How I Brought TEDx To My University – Part II
How I brought TEDx to my university?
Just in case you have not read about how TEDxUSMC started out to be, click on the following link to have a quick glance of my last blog post. I promise it won’t take long.
Speaking of kickstarting a student initiative, I really believe that it is the motives behind – ‘the whys’ that matter the most. Grouping up enthusiastic people that share the same or similar visions is just as important as making sure that they commit throughout the preparation stages. As the lead organizer of TEDxUSMC, I would love to share some of my personal insights regarding what makes a successful TEDx event.
What are the notable things that I think should be done by the Lead Organizer to ensure the success of the event?
Speaking as the lead organiser of the event, the best decision that I have made is that of getting a co-organiser in the first place. Engineering degree is surely not the most forgiving course a student can enrol in, and the academics as well as the tight schedule can be daunting sometimes (most of the time!). As a student, especially an engineering student, I would not have been able to cope with all the workload without the co-organiser. Conflicts are bound to happen though, in fact, the more serious you are about making the event a success, the more frequent the conflicts will happen! But then again, having another bright mind working with you, making sure that all the details are being taken care of can bring the quality of the event to a whole new level, after all, your main goal as lead organiser is to ensure the success of the event. Based on my experience, the frustrations of being in conflicts with my co-organiser was worth it given the amount of times that we got each other’s back covered.
Also, I made sure that each of the executive committee has read and understood the TEDx rules even before they started to plan for the event. I made it crystal clear to them that they should keep each other reminded of the rules from time to time as the outcome of not following the rules would be disastrous.
Managing a team of leaders was not an easy task, and it never will be. Throughout the organizing process, conflicts happened, minor or major, and they were normally caused by a difference in ideas and plans between executive committee. I did my best to be a middleman and evaluate each of their standpoints from their perspectives before making the final decision, if the need arose. The hardest part of this is to balance between the most correct decision and most wanted outcome, if possible. My way of tackling this issue is to prioritise tasks that require higher deciding power and leave the ‘easy’ decision makings to the executive committee themselves. This leads to the next notable point – time management.
By granting a decent amount of freedom to the executive committee, they are encouraged to be leaders, make decisions on their own without much intervention from the organisers and take ownerships of their responsibilities. This saved the organisers a lot of time and brain power, which would then be occupied with other more important decision makings, for example, choosing the content for the event. From this I learned that a leader with no more than needed decisions to make is a happy leader!
No one loves long, dreadful meeting. In my opinion, meetings need to be long enough to be informative but short enough to be effective. I suggest that different types of meetings are conducted to serve different purposes. For instance, organiser meeting, Ex-Co meeting and departmental meeting. Throughout the four-month-time of the preparation stages of TEDxUSMC, we had plenty of short, departmental meetings and less than 10 long Ex-Co meetings. Short meetings are for quick decision makings and to catalyse the execution of certain tasks. Long meetings are to focus on the harder decisions and the exchange of information across the executive committee so that they can gauge the team’s progress, which is very important to me because I believe that progress is the best form of motivation.
It is certain that the team will need to work together via physical meetups as well as online platform from time to time. With the relatively good network connection around these days, online collaborations are made much easier, until they are not. Interacting with a bunch of people in a bunch of WhatsApp groups in which all the titles start with ‘TEDxUSMC’ is very difficult, it is especially so when people decide to joke about their personal lives and double the difficulty to get the intended ideas across the team! It is crucial, if not the most significant, to make sure that everyone in the team understands how being specific in all matters can really be a time- and energy-saver.
As part of the curation team, I helped with the curation process such as conducting interview with the potential speakers, going through every single word in the speakers’ scripts and giving suggestions on the content of the scripts to the speakers. Curator sure is the most crucial position among all as this person helps to decide on content that would make a TEDx event truly a TEDx event. From what I have experienced, becoming a curator is also educational. I needed to be able to think critically from various point-of-views as to create an impactful and delightful piece of content for the audience. And that means a lot of discussion, reading and researching prior to the curation. Here I would like to give a huge credit to all the curators involved in this event for squeezing their brains to their full capacities. My ultimate suggestion for a TEDx event organiser in forming a curation team is never form a team of even number.
Last but not least, I would like to emphasise on flexibility, a must-have trait for the lead organiser of any TEDx event. The lead organiser must know their stuff and be clear about what is going on and make decisions based on the situation he or she is dealing with. For instance, the lead organiser should be resilient enough to deal with last minute changes, which are bound to happen, without becoming too frustrated and losing cool. Of course, I am not saying that the rules are meant to be broken, yet it is undeniably true that sometimes we need to do what is needed to be done to work around an issue. As the licensee/lead organiser of a TEDx event, your priority should always be making the success of the event a reality!
What I could have done better to make the event more successful?
If I were to organize another TEDxUSMC event next year, I would start the whole preparation process several months earlier as I could tell that the executive team was barely surviving with only that much time in their hands to prepare for the event, let alone catching up with their studies. This leads me into thinking that I was extremely lucky to have recruited capable people that can make a success of the event, even under time constraints.
Moreover, I learned that the devil is in the detail. I wish that I had looked into more details so that I could avoid the last-minute hassle of getting the public liability insurance as well as the equipment needed. My team and I should also have tested the live video broadcasting in length beforehand so that our online viewer could enjoy the show without being interrupted.
Punctuality really matters, though a large portion of Malaysians thinks the otherwise. People always seem to pay tribute to the ‘Malaysian timing’ and make it an excuse for their unpunctuality. But let’s not whine about it, instead, start by correcting your view on being punctual and be punctual when you are attending a certain meeting or event next time. After all, you would not want your team to be late to the meeting, would you?
Phew! Sorry for the long post, I hope you are still following me.
Before you go, there is something that I want you to consider. I have been learning non-stop throughout this TEDx endeavour. It has helped me to develop myself in many ways and even make new friends! If you think that you would be interested in organizing the next TEDxUSMC event and enjoy the fruitful outcome, this is the link to the TEDx Organizer Guide: https://www.ted.com/participate/organize-a-local-tedx-event/tedx-organizer-guide
Please do not hesitate to contact anyone from the team should you have any inquiries. Stay tuned to our Facebook page for more upcoming events: https://www.facebook.com/tedxusmc/
I would like to express my utmost gratitude to the Executive team as well as the volunteers for making this event possible. A special credit to Jeremy Weber for proofreading all my writings.
Also, a special thank you to Dr. Jo-Han Ng, who is our TEDxUSMC advisor for guiding us through this wonderful journey.