TED is coming, sort of.
TEDxUniversityofRochester, an independently organized but still brand name event (that’s what the “x” is for), is slated for Saturday.
The daylong event, organized by three Renaissance Scholars, will feature 15-minute talks from 13 speakers, including: Nancy Soderberg, a former United Nations Ambassador under the Clinton administration; Dr. Lucía Murillo, an assistant director of education research at Autism Speaks; Ali. T Muhammad, a volunteerism advocate and the first Muslim city council member from Beacon, New York; and Karl Smith, a UR alum who’s known for using an antique typewriter to sell “ten-cent stories” around Rochester.
“I think if there’s any debate in your mind about whether you should go to this or not […] you’re crazy,” freshman Leif Johansen, one of the event’s organizers, said. “This is a really, really unique opportunity.”
The idea to host a TEDx event on campus came together when Johansen and junior Manan Hora and senior Maria Zagorulya, fellow Renaissance Scholars, pitched it to Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jonathan Burdick, who expressed his support for the idea.
From there, Johansen said, TEDxUniversityofRochester has been almost entirely organized and planned by students. Hora is the president, supervising three committees devoted to the planning of the event. Johansen, for his part, is charged with curating the list of speakers, recruiting them from the University and all over the country. Zagorulya handles marketing, including the event’s website and Facebook page. A third committee leader, sophomore Muhammad Miqdad, is in charge of logistics—coordinating flights, schedules, and hotels for the eight speakers who will be coming to Rochester for the event.
“I enjoy learning about effective ways of communication,” Zagorulya said. “Organizing this event gave me the exciting opportunity to learn how to use various media channels and promotional events to communicate with a larger audience.”
Johansen explained that it was a challenge to decide how to break up the talks so that the audience wouldn’t have to sit through three straight hours of speeches.
“Everyone [would have been] asleep by the end, or at least very uncomfortable,” he said.
The team ended up deciding to split the event into a morning and an afternoon session, interspersing TEDx talks with performances by student groups.
Attendance is capped at 100 audience members per session, due to a requirement by the parent company—TED places an attendance cap on TEDx events if the host hasn’t actually been to a TED conference themselves.
Nevertheless, the hosts are excited.
Hora said he hopes the relatively small audience size will help contribute to an “intimate and engaged” event.
One of the precepts for a TEDx event is that speakers can’t be paid for their appearances although their travel expenses are paid for by the event organizers. Even with speakers fees being waived, TEDxUniversityofRochester will come with a $20,000 price tag, to be paid for by the Office of Admissions.
Both Hora and Johansen said they plan to make TEDxUniversityofRochester an annual event, although they’ll have to search for other sponsors in the future.
Tickets are on sale at the common market for $12 per session. Johansen noted that, as of Friday afternoon, there were only about 40 tickets remaining between the two sessions. He added, however, that all the talks will be recorded and posted to the TEDx Youtube channel after the event.