meeting, there was a sense of cohesion; a shared passion for the job ahead of us. On that day we had also, more or less, determined our conference theme—Take The Leap. And from that came my first assignment, to define our theme.
There were two of us in the role of Content Development, which gave us the added manpower (well, girl power) to execute our duties. It was our responsibility to unearth, secure, and support the selected speakers and performers in their journey to the conference. Following the interview and selection process, we were left with 10 incredible individuals—local changemakers with unique stories and ideas truly worth spreading. I am so grateful that my role gave me the opportunity to establish a rapport with each of them.
The speaker lineup comprised of a vast range of topics and backgrounds: a gay Syrian refugee; a former Miss Canada turned human rights activist; a fintech entrepreneur; a calmversationalist; an environmentally-driven artist; and five others, each communicating their own rendition of ‘taking the leap.’ There were also two performance groups, energetically opposite, which we felt actually complemented one another—a yoyo champion and beatboxer duo, and a contemporary dance group of three. What the audience may not have known is that these performers had not worked together prior to being selected for the conference. Seeing all of these pieces come to fruition in the form of a 7-hour long conference was both rewarding and bittersweet.
If you have ever heard of TED, you should know that it differs from TEDx. TED is the global, nonprofit organization devoted to ‘Ideas Worth Spreading.’ TEDx, on the other hand, is an independently organized event that brings a TED-like experience to local communities.
Having TEDx at SFU provides current students, alumni, and faculty with the opportunity to collaborate closely and develop skills in various fields, including event planning, partner relations, marketing, and leadership, amongst other things. As an event, TEDxSFU engages not only the student body, but also the greater Vancouver community by giving them the chance to hear, and hopefully embrace, a few new ideas and initiatives.
What we, the 2016 Organizing Committee, noticed early on was TEDx’s ability to foster a sense of community on all levels. One that is supportive, thoughtful, and respectful of unique, and possibly unusual ideas. Internally, 9 directors and 7 coordinators worked in unison to piece together different aspects of the conference. For our speakers and performers, we organized group speaker coaching sessions, as well as socials, to establish support systems. And on the day-of, you, as attendees, played a role in establishing your own community.
All in all, an event like TEDxSFU is an eye-opening one, whether you participate as an organizer, attendee, speaker, or performer. It brings to light the amazing ways in which people in our very own community are forging their own paths in the world.
Melissa is a 4th year Communication major and Business minor student. With a curious mind and creative upbringing, she is inspired by people and their ideas, and the power of collaboration. She gravitates towards pastimes, career paths, and mediums that enable her to tell a story. Previously a ballet dancer for 17 years, turned Communication student, she also has a strong interest in photography and graphic design. In the new year, Melissa will embark on a new adventure as she helps create the story of TEDxSFU 2017 as one of two Project Leads. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.