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Students organise TEDx talks on curating quality content and being prepared for anything

www.punemirror.in | July 31, 2018
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The mammoth popularity of TEDx talks has spawned several smaller, more localised versions of the inspirational lecture series. Not to be left out, colleges, too, have been organising their own versions of the event. However, beyond procuring a licence and finalising speakers, executing this spread of ideas is a lot more than generating major crowds. Quality content and speakers who are more than merely a strong presence on social media, are not always easy to come by. The curation team for these events are therefore just as integral as the participants themselves.

Campus spoke to a few colleges in Pune that have successfully gained the independent TEDx banner and hosted stellar performances.

For Shruti Jani (21), quality content had to be the centre of the event at FLAME University. “Once we started working on finalising the speakers for TEDx FLAME, there were several social media influencers who reached out to us. They would offer to get their followers to buy tickets to the event if we put them on stage. That never seemed right. We had to turn down a lot of people, but we were absolutely committed to having substance and rich content,” shared Jani, a final-year student at FLAME and the co-chair for TEDx FLAME.

One way to not compromise on their set standards was to make TEDx FLAME a sponsored event, rather than simply selling tickets. “We didn’t want to make it a TEDx event — we were firm that it should be accessible and open to maximum people who would want to enjoy free knowledge. Thus, we set out to find sponsors and collect funds. Dell, Tata Capital and Karma Ayurveda were our sponsors,” shared Jani, who also believes that it’s not important to have a red-carpet and extravagant decorations to organise a good TEDx conference. “No matter how idealistic it sounds, all you need is great ideas that are absolutely worth spreading,” she asserted.

One of the talks at TEDx FLAME that won the audience’s hearts and kickstarted a conversation was Debangshu Moulik’s light-hearted and engaging session on ‘The Art of Hustling’. “Moulik confirmed his slot only a day prior to the actual event and dazzled the crowds with his interactive illustrations and extremely relatable life-story,” shared Jani. The talk was about Moulik’s 19-year-old self who didn’t make it to top colleges and how he learnt to make art via YouTube videos. The humanness and candid comedy in his story made it a heartfelt anecdote and valuable lesson.

While the TEDx FLAME team actually ended up saving money for the next chapter, organisers of TEDx BVDU Pune had to shell out 50 per cent of the money from their own pockets to organise their college’s first-ever conference. “It’s always difficult for the first-timers — a gamble and a risk,” shared Himanshu Taneja (24), a final-year mechanical engineering student from Bharati Vidyapeeth University.

The theme was ‘Coming Back to Life’, but the TEDx BVDU Pune organising team had to combat several drawbacks along the way, ultimately resulting in the event being cancelled twice. “The team was shaken — half the people we’d begun the journey with had left and there were new responsibilities and challenges, reminisced Taneja. The third attempt, however, proved to be the charm.

“We wanted students to become navigators and to introduce them to culture and motivation. Our coreteam of seven-eight people remained determined and focused. And, the greatest feedback we received was that Bharati Vidyapeeth had never had something like this before.” added Taneja, also sharing that prior to this event not many people on campus knew what TEDx talks even were.

One of the talks that was very well received was delivered by Vineeta Singh, an IIT-ian who declined a job offer with a package of Rs 1 crore and took to building her own start-up. “Her talk was very stirring — it motivated each one of us and there’s so much that she could offer to us. Along with being incredibly smart, she’s also an athlete and that left all of us to imagine our possibilities,” said Taneja.

While for some, the legacy of organising TEDx events is passed down by seniors, for others it comes as a first-time experiment. “When I was in Class X, I started watching TEDx videos and grew interested in the idea behind TEDx Talks,” said Samridhi Maheshwari. When Maheshwari (20) began her bachelor’s degree in engineering at Pune Institute of Computer Technology (PICT), she was recruited as a volunteer for the TEDx event that took place in October 2016. In 2017, she became head of the design team and a member of the curation team. “I didn’t plan on it, but I’m happy it happened,” she confessed.

While deciding the theme — Life in Technicolour — took time, it was not their only challenge. There were moments Maheshwari and her teammates were completely stumped when it came to finding speakers who promised high quality content. But, they had a larger goal in mind and no matter what obstacles were thrown at them, they remained focused. “We were not doing it for ourselves, but for our 100+ attendees,” Maheshwari said.

At the event, a talk by Himani Chaukar was one of the highlights. Chaukar studied the culture of the Ziro tribe of Arunachal Pradesh and shared her findings. Her speech demonstrated that associating tribal culture with primitivism or paganism is an unfair assumption on part of urban citizens. She went on to debunk various stereotypes usually associated with tribal people.

For Ayesha Shaikh (21) from Pimpri Chinchwad College of Engineering (PCCOE), TEDx was her special way of giving back to the community.

“We wanted to explore extraordinary stories behind ordinary things,” declared Shaikh. Their theme, ‘Behind the Scenes,’ aimed at looking at the larger picture behind seemingly unassuming tales and events. Shaikh also agreed that finding speakers is never an easy task, but her team remained focused on the quality of ideas, regardless of candidates’ experience.

Shaikh’s team had begun planning a year in advance of their event date — February 25, 2018. They carefully selected each member of their team and thoroughly equipped them to deal with any kind of situation. “For a month, we had continuously carried out drills. If something were to go wrong, the volunteers had to be prepared to deal with it,” asserted Shaikh.

Shaikh looks back on the TEDx event with pride and amazement as she witnessed the transformation of her teammates, the actualisation of a year-long project and the culmination of an idea. “It was one of the most enriching experiences of my life,” she beamed.

The one talk that won over the audience of TEDx PCCOE was by Ziauddin Sherkar who spoke about the existence of paradoxes within the Indian economy — while it is growing, it still remains poor. Sherkar explained that this paradox is related to the three pillars of development — education, finance and industry — and their subsequent mismanagement by the government. The socialist agenda of implementing governmental control in these three areas is responsible for the huge monetary losses faced by India, was the crux of Sherkar’s talk and a major learning point for the audience.

(Source: https://punemirror.indiatimes.com/pune/campus/walking-the-talk/articleshow/65188734.cms)