A senior spring break to remember: The TEDx Unconference

TEDx Unconference, TEDActive 2015 Photo: Marla Aufmuth/TED

TEDx Unconference, TEDActive 2015 Photo: Marla Aufmuth/TED

There are many different ways to spend spring break during your senior year of university. While a trip to Cancun appeals to some, today I became a part of a family that craves something more. At TEDActive, new ideas give us our high, and making friends from all corners of the world happens effortlessly. Already, these connections are so powerful that you can almost no longer imagine a life without them. At the TEDx Unconference, we used these connections to divide and conquer, to make the most of our short time together. Here is what we learned.

Niki Ernst (A TEDGlobal and TEDx speaking coach) led the group of TEDx organizers in a conversation about how to prepare our speakers, with the white tips of the mountains glowing in the morning light through the windows of a beautifully sculpted log cabin. He described a TED Talk as a walk, with speakers and audience on the same path. To get us on this level together, the first two minutes of the talk are vital. This is where the speaker establishes a personal connection, using empathy or a story to ignite an audience-speaker relationship, rather than foster a divide. Other similar tips were shared, while conversation was stimulated amongst fellow TEDx organizers. The common thought running through my mind was “Man, if I had only known all of this for my first event.”

Other options for topics to discuss ranged from engaging an audience for a university event, to how to effectively use social media to promote your TEDx event, to the TEDx open music project. But my TEDx Unconference experience wrapped up with a session focusing on the importance of a story in TEDx talks. What I didn’t realize was that it would unintentionally become a form of therapy, where each of us around the circle shared a story of failure, opening the gates to some of our darkest moments to strangers we immediately confided in. We experienced the importance and power of story through sharing our own. In only two hours, I personally experienced a transformation — not only in the way I will now organize my TEDx events, but also in the way I will forever create personal connections with my peers. I do not think I could have imagined a better way to spend the first day of my spring break and I can’t wait for what the rest of this magical week holds.

Aidan checks in at the Unconference

TEDx Unconference, TEDActive 2015 Photo: Marla Aufmuth/TED


By Aidan McParland

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