2 and a half years ago, I dreamed of hosting a TEDx event. Inspired from a book, I emailed my sixth-form school’s headmistress asking for her permission. Letting me and an acquaintance embark on such a journey a couple months away from A-Levels wasn’t prudent, and a few weeks after our application was sent, I decided to withdraw it. Promising that I’d try again at uni.
Last October, we launched the TEDxPCL initiative, fighting for approval. Needless to say, the cards were stacked up against us. A 19 year old fresher asking to host the biggest event of the year, unbeknown to me was the 3 past failed attempts at getting a TEDxPCL license. After a frustrating few months, our fantastic 8 person team applied. Then COVID-19 hit. Locked up and back home, we pressed on with our lives. On the 4th April, we finally heard back from TED… awarding us TEDxPCL.
6 months later, we hosted a thrilling event! Live-streamed to over 1,200 people, 14 outstanding speakers shared ideas that have gone, and will continue to inspire thousands. From 'The Science of Online Dating’ to ‘The Fight for Fairer Funding’.
The most prominent is the leadership lessons I’ve taken away from it. Leading 7 others to create an event that thousands are looking froward to is quite the task. There were times I had to call on my mentors for advice, some of which I’ll be using for the rest of my life. A main take-away was to evaluate whether confronting a team member is worth the lasting effects and damage it could cause to culture. Sometimes, what seems to be a big problem isn’t worth confronting, because in 6 months it won’t be a big deal, and had you made someone feel un-easy about it, they’d have lost respect for you.
Secondly, and yes this may sound vein but it’s absolutely true, the status. I had many sleepless nights working on the event, a lot of stress, and some sacrifices to make it all work. But the people I’ve met, and the buzz it’s created, have undoubtedly opened doors for my future. Sometimes, it takes sticking your neck out on the line and doing something really big to push ahead. And I could recommend to anyone looking to get ahead in life, take a risk and impress people!
Thirdly, the legacy! It would be such a shame for TEDxPCL to be a one off, and enjoyed only by a handful. Since the start, we wanted this to carry on. Each year with a new organising team, new speakers, and a new audience. I’m so glad Amber Wilkins is heading TEDxPCL this coming year, and her team will undoubtedly surpass our event’s success! I wish Amber the best of luck, although it sounds like she has some spectacular ideas.
The benefits are endless! But as I reflect, I only now realise the rest of the organising team deserve so much more credit than they ever got.
- Annie Wisbey, who designed the logo, and created some incredible marketing content. She even went above and beyond, reaching out to potential speakers, managing emails and speakers. She’s one of the hardest working people I’ve met!
- Gabriel Knowlson, our head of marketing who built an outstanding plan and kept content rolling out continuously.
- Eva-Marie Bello, our financier, who built a budget that got past the Dean, that got us the funding we needed to pull the event off, and even got us left-overs to get some cool goodies!
- Alex Tang, our Escape rep and animator, who time and time again created beautiful animations that have made TEDxPCL stand out above other TEDx events, and will go on to opening the talks online.
- Sandra Thompson, a speaker and our ‘naive expert’. She would join our weekly meetings and offer some invaluable insights, kept us focused, and offered new ways of looking at things. As well as giving me personal advice on leadership when I needed it.
- Sebastian Reca, speaker coordinator. He read and watched ±40 scripts and prepped the speakers to deliver those outstanding talks everyone watched on the day.
- Joe Clark. My right hand. My best friend. Joe spent the 48h prior to the event with me, fully dedicated to the event, writing emails, responding to people, and making my workload more manageable. I would call him up at unfathomable times, he’d never fail to pick up and help me out on whatever I needed help with. My ambition is to start a company one day, and he’s the first person I’ll bring on!
To my team, thank-you! I know I was a nightmare, but I hope it was all worth it. To next year’s team, good-luck! You have a great leader, and you’ll smash it! To all subsequent teams, the bar is set high, but we hope you enjoy the ride ;)