TED brings student voices to student ears

Group encourages a multilevel pursuit of truth

TEDxSLU (x = independently organized event), a conference featuring live talks, vendors and artistic entertainment, will be coming to Saint Louis University for the first time on Jan. 31, 2016. TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a bi-annual conference held to bring the world’s top minds together to speak for 18 minutes or less. To date, over 11,000 TEDx events have been held, making TEDxSLU one of the many, yet utterly important in its own right. This inaugural year’s theme is “The Pursuit of Truth,” opening the event up to a myriad of possibilities within the Jesuit tradition itself.

Being an independently organized event, TEDxSLU has had to overcome many obstacles. With the flagship name TED attached to the Saint Louis University organization, the pressure to perform at the highest level seeps into every aspect of the event’s design. This, in turn, created a team of coordinators who look for accuracy, specificity and enthusiasm from all participants. I recently sat down with most of the TEDxSLU team, including: Lead Organizer, Rocky Leng; Curator, Claire Martin; Sponsorship and Budget Manager, Han Diep; and Executive Producer, Dev Conboy.

The main event during the conference are the talks themselves. When I asked about the process of preparing the speakers for the event, the whole room lit up. “We have taken each speaker through a five month training process. The speakers meet once a month to develop the speech with the speaker committee and Public Speaking professors in the Communication Department,” said Leng. “The speakers have gone over and beyond our expectations,” added Martin. She continued, “The majority of our time in the next few months will be spent in the actual execution of the speech, making it concrete and focusing primarily on the delivery.” With the recent publication of “Talk Like TED,” by Carmine Gallo, the team has a lot of inspiration to draw from.

TED conferences are presented under vague themes such as, “The Great Unveiling” and “Will and Still”.

The same is true for the TEDxSLU conference’s “The Pursuit of Truth”. “[Speakers] want to hit on this broad topic on a different or unique perspective and bring to it something new, something fresh,” said Leng. He continued, “What we do here at Saint Louis University, through our research, our initiatives are all for the greater glory of God. Educating the whole mind, the whole body, the whole human being; it is in that pursuit of truth that’s different for everyone. We chose ‘The Pursuit of Truth’ to unpack these possibilities of: how does one pursue truth, what do we do if we encounter a truth different from our own?”

The “D” in TED stands for design, and it is the design of the event and media output that draws many people to the program. The design portion of TEDxSLU is inspiring in itself. Headed by former entrepreneur Dev Conboy, the media output, office space in the Cortex Innovation Community and the production side of the event brings about a sense of awe. “The Center for Global Citizenship offers state of the art accommodations,” he said, “That, coupled with additional tech support, will make for a highly aesthetic conference.”

This is important for students who may attend the conference, because there is a desire for the digital. Conboy exemplified this thought with, “We hosted a mini-TEDx, which has gotten a lot of hype. I had never seen an event get that many ‘goings’ on Facebook. The analytics have been great, because it was so on the radar with everybody.”

TEDxSLU is positioned to do great things with their inaugural conference. The team aspires to instill a sense of empowerment in attendees, plus the ability to connect after the event has concluded. These themselves are, “ideas worth spreading”. TEDxSLU will take place on Jan. 31, 2016 from 9:30-4:00pm.