The evolution of TEDxRU

[Y]ou might have seen the red-X’s around campus grounds, and you might have watched a few TED Talks online, but what exactly is TEDxRyersonU?

TEDxRyersonU is an annual conference that features local creative and inspiring speakers, whether they’re Ryerson students, faculty or alumni.

This year’s conference, “361 Degrees: A New Angle,” showcased Ryerson professors and graduates speaking about topics ranging from art, human connection and sanism to start-ups, urbanization and robotics.

The conference is organized and produced each year in November by the student group.

TEDx was first brought to Ryerson in 2010 by Parvinder Sachdeva, then a second-year business student. An avid watcher of TED Talks, he wanted to bring the concept of “Ideas Worth Sharing” to his own community.

A global organization, TED requires independent groups to obtain proper licensing in order to host an event. Sachdeva was flown to a TEDActive conference in California by the Ryerson Commerce Society (RCS), and returned to secure a license.

As an academic institution, TEDxRyersonU had a 100-attendee limit at their first event, “Inspiring Your Future”, on Nov. 27 2010.

A typical TEDx event includes breakfast, lunch, a swag-bag and the chance to network. Attendees at a TEDx events are referred to as delegates; delegate applications normally require a registration fee as well as a personal statement as to why you’d like to attend.

In 2011, TEDxRU’s second conference, “Think Forward,” grew to host 300 delegates and was held off-campus, at the CBC Glenn Gould Studio. In 2012, the “ACT” event at the Mattamy Athletic Centre drew a crowd of over 500.

This year’s conference was on Nov. 23 2013 at The Bram and Bluma Appel Salon the Toronto Reference Library, with roughly 350 delegates.

“We did bring [the number] down,” Labrador says. “We felt that we wanted to go more for quality and opposed to quantity for this years TEDxRU… It’s hard to manage 500 delegates. Thinking about the food, the venue, it’s kind of difficult.”

TEDxRU hasn’t only expanded in numbers and exposure, but also in student involvement. While the organization started off as a mainly business-student group, it has evolved across campus and hires students from communications and design, arts, science, engineering and architectural science.

“We’ve started hiring a lot of FCAD students, for creative things, or writing, a lot of the photography or graphic design work,” Labrador says. “Every TEDxRU has certain production needs, and a lot of it requires technical expertise, so we hire a lot of engineers who might know these things. And even for set design, we hired interior design students, who were solely responsible for how the stage and the room were put together. “

Irene Ma, fourth-year social work student, is the first student from the Faculty of Community Services to be involved with TEDxRU.

As speaker liaison, Ma works as the middle person between TED and the speakers. She works with inviting the speakers to the conference and then supports them all the way throughout the process.

Ma says this year’s team tried to ensure there was a good balance of male and female speakers. “I know in previous years, there tended to be more male speakers and we wanted to balance that out.”

The team, who sat down last summer to brainstorm speakers they thought would be a good fit, chose this year’s speakers. “It was a pretty democratic process, I think,” Ma says. “Everyone had their input and we just decided based on fit and interests.”

In September, TEDxRU also held student speaker auditions. Out of 28 speakers, food-and-nutrition graduate Michelle Kwan and fourth-year marketing student Ayyyna Budaeva were chosen to share their ideas about creativity, health sciences and art at November’s conference.

TEDx chose the first founding, steering members at Ryerson: a conference curator, a speaker’s lead, a productions lead, a finance lead and a marketing lead. Once the leadership is passed on yearly, its up to each lead to form their own committees.

This semester, TEDxRU released its very first magazine, and will be working to increase their presence across campus in early March.

Both Ma and Labrador believe TEDx is going to get much bigger at Ryerson, creating new possibilities for student collaboration and engagement.

“The aura, the vibe, the experience that you get out of TEDxRU… There [are] infinite possibilities.” Labrador says.

For 2014’s conference, Labrador says there are three thing’s he’s sure of.

“It’s going to be cross-campus, for sure. It’s going to have a high production quality, meaning we’re not going to have cheap TV’s, it’s going to be full-out HD-projector screens, a nice stage, and good entertainment. And it’s going to have great, amazing speakers.”