What is the TED Philosophy and what role does the “x” factor play?
All: TED was founded 1984 as a conference where technology, entertainment and design converged. Nowadays it covers all disciplines from business to science all across the globe. In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. TEDx conferences refer less to a conservative spirit, because it follows a much more dynamic and innovative philosophy. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = (stands for) independently organized TED event, like the one we are doing at the HSG.. Internally and externally we try to implement this philosophy on our teamwork every day.
How have you decided to get involved with a TEDx event and what inspired you to host TEDxHSG? What drives you to give up so much of your time to organize TEDxHSG? Is this a cause you are fighting for?
Eric: I personally always wanted to get involved on campus in my Assessment year and at the same time I am a big fan of TED since my childhood. Ironically enough the first TEDxHSG event took place in December 2015. As I was too late organizing the first event, I decided to get involved in the organisation of the second one. The board at that time was looking for a replacement and I was lucky enough to demonstrate my enthusiasm for TED and started building a team of talented and motivated students from all different backgrounds coming together with one goal in mind: Create an unforgettable second TEDxHSG event.
Basil: Chris and I really liked the interdisciplinary and disrupting character of TEDx. I am convinced that TEDx is able to challenge “old” mindsets and to bring new ideas into society. We wanted to offer business students the opportunity to meet people from a various range of disciplines, such as Artificial Intelligence, diplomacy etc.
We invest our time because we have an exceptionally creative and driven team and because we are incredibly convinced of the lasting effect of such a conference.
What inspired the theme of your event and why do you think it will have a major impact on the audience?
Chris: The University of St. Gallen is well known for its quality and competitive educational system. Thus, many students pursue ambitious goals for their further life and they really want to “go beyond”. Therefore, we are sure that this year’s main theme “Go Beyond” is really inspiring for a great number of students. We wanted to leave the theme as open to interpretation as possible in order to reflect the interdisciplinary approach we thrive for at TEDxHSG.
Our speakers team has acquired amazing personalities who have already gained a lot of experience in “going beyond”. This is the reason why we are convinced, that our event will have a major impact on the audience and their environment.
What differentiates you from the other TEDx events held in Switzerland and worldwide?
Basil: It’s the combination of two excellent institutions: the University of St. Gallen and the internationally admired TEDx brand. The university of St. Gallen is a leading think tank that provides society as well as the economy with knowledge. We are convinced that the the interdisciplinary and breakthrough approaches of TEDx can provide the business students with new insights and will have a lasting impact on them.
The organization committee is split into different resorts from Sponsoring to Speakers, Marketing and Venue. Which group do you think plays the most important role in the organization process? And which team was the most challenging to lead?
Eric: There is no “most important” team. All teams have certains tasks and responsibilities that they need to take care of, in a specific time frame. Our sponsoring team for instance, which did a tremendous job by the way and managed to multiply our budget by more than 5 times over the last months, had a huge work load at the beginning of the year, while our venue team is getting busier day by day, trying to organize an unforgettable 3rd of December for you. The speakers team meanwhile worked during the whole process to ensure that we not only have world-class speakers present at our event but that they will also be properly coached on their talks.
Basil: I totally support Eric’s opinion that all teams did a tremendous job during the whole process. During the coming weeks, we will release a pretty unique marketing campaign. So stay tuned for some surprises from our marketing team after the break in November.
Chris: Definitely! Regarding the challenges we had with leading the teams I can truly say that we relied a lot on our teams’ heads and they didn’t disappoint for sure! Our biggest challenge was probably to insure that communication runs smoothly through all our channels between all teams. Not an easy task considering 35 very opinionated people…but the results that come out of these discussions are what we are most proud of at the end of the day.
It has been rumoured that this year’s edition is going to be far larger than the last year’s. What are the key points you have had to change in your strategy as organizers of the TEDxHSG 2016 to cope with the difficulties of a bigger event?
Chris: Yes that is right. Last year the TEDx conference was a big success with an amazing team of around 20 students organizing an event with more than 150 participants. This year we have the privilege to provide the unique experience of TEDx to an audience of more than 500 interested guests. The increase of attendees brings for sure a lot of new challenges for us. First of all, we had to build up a team of roughly 40 passionate students with the same idea to organize an outstanding conference. This was probably one of the most important task, which had to be done, but also a fun one. Also within the single resorts we met new challenges. Especially, the teams responsible for sponsoring and venue have to manage the larger dimension. Much more people means way more efforts regarding infrastructure, catering and so on which have to be financed. In conclusion, the whole team is doing a great job and is mastering their challenges exceptionally.
Basil: we accredited TEDxHSG as an official club at the University of St. Gallen in order to be able to organize a yearly event. We want the TEDx spirit to live on and to be an integral part of the HSG culture.
What can you say about the quality of the speakers you have selected for this year and their ideas “worth spreading”?
Basil: in line with the TEDx spirit, we were trying on acquiring as many different speakers as possible. We were trying to have a maximum amount of interdisciplinarity among the speakers to create a holistic experience for our attendees. We have people from sports, education, politics, the private sector and so on. You can see that we cover an extremely broad range. Unfortunately, I cannot mention the names of our speakers yet but I am convinced that everyone can offer their own view on what “going beyond” means for them.
What have you learned from the speaker selection process and what is your advice for the next generation of TEDxHSG organizers looking to develop a good speaker-line-up?
Eric: Wow. I have no idea where to start. Honestly I can say that the experiences I gathered over this last months were extremely helpful from a professional but even more so from a personal perspective. Leading 40 people, many of whom are a lot more experienced and maybe talented than I am, was no easy task at the beginning. I did lots of mistakes, from which I tried to learn as much as possible in order to become a better motivator and coordinator. Standing in between teams made my work even harder as often teams had conflicts of interest. As the leader of the group I always tried to find a compromise, which benefited the team as a whole rather than individual interests. Finally I am very thankful to the whole team who supported me in all decisions, although opinions differed, and who taught me more than I could have ever wished for. My advice for the next year’s team is to enjoy the time as it flies by quicker than you would expect.
What has the experience been like for you so far? What personal highlight will remain with you after leading the organization team of TEDxHSG 2016?
Basil: The overall experience was truly amazing and we enjoyed it very much, although we had our Ups and Downs during the organizing process! We are lucky to have such an exceptional team with motivated, driven and creative personalities. During the process, we learned a lot regarding leadership, teamwork and especially implementation. My personal highlight was the great amount of time and commitment everyone of the team invested in this project along the way. I really enjoyed working and organizing this conference with two of my closest friends, Eric and Chris.
Eric: Yeah, my personal highlight was definitely to work hard for something I care deeply for with these two geniuses…
Chris: I have to say again: We have an amazing team and it was definitely the right decision to take over the organisation with my mates Basil and Eric one year ago. Awesome!