U of T news

Launching TEDxUofT

Event hosts short talks by expert speakers on campus, streams for free online

The first TEDxUofT launches on Saturday May 18 (image courtesy TEDxUofT)

The first university-wide TEDx event comes to the downtown campus this weekend.

An acronym for Technology, Entertainment and Design, TED began in the early 1990s as an annual conference in California, with strong ties to the collaborations and innovations coming out of Silicon Valley.

The concept hinges on delivery of extremely brief lectures over a variety of topics, with a strong emphasis on storytelling. TED events have hosted talks from presenters including Bill and Melinda Gates, Jane Goodall, Stephen Hawking, Elizabeth Gilbert, Malcom Gladwell and almost any other 'big thinker' in the public discourse.

In recent years, "TED Talks" have taken on a life of their own, as the lectures were made available for free online in 2006-- with many going viral-- and since TED began granting licenses for independent organizations to host TED-like conferences, known as "TEDx" events. 

U of T has hosted successful TEDx events in the past; however, this Saturday May 18 marks the inaugural event organized by students and brings together, for the first time, speakers from across the U of T community. 

Speakers include Nobel prize-winning chemist John Polanyi, U of T computational linguistic alumnus Ryan North (author of Dinosaur ComicsTo Be Or Not To Be: That Is The Adventure); sports physician Professor Doug Richards; statistics whiz Professor Jeffrey Rosenthal; industrial ecology and urban design expert Professor Christopher Kennedy; cognitive science and mindfulness pioneer Professor John Vervaeke; Professor Aisha Ahma, an expert with hands-on experience in the politics of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kenya and Somalia; Jeffrey S. Skoll Chair of Technical Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Rotman School of Management, Joshua Gans; and more.

Brianna Goldberg spoke with third-year biology student and TEDxUofT organizer Alex Cai about the launch.

What’s going to happen at TEDxUofT?

On Saturday May 18th, U of T will have its first university-wide TEDx event. This event will showcase 13 speakers from a wide range of disciplines who will engage and inspire a community of curious souls with their ideas, their stories, their journeys and their dreams. 

What’s with the “x”?

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. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.

How did TEDxUofT get started?

My friends and I attended a TEDx event at another university and saw first-hand the positive impact that the event had on its community. We felt that the U of T community could benefit from such an experience and seeing that there weren’t any TEDx events at U of T at the time, we took it upon ourselves to organize one at U of T.

What do you want people to know about TEDxUofT that they probably don’t?

We want everyone to know that if they can't make it to the event, they can still watch online. A formal announcement with all the information will be released on Friday. (Updates available on TEDxUofT website and Facebook page)

I also want people to know that this is a student organized event and that we did not pay any of our speakers to appear at this event. We are deeply appreciative of the time and effort that our speakers and U of T staff set aside in their busy schedules to help this initiative become a reality.

What do you hope people will come away with from TEDxUofT?

I hope that people will come away with ideas and inspiration but more importantly, we hope that they will share these experiences, engage their communities and inspire those around them. In every community found at each campus of the University of Toronto, you will find the very best in their fields and the new generations that will follow in their steps. We hope that TEDxUofT can be a source of inspiration and embolden our communities in their efforts to create, innovate and contribute to the future.

Can we expect more from TEDxUofT… more events, continued discussion on social media, etc?

This won’t be a one and done initiative. We hope to organize another TEDx event next year and to expand our program to include TEDxSalon and TEDxWomen events.

Brianna Goldberg writes for U of T News.