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Earlier this month, the TEDx Thinking Forward Conference took place, featuring speakers whose experience ranged from being a student entrepreneur to winning a Nobel prize. The TEDx organising team had been working on the evening all year and it was a huge success. On Saturday Week 7, the team were awarded ‘Student Project or Event of the Year’ at the 2015 LUSU Awards in recognition of their efforts. Entrepreneurial students may want to be involved in the project next year, or even organise a conference or event. SCAN spoke to Maria Athanasiadou, a member of the organising team, about her experience as part of the exec creating an event of this magnitude.
How did you get involved in TEDx?
In the beginning of the year I heard that TEDxLancasterU was looking to find new members for the organising team and volunteers. I am a huge fun of TEDx events and I really wanted to organise one. For me TEDx means change and innovation; change that comes through the process of sharing ideas and inspiring people. Hence, I immediately got in contact with this year’s lead-coordinator and after an “interview” with him he offered me the position of Rule Maven and Sponsorship Officer in the team. My responsibilities included contacting sponsors and negotiating offers, drafting contracts and invoices, taking care of all the paper work and the accounts and making sure that the team follows the rules of the TED community. I was also a liaison for the community speakers, helping them with any issues regarding their talks, and on the day of the conference I was the Front House Manager.
Can you tell us a little about your experiences as part of the organising team?
I am proud for being member of this team, a team of individuals driven by their passion and desire to share ideas and make TEDxLancasterU more visisble. I will not lie; like every team, we also had our up and downs, people leaving because they could not handle the amount of work and people going beyond their powers to achieve our final goal. Working for TEDx taught me to expect everything, work efficiently to find quick last minute solutions in case of emergencies and to find alternative ways in order to achieve the main goal. Finding sponsors was tough, our budget was never that big, we had troubles finding a venue and promoting our event, we had a speaker cancelling two days before the event etc. However, there is always a way to overcome obstacles if you are willing to do so. We are thankful for all the help that LUSU offered us but also for all the help that we had from the local community.
You had a great selection of speakers, including Nobel laureate Tim Hunt. How did you manage that?
The purpose of every TEDx event is to bring to a community level leading thinkers and doers to share ideas that matter in any discipline, under the moniker “ideas worth spreading”, and tackle humanity’s toughest questions, attempting to answer them with innovation, enterprise and enduring optimism. This year’s event included 12 inspirational speakers and 2 performances. The speaker nomination was a public procedure; the public could nominate speakers or individuals could nominate themselves. After that, the organising team had to select, contact and invite the individuals that believed that suit better with the Thinking Forward theme. Moreover, the team tried to included speakers coming from a variety of different areas and tried to balance the number of external speakers, speakers from the local community and speakers from the university.
What advice would you give to students who are thinking of running a conference or event on campus?
Be prepared, the road to success is never easy. Whatever you do, do it with love, passion and energy. Aim to have an impact, to influence, to inspire, to change. Be ready to work in a team; believe me, one hand alone does not clap. But also be ready to go beyond your powers; you might need to take more responsibilities sometimes. Do not be selfish, ask for help when you need it; someone else might know better. Be ready to sacrifice your own personal time; time that you could use for other purposes. Work hard, be ready to face the challenges and find quick alternative solutions. Do not give up after the first problem, keep on trying. Seek excellence; do not leave things for tomorrow when you can do them today. But most importantly, have fun and a good time; the journey will end one day but memories and friends will last.
If students want to get involved in TEDx next year, how do they apply?
TEDxLancasterU is a student-lead non-profit organisation affiliated to TED and therefore, does not operate like the other societies on campus. Students can either be part of the organising team, TEDxers or TEDxFriends. Anyone can volunteer and be a TEDxFriend and offer their minimum help to the organising team. Contrary, the organising team and the TEDxers are not elected but selected by the year’s lead –coordinator. The number of the TEDxers is limited to 5-6 and the students work closely with the organising team. The organising team is also a small team of 7-8 members and each has different skills and hence different responsibilities. Anyone that is interested in getting involved will be able to apply in the beginning of the new academic year, so keep an eye on our social media for more information. And please, do not forget that TEDx is about sharing ideas. Even if you cannot actively participate, share your ideas with us. You cannot even imagine how powerful is your voice and the impact that it can have.