Ask The Expert
ASK THE EXPERT - TEDxWARWICK 2011
For each of our fortnightly themes, we will feature a question and answer opportunity with an expert within the field. You have the opportunity to submit your questions using the form below, and the answers will be published on the Knowledge Centre during the week commencing 28 March.
TEDxWarwick 2011 - Matthieu Baril and Sina Thieme
The experts for our theme 'Ideas Worth Spreading' were Matthieu Baril and Sina Thieme, coordinators of TEDxWarwick 2011. Having led the team of 35 that organised the TEDxWarwick event, they know better than anyone the challenges that any potential TEDx organisers may face but can also highlight how rewarding the experience of organising such a large event can be.
How did you juggle your undergraduate studies with organising such a large event?
Sina: Studying mathematics and also being involved in the maths society and the swimming and waterpolo club indeed made being coordinator of TEDxWarwick 2011 a big time-management challenge. However, I was passionate enough about TED to make the time and put other interests on hold where necessary. Being given the absolutely incredible opportunity to organise a TEDx event and the resulting motivation, the support from friends and family, the work of the extremely enthusiastic TEDxWarwick team, and the fact that people believed in our ability to create an amazing event gave me the drive to keep on going.
Matthieu: At the end of the day, what helped me keep everything in perspective was the fact that we were given this incredible opportunity to create something special, and that everything we were doing was going towards creating a completely new experience for the team, the audience, and everyone who would see our videos. So even though everyone on the team is busy with other commitments, knowing that this project means a lot to everyone else on the team helped me stay committed throughout.
How did you decide who to approach to be a speaker? What was the thinking process behind that?
Matthieu: We try to attract the most inspiring and thought-provoking speakers that we can. We look for people who have breakthrough ideas, fresh perspectives, and new ways of seeing and solving problems. We also try to create a line-up of speakers that reaches across many different disciplines, and this is something that differentiates TEDx events to other conferences. At TED we believe that all knowledge is interlinked, and that the ability to make connections between different areas of knowledge is key in finding new ways to solve problems.
We also work heavily with our speakers to prepare them for giving a TED talk. The TED format ensures that speakers deliver one breakthrough idea in 18 minutes, so we work with our speakers to ensure that they bring out the best in themselves in that short amount of time and create connections with the audience.
Did you have any problems during the planning process for the event?
Matthieu & Sina: Organising this event was a year-long process, and we were always trying to anticipate problems before they arose. However, that wasn’t always possible due to the range of issues we had to consider. For example, we naively ruled-out the possibility of our host, Luke, getting ill for the event, which of course ended up happening two days before the event. Luckily, Alexandra from the host auditions that were held several months beforehand, agreed to take on Luke’s job and she did amazingly.
One of the challenges we face every year is to adequately prepare our speakers for giving a TED talk, bringing forward new ideas and ways of thinking, rather than just a lecture, which is what some of our speakers are typically used to.
For the past three years we've held TEDxWarwick in three different venues. This year, moving to L3 gave us a range of issues we had to solve, especially since we had decided to put much more emphasis and attention on making great recordings.
Who was your favourite speaker of the day, and why?
Sina: My favorite speaker of the day was Charlie Price who gave a talk about aquaponics. This is the idea of interlinking soil free systems, which contain fish, plants, wormeries and crops, to “recycle” waste and thus grow food. I really liked the talk because aquaponics seems like a very interesting way of producing mixed crop food on a commercially viable basis and it is a perfect example of urban agriculture that I had never heard of before. It’s fabulous that it’s often the simple ideas, like aquaponics, that are extremely effective, and Charlie Price managed to convince me that his idea has the potential to change the world.
Matthieu: For me it was Kevin Kallaugher. In his talk: "The Magic and Power of Caricature", he recounted his experiences as a political cartoonist, and his charisma and humour really resonated with me. Amongst all of the humorous anecdotes, he took the time to emphasise the powerful aspect of caricature. He recognised that caricature has an important role to play in the promotion of freedom of expression, and that it is crucial for public figures to see past the possible humiliation that they might endure as a result of being depicted in a less-than-flattering cartoon, but instead see the maturity of their democracy that allows such caricatures to be endured. You can find lots of his cartoons and animations on his website.
What advice do you have for anyone thinking of putting on their own TEDx event?
Sina: The first thing you should do is to go on TED.com and read about how to organise a TEDx event. The site comprises a lot of information, helpful advice, and many TED guidelines which you have to follow. There is also a TED blog, a TEDx blog and some new interesting initiatives like the TEDx Organisers Workshop page or the TEDx Ambassador page on TED.com. Make sure that it’s feasible for you to organise a TEDx event in the settings that you were thinking of. If that is the case, then get in touch with TED, apply for a TEDx license on TED.com and find an enthusiastic team that can help you take care of getting speakers and sponsors, coming up with a marketing strategy and sorting out all the logistics. You’d be surprised, but organising this one-day event took us, a team of 35 people, about nine months. So get started early, know your way around TED.com and come up with a vision of how you want your TEDx event to look.
Would you do it all again?
Sina: Since I am graduating this summer, I will not have the possibility of getting involved in TEDxWarwick again. We have selected next year’s coordinators and are very certain that they will be able to bring TEDxWarwick to new heights. Looking back, I definitely do not regret having accepted this challenge of being coordinator and I would do it again if I could. It was an incredibly enriching and rewarding experience and I am very proud of what we managed to achieve.
Matthieu: Absolutely! Preparing this type of event is extremely rewarding and it’s so much fun seeing a year of preparation come together in one day. It gave us the opportunity to spend time with a bunch of great people and make lots of friends. It also put us in situations where we bring out the best in each other, and that's always great to witness and be a part of. I'm graduating from Warwick this year, so unfortunately I won't be part of TEDxWarwick 2012, but I will be available to support the new team in whichever way I can. I'm already looking forward to coming back to Warwick to witness next years event! There’s a lot to look forward to for next years event, so I’d really recommend getting involved to anyone who is interested in being part of this amazing journey.
Matthieu Baril is an Undergraduate student in his final year at Warwick studying Economics, Politics and International Studies. Sina Thieme is also in her final year at Warwick, studying Mathematics. Both were Coordinators at TEDxWarwick 2011.
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Also on the Knowledge Centre
Speaking at TEDxWarwick 2011, cartoonist Kevin Kallaugher reminisces about his career.