TEDx Warwick 2010

You have probably noticed a reinvented, if slightly unsettling, image of Einstein as an attractive hunk floating around campus recently. This is just one element of TEDxWarwick 2010’s ‘ideas are sexy’ marketing campaign which has been turning heads and making people ask ‘just what is TEDx?’

TEDx, to be held on 6th March 2010, is a one-day event which brings a variety of high profile thinkers and doers to campus, adopting the format of the original TED event. TED was set up in 1984 as a conference which invited the world’s experts in the areas of Technology, Entertainment and Design to share, as the TED slogan indicates, their ‘ideas worth spreading’.

The conference has since grown to embrace all fields of interest and this interdisciplinary nature encourages an exchange of ideas regardless of the speaker’s or audience’s specialities. In what has become known as the ‘TED commandment’, speakers are charged with presenting their ‘big idea’ in just 18 minutes. For Cheryl Tse, treasurer of TEDxWarwick, the ideology is unique because ‘ideas are provided for free to anyone who is interested, as TED provides videos online so great talks can be shared with people all around the world.’

The original TED conference, held annually in Long Beach, California inspired the creation of TEDGlobal and TEDIndia, held in Oxford and Mysore respectively. These events have come to be recognised as some of the intellectual highlights of the year with Bill Clinton, Bill Gates and Al Gore being just some of the great minds to have graced the podium. Even members from the British political arena have acknowledged the influence of TED, with Gordon Brown giving a surprise talk at TEDGlobal 2009. David Cameron, hot on Brown’s heels, is due to make a ‘secret’ appearance at this year’s event in July. On the leaking of Cameron’s scheduled appearance to the press the Guardian commented that ‘happily, despite possessing ingenuity and creativity in spades, not all of Britain’s leading thinkers count meek obedience among their virtues’, an indication of the kind of excitement and anticipation associated with TED.

Many Warwick students would therefore jump at the chance to attend TED but unfortunately the events are invitation only. Luckily, TEDx, (x = independently organised event) allows Warwick students a slice of the action. The new TEDx initiative was launched by TED to allow independent groups to organise their own event in the style and under the licence of TED. This opportunity was instantly seized upon by Warwick students who hosted Europe’s first TEDx event last February, welcoming speakers from a range of fields from sociology to virtual reality. TEDxWarwick 2009 was held as a one-off but the event enjoyed such success that, after becoming an official society, it is set to become one of the most exciting and eagerly anticipated annual events on campus.

The TEDxWarwick team share a conviction that TEDx brings something special to campus. Jason Rudowski, one of the coordinators, is keen to emphasise the interactive element of the conference: ‘TEDx is a unique platform which brings the knowledge and inspiration of the world’s leading thinkers to a community of curious minds to engage with ideas and with each other’. He adds that ‘we do not specialise in one topic; we cover pretty much everything’, pointing out the opportunity for the audience to broaden their horizons.

This year, TEDxWarwick will be welcoming a variety of specialists in a range of fields including architecture, international development and psychology. Team and audience members alike are excited to hear their ‘ideas worth spreading’ and many are keen for the opportunity to probe the speakers in the question and answer sessions which will follow each talk. Excitement particularly surrounds the appearance of Sir Roger Penrose, the eminent mathematical physicist who worked in collaboration with Stephen Hawking to win the prestigious Wolf prize in 1988 for contributing significantly to the understanding of the universe. Other eagerly anticipated speakers include French food scientist Hervé This, known for discoveries such as how to ‘uncook’ an egg.

The planning of TEDxWarwick 2010 has required a good deal of drive and determination. Logistics coordinator Oliver Choi describes the team effort: ‘behind the fantastic line-up of speakers, the venue and the website, lies the blood, sweat and tears of the 30 odd students in the TEDx team who created the event, from gaining crucial sponsorship to amassing fantastic speakers, to managing the necessary logistics and launching a bold marketing campaign.’ The marketing campaign which Choi mentions has caused a particular stir this year. In keeping with the ‘ideas are sexy’ theme, the artistic effort comprises a range of eye-catching and quirky designs with a keen sense of humour, part of a focus on innovative methods of advertising around campus.

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