The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Yousra Elbagir Headshot

How to Plan a TEDx Event

Posted: Updated:

From YouTube to universities all over the UK, TEDx events (x= independently organised event) have heightened in popularity amongst British students in recent years. The American organisation, TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) has expanded its scope through the launch of the TED Talk Video site, making TED and TEDx talks accessible to all. Having recently hit 1 billion views, appetite for TED talks amongst students is seemingly insatiable. The videos, never exceeding 18 minutes, always deliver when it comes to providing guilt-free procrastination material, courtesy of experts from all over the world.

The viral phenomenon has now made its way to the three streets of St Andrews and although we do of course boast a King-to-be or two, do not underestimate our backwaterness. Seeing the internationally-renowed scarlet TEDx letters standing on our turf tomorrow will be a proud moment. The conference will host experts from all over the UK, as well as our very own university professors and two carefully chosen student speakers. Speakers such as CNN News Anchor and Royal Correspondent Max Foster and TIME 100 Inventor Henrik Scharfe, will come to together to discuss topics that range from Kate Middleton to Robotics, in the wake of the University's 600th anniversary. Organisers Kian Schreiber and Jon Jachimowicz are incredibly excited to bring the brand to our tiny town and have been undergoing strenuous preparation for the event since early September. In the last few days leading up to the event, Jon said: 'I've been really passionate about TED talks for years and wanted our community to benefit from participating in this global movement.'  

Every student can import the TED mantra of 'ideas worth sharing' to their university with help from the following instructions.

Get a license: Contrary to allegations of 'elitism', TED has made the planning of a TEDx event open to all through the submission of a simple online application form. Once you have a license, you have control over all creative aspects of your event. However, the license does require adherence to strict branding codes, audience size and ticket prices to ensure uniformity and that it is kept non-profit.

Form a competent committee: The organisation of an event like TEDxUniversityofStAndrews requires a committee that operates like a well-oiled machine. Weekly meetings are necessary for members to work in unison. You will see the use of this with sponsorship and speaker invitations. No one will sponsor you without a high-calibre speaker list and without financial support you cannot accommodate any speaker. The phrase 'in preliminary talks with...' will come in handy more than once!

Send out speaker invitations: At the risk of sounding like a stalker, every speaker you can imagine will have an email address (or an agent's email address) buried somewhere in the realms of the world wide web. You just have to find it. There is also no such thing as 'aiming too high' when it comes to inviting speakers. TED fanatics are hidden in every corner and access to the TEDx brand means that one can very easily seduce even the most prominent of experts. From Stephen Hawking to Stephen Fry - cast your net far and wide. 

Gain sponsorship: The first sponsor is always the hardest to get, as it is quite difficult to convince companies to give you money with a speaker list still under construction. Be patient. You will eventually gain interest and be given something that will get the ball rolling. Focus on local companies and in-kind donations from university bodies - keeping in mind that your event and the university must remain unaffiliated.

Raise money: Do not fully depend on sponsorship. Fundraising is a way of making money and also marketing your event. Launch parties, bake sales and workshops can raise surprisingly large amounts of money, particularly with the support of local venues and catering. Tap into all of your resources!

Market the brand: Bombard students with your TEDx brand. Between deadlines and recreational alcoholism; students have a very short attention span and need to be regularly reminded of your event. Try and keep your advertising polished to suit the clean lines of the TEDx brand. Social media plays a very large role in garnering interest, so create as many platforms as possible and be sure to sync them all. A Facebook page, Twitter account, blog and website are of utmost importance so be sure to have someone technologically advanced on your team. The sleek website of TEDxUniversityofStAndrews was created by Masters student Lamine Cheloufi in record time. Search for hidden talent within your student body.

Take care of speakers; Speakers will require constant care. From special travel arrangements to an accompanying guest, you have to be ready to accommodate all of their needs that are within your budget. Be prepared for cancellations that can happen even in the last few days leading to your event. Some factors are not in your control, so keep composure and carry on! Remember to prioritise your student speakers. They are faced with the daunting task of speaking alongside professionals and will therefore need as much support as possible. TEDxUniversityofStAndrews partnered with an on-campus public speaking workshop called Speak Up, founded by post-graduate students Kerstin Glöckner, Barry Millar, Antonia Samanns and Aine Martinkenaite-Martyniuk, to train student speakers Maureen MacIsaac and Tomhiro Harada. The provision of public speaking training allowed for them to be chosen based on their ideas, with the development of their speaking style taking precedence shortly after.

There you have it. Along with organising logistical elements such as venue, lighting and cinematography, these are the main components of planning your very own TEDx university event. On the big day, make sure that all bases are covered by distributing duties to your committee in a coherent and logical manner. Be helpful to all attendees, student or not, and most importantly, try and take time to enjoy the talks. 

Stay tuned to find out how TEDxUniversityofStAndrews turns out, happening tomorrow!