By Maisie Keogh

Not many people can say that they have planned and hosted a TEDx Annual Ideas Conference with 12 high-profile international speakers, before a global pandemic that led to a national lockdown. However, that is something our Lead Organiser Sheik Malik can claim with no prior experience of organising a conference. Saturday 14th March 2020 was quite like no other weekend. 

“Having recruited the team just 4 weeks before the conference day my team and I had very little time to get everything in order. We had worked round the clock to organise our flagship event and the evening before we were told that there was the possibility we could not go ahead.”

Luckily for Malik, with a lot of restructuring in collaboration with the conferencing team at the Technology and Innovation Centre (and a lot of social distancing), the event proceeded as planned. It was a great success, with almost all but 3 speakers delivering their talk in person and those who couldn’t travel to Glasgow gave their talk online via video conferencing system. The audience was inspired by the ideas and discussion on the day and thoroughly enjoyed the full-day conference with buffet lunch and entertainment – which was by far the last in-person event to happen in the country! The Talk playlist link can be found here

Photo credit Sheik Abdul Malik

Fast forward a year and the same ambition to host an outstanding event is still driving our Lead Organiser.

I joined TEDxUniversityofStrathclyde in August of 2020. I was a first-year PhD student and having spent years watching TED talks in awe of the inspirational stories, innovative ideas and emotive experiences of the speakers, I couldn’t wait to take on the challenge of being Co-organiser.

We spent the next 3-4 months carefully building our dedicated team, attracting students from all four faculties and drawing on their unique skills to help guide the direction of our 2021 event.

We spent over 60 hours interviewing our 50-member strong team ensuring that we had the most passionate and driven individuals for our 5 sub-teams: Marketing & Communications, Logistics & Stage Management, Finance & Sponsorships, Speakers & Curators & IT. 

Our Marketing & Communications team under the lead of Harry Phillips, an MSc Business and Management student, have been geared towards developing strategies which improve engagement and reach within our TEDx global community while assisting in various other projects. “Marketing is one of the most important aspects of any organisation’s success, hence why my team and I have employed several Engagement Marketing strategies. These have had a significant impact generating a 1277% increase in engagement and 481% increase in reach on Facebook, and a 596% increase on LinkedIn in the last month so we’re definitely doing something right!”

Working concurrently with Harry, our Head of IT Kat Chan, a second-year computer science student has spent several months evolving our website. In its final stages of development, the site will be ready to launch in March and anticipate that this will complement our growing social media platforms further helping us to boost our engagement.

Hosting an international conference is not cheap. Focused on attracting partners from business and industry, Atishay Sinha our Head of Finance and Sponsorship has been busily guiding his team towards attracting companies who are eager to associate themselves with TED brand. The Business master’s student has been speaking with the founders of startups and company executives to secure funding for our conference. “With the pandemic having swept the majority of businesses off track, planning for the future is now more difficult than ever for businesses operating in an already challenging climate. Despite this, however, our team continues to operate at full capacity, and have already entered conversations with a strong array of prospects. The future remains bright for TEDxUniversityofStrathclyde!”

Looking ahead to how our conference will take shape and how we can expect the day of the event to feel, is the domain of our Logistics & Stage Management team. Under the leadership of Cerys Goodwin, a fourth-year product design and manufacturing student, the group is responsible for organising various vital aspects. From the layout of the venue and set-up of the stage to lighting and catering, the team thinks practically, planning for every eventuality on the day. This is a particular challenge as there is so much uncertainty currently, but we are confident we can deliver a successful event whether it is online or in-person. 

Lastly, no conference would be complete without our 12 international speakers. Mrunalini Deshmukh, the head of our Speakers & Curators and her team of dedicated members have just put the finishing touches to our Speakers form. “I am thrilled to announce that we have just opened the applications process and we have already seen an influx of outstanding applications – this year’s conference is certainly going to be our most high-profile yet!”

We invite all those with an inspirational story or innovative idea to apply to speak at our Annual Ideas Conference 2021, the link to which can be found here.

You can follow us and get updates on our 2021 Annual Ideas Conference by connecting with us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.