A conference of minds

Inaugural TEDx speaker event planned for November

Andrew Phillips, ArtSci ’09, says he wants Queen’s professors, graduate students and alumni to speak at the University’s TEDx conference in the fall.
Andrew Phillips, ArtSci ’09, says he wants Queen’s professors, graduate students and alumni to speak at the University’s TEDx conference in the fall.
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If Queen’s has ideas worth spreading, they’ll get the chance at an upcoming TEDx event slated for November.

TEDx is an offshoot of TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design), an organization that holds conferences around the world on a range of subjects with renowned public figures. TED is owned by the private, non-profit group The Sapling Foundation.

Originally associated largely with technology and design, TED’s conferences now facilitate talks on topics ranging from entertainment and science to business and global issues. TEDx was created last year and was designed to allow schools, businesses and other smaller groups organize and host their own TED events.

Andrew Phillips, ArtSci ’09, said he’s organizing a TEDx conference to take place at the Queen’s in November.

“We have to apply for a license to have the official TED event,” he said. “We’ve done this and it’s been accepted.”

Phillips said he’s been networking with TEDx Toronto and TEDx McGill and using their resources to prepare for the upcoming event.

People involved in the Queen’s chapter met at The Grad Club on Monday to start the conference planning, Phillips said.

“There are TEDx conferences all over the world. The location determines the local talents where they share innovative ideas with the community,” he said. “Usually they try to bring in bigger speakers, from a broader perspective.”

Phillips said the event is volunteer-based so speakers and conference organizers aren’t paid.

Conference attendees don’t pay a registration fee but have to submit an application saying why they want to attend, he added.

Phillips said he’s been contacted by Queen’s alumni who have expressed interest in speaking at the event. The committee hasn’t approached anyone as of yet, he added.

“A possible TEDx conference at Queen’s most likely [would] include not only graduate students, professors and Kingston locals but also include Queen’s alumni or possible speakers from Ontario,” Phillips said, adding that the conference is slated to be held on Nov. 6. “[A] location is still in the works. However, it will be a half-day conference. If you want to come to the conference, you must apply by application.”

Phillips said those who don’t get accepted will be able to view the conference online. TED is known for their online videos of speakers, which are free for all viewers.

Political Studies professor Jonathan Rose said TED’s strength lies in its multiple perspectives.

“When I go to the TED website or use the TED applications on my phone I’ve got this huge array of really interesting and diverse talks,” he said.

Rose said the website provides a unique opportunity to allow TED chapters from all around the world to showcase guest speakers that have innovating and inspiring ideas.

“The uniqueness about TED is that it is cross disciplinary, it allows for the sharing of ideas and different perspectives. It brings together people that might not have the same interests,” he said.

Yafa Sakkejha, ArtSci ’07, is involved with TEDx Toronto. Sakkejha said TEDx tries to follow a certain theme for each of its events.

“Our last event was the theme “What’s Next,” and targeted university students,” he said. “The speakers all followed on the theme of what to do after university. Essentially there are no real criteria, mostly interesting topics that no one has ever heard of before.”

Celine Song, ArtsSci ’10, said the TED.com videos show a variety of speakers ranging from art, entertainment, business and others.

“There was a speaker from India, he was talking about cultural ideology and how it affects how you do business there,” she said. “That was the idea. He was a very good speaker because he was really trying to get through to the Westerner.”

Song said she thinks because the talks are free it eliminates the possibility of the organization trying to capitalize on their venture.

“They are not ideas that you can use to sell a product. These talks are distributed for free and have a real value,” she said. “These people are not charitable; they are using their ideas to better humanity.”

Song said although she’s an avid fan of the website, the accessibility of the conferences is limited because the talks are predominantly delivered in English. The organizers do provide subtitles, she added.

Steven Keating, ArtSci ’10, said he’s excited about a TED conference at Queen’s University.

“[The] TED concept is much more about inspiration,” he said. “It’s not often where you can go to a venue where any idea can be talked about. When you go to a conference everything is categorized.” Keating said he thinks the TED online content is educational and entertaining.

“It’s essentially like TV that you don’t feel bad about watching,” he said.

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