University of Edinburgh’s TEDx Conference 2016: Connecting the Dots

The University of Edinburgh held its fourth TEDx event to date on February 18. TEDx events in Edinburgh were started in 2013 by Jo Holtan.

The event was hosted by two University of Edinburgh students, Pedro Leandro, from the University’s improvisation performance group, The Improverts, and third year student Lily Asch, who was a speaker at last year’s TEDx event.

The chosen theme for this year’s conference was ‘Connecting the Dots’ in which each speaker drew upon their unique and life-changing experiences to propose ideas for improving societal welfare as well as fostering individual development.

Prior to the event, 15 students were chosen at the beginning of semester, based on a competitive application process. These selected participants took part in a Student Speaker Choice Awards event held in November 2015 at the Teviot Underground, where they presented five minute talks relating to the theme. Through a voting process by the audience and a panel of judges, four finalists were selected to produce a longer TEDx talk at the main conference. The individuals chosen were were students Sabrina Syed, Catherine Wilson, Vimbai Beverly Midzi and Chloe Edmundson.

Sabrina Syed, a fourth year Architecture student spoke of being open about the connections between humans as well as in relation to creative design as the best way of learning more about ourselves.

In an interview with The Student, Sabrina explained that she was sure she wanted to talk about Architecture after first applying to TED in September because it was very niche and few people ever discussed it despite its inter-disciplinary nature.

In addition, Syed described the take-away message she wanted to convey to the audience: “to be open in the way they connected with others, and to be creative in the people they wanted to connect with.”

“As an international student travelling so much, you learn you really shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. So many of the best people I’ve met are people I wouldn’t have necessarily seen myself spending time with.

“Connections you make with as much variety as possible with always leave you feeling inspired. The people you meet with never be boring”, she said.

Syed is certain she wants to follow an architectural career path. She told The Student: “Being a designer and being a creative definitely shaped me as a person and literally influences the way you seen the world. You can relate to different people, because there is always something you can find in common.”

Catherine Wilson, another student speaker, described how performance poetry helped her conquer her anxiety and enabled her to come to understand and express her emotions better, in an interview with The Student.

In February 2015, she started helping out with the poetry performances being run by LoudPoets, a poetry slam group on campus, and working at the door. Eventually, she won her first poetry slam and began competing in national competitions.

“It took off so quickly. I had been doing gigs here and there, and helping out behind the scenes. I got more experience tech-ing, running the door and selling tickets, and when they needed someone, they started to ask me to help,” Wilson told The Student.

She continued: “My goal was to get booked for LoudPoets. Then, I kept pushing for other goals like getting booked by other groups, being on the LoudPoets Fringe Run, and so on. Since coming back into Third Year, I now organize LoudPoets and Soapbox, an event owned and run by EUSA.

The fantastic thing about university is that there are different things on and you can go ‘I like the look of that’ and within the space of a few months you may be one of the people running it”, she said.

According to Wilson, being a part of TEDx has improved her ability to talk confidently on stage. She expressed her plans to continue her poetic involvement in the future to The Student.

“It was nice to do my work in front of an audience who is completely different [to those at poetry slams]. People were quite open to it, but also surprised by it, the fact that there was a poet going on to speak. I learned how to publically speak with a message and balance of experience – not just telling stories, but illustrating it”, she said.

Wilson also explained that spoken word helped her articulate many things in her life, and hoped her example could encourage others to find creative coping methods when dealing with mental health issues.

“The arts in general is a fantastic resource for understanding yourself and getting over something that is particularly emotional. I want them to think ‘next time I’m struggling, maybe I’ll look to the arts”, she concluded.

Vimbai Beverly Midzi, TEDx’s third student speaker, centred her talk on the idea of writing oneself into history by being remembered the way one would like to be remembered. She discussed the internet as a liberating form of social media in which individuals could express themselves free from stereotypical, geographical or political constraints.

In addition, the fourth student speaker, Chloe Edmundson, emphasized the need for unleashing the potential of “university ecosystems” by shifting current educational systems from being intensely academic and exam-oriented, to encouraging individuals to instead foster and contribute their unique abilities and talents.

Alongside the students who spoke at the event, there were also a variety of speakers including academics, entrepreneurs, scientists and other creative individuals.

The remaining eight speakers which made up the twelve speaker event at the main conference were external speakers chosen by the TEDx committee.

The conference was organized by a team of ten University of Edinburgh students headed by Event Co-ordinators, Vincent Nimoh, and Lily Asch. The committee members were originally selected in May 2015, and planning officially began in September of last year.

In a statement provided to The Student, Sarah Smit, Communications Manager for the conference and a second year year student at the University explained her initial inspiration to apply for a committee position, as a result of attending the TEDx conference during Innovative Learning Week last year.

“As most people are, I was drawn to the brand name ‘TED’ having watching TED Talks online. I was, however, unsure what to expect out of the day, having attended alone. As the day went on I felt excited at being in the presence of equally curious minds. I became absorbed in talks about robotics, music therapy and mental health. I engaged in passionate conversations with newfound friends. I left the event feeling fulfilled.”

She continued: “Universities across the world host TEDx events. I have had the chance to interact and connect with people I would never have met through my course, or halls, or even in Edinburgh. For me, TEDxUniversityofEdinburgh has been a truly empowering platform to creatively engage with my passions in an open and inclusive environment.”

Image Credit: Kirsty McLachlan / www.campfire.agency 

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The Student Newspaper 2016