“An extremely inspiring event. So proud of the kids who had the courage to stand up and share their important ideas after working so hard to perfect their talks. Mixing it with adult content elevated the whole event, not just because the adults were good, but it really showcased how outstanding the children were when compared to adult talks…it inspired me to remember that anything is possible.” Attendee Feedback TEDxRundleAcademy 2016
Do you know something else? When adults believe in teenagers and give them the time and space to pursue their interests, magic happens.
A few weeks ago 12 students took to the stage at Rundle Academy’s Fine Art Centre and despite their nerves and fear of public speaking, presented their ideas worth sharing with a global audience at TEDxRundleAcademy.
Six months of preparation went into this event. That’s a lot of fear, tears, and real world failure. That’s a lot of drafts, searching for the right words, and pushing back your nagging feeling that your idea isn’t a bit interesting and powering on through.
For a child that’s a lot of pressure. This year our student presenters were mostly very young ranging in age from 11-18, with the majority in grade 8. What were you doing when you were in grade 8? Chances were you weren’t giving a TED Talk on the cognitive benefits of FPS Games, the benefits of the GENX Engine, or a treatise on why creativity enables us to survive.
So what elements have to come together for a successful school TEDx event?
- Time. It takes at least 6 months to comfortably plan and prep an event as big as a TEDx event. Students have lives. They need their lunchbreaks. They need time to explore ideas, to trash their ideas, to quit, to start over, to draft, to think, to process, to worry, to find inspiration, to keep on trying, and to finally find and experience success.
- Curator(s) and/or Lead Organizer(s). A TEDx event needs one or two people who know the TEDx system, have the vision for a school’s event, and are willing to shoulder the responsibility for everything. This role needs someone who is truly passionate and invested in this program, because a TEDx event takes A LOT of time.
- A Dedicated Support Team. A school is a remarkable place to hold a TEDx event. The very specific skill sets that the curator and their team need in order to pull off a major event are all present in-house. Teachers and support staff have skills. That’s why they teach. Seek them out!
- A Willingness to take Risks. There is so much that could go wrong with a TEDx event. Think of a wedding and then amplify it a 1000 times. However, if you play it safe with your ideas, theme, vision, and overall experience, the energy of the event will be muted. TEDx Events are ALL about new and important ideas. That means you will have to create a culture where everyone from the speakers, to the curator, to the audience feels good stepping out of their comfort zone.
- Students. Be prepared to invest almost ALL of your time into prepping, supporting, and encouraging your students. The time, effort, and, yes frustration, will be worth it. When asked if they will consider participating in TEDxRundleAcademy again, ALL of our students wholeheartedly said yes. This event becomes a vital and exciting part of their lives.
- Entrepreneurial Spirit. Running a TEDx event a similar to a start-up. You will invest hours, weeks and months into the heart and soul of such an event. You will work harder than you ever have. You will have to use every ounce of your pursuasive powers to convince your community that the heavy investment of time, people and capital will be worth it. The enthusiasm of the lead organizers is a key element.
- Fun. Make this an event that everyone in your audience will enjoy. That means keeping the 8 and 80 year old happy. It might seems to be a tough order, but plan your TEDx Youth event like you are planning for a family reunion. You will be super happy you did!
- Don’t Forget the Parents! The parents of the speakers should be your source of support. Keep them in the loop. Be very clear in your expectations. Listen and act upon their concerns. Remember, their child’s experiences are also their experiences. Their child’s TED talk, is their TED talk. When they see their child being so successful and confident, their joy and pride is enourmous. Be prepared to be hugged. A lot.
At the end of the day, TEDxRundleAcademy came and went in a flurry of excitement and energy. Our students surpassed all of our wildest hopes leaving the audience in awe. Why does this matter? Because a school should be a place of hope, innovation, experimentation, and safe risks. It should be a place where children enter with high hopes and leave knowing, with confidence, that they have the skills to turn those hopes and dreams into reality.
As some of our guests put it:
“I came away inspired, energized and hopeful for the kind of opportunities the students at Rundle Academy have to move mountains and find their personal best.”
“The TEDx program has given these kids an exciting platform upon which to express themselves…TEDxRundleAcademy has helped to establish an incredible community within our school.”
What more can we ask?