TEDxGeorgiaTech shares ideas worth spreading

A speaker at a TEDxGeorgiaTech event presents their talk. These events give an opportunity to share stories and start discussions among the Tech community. // Photo by Tuna Ergan Student Publications

TEDxGeorgiaTech provides a platform for individuals to share their ideas and stories to spark deep discussion and connection among others.

Srujani Das, fourth-year BME and executive director of TEDxGeorgiaTech, explained in a recent interview with the Technique how the organization relates to the larger TED Conferences.

“TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience,” Das said. “These local, self-organized events, such as ours, are branded TEDx, where x equals independently organized TED event.”

At Tech, TEDx is run by a team of 35 students.

“We have an executive director and six directors, one for each team: programming, production, community, finance, speakers and media. Each team has anywhere from three to eight people,” Das said. “We have biweekly full team meetings in which all the teams come together to share their progress, get questions answered, plan for upcoming events and just start ‘knitting’ together all the work.”

Throughout the year, TEDxGeorgiaTech plans several events with opportunities for individuals to share their voices.

“This year, we have the … Students Speaker Salon, ConnecTED and our annual big conference in April,” Das said. “About two weeks ago, we had our first ever Open Mic Night which was a huge success. We were able to reach some amazing talents outside of the GT community as well. Overall, it was a very successful night with diverse talents.”

Currently, operations are underway for the Student Speaker Salon (SSS) on Nov 19.

“This year, we have four amazing speakers who will be speaking about some thought-provoking topics, although we can’t give away the topics just yet,” Das said. “We will provide time for people to network, some food and drinks and of course, four amazing talks.”

Das highly encourages students to attend. RSVP links for the event will be available on TEDxGeorgiaTech’s social media and website soon.

Putting together events, in particular the past Sustainability SSS, is one of the most memorable experiences Das has had with TEDxGeorgiaTech.

“We had worked tirelessly with the speakers the previous night till 3am and then the next day, spent a lot of time decorating the theater to match the theme. We ordered specialty popcorn, hot chocolate, cookies and other little snacks. We had activities for the audience members to participate in while they waited,” Das said.

Das continued about the impact of the event.

“Our speakers did an amazing job, and at one point, there was not a single dry eye in the room,” Das said. “It was in a moment where I stopped running around to look around, that I realized just how many people we had touched. At the end of the event, our team was so excited to have organized such a successful event.”

Planning for TEDxGeorgiaTech events can take anywhere from two weeks to three months, depending on the size of the event. Last year, the pandemic forced TEDxGeorgiaTech to move its events to a virtual format.

“Our events are usually in-person which allows people to easily network and make new friends. The COVID-19 pandemic really put us in a challenging position; however we were able to make the most out of the virtual experience,” Das said. “We continued to organize smaller events while providing the GT community ways to interact with us virtually.”

Sajjaad Khader, CS graduate student, spoke virtually at a TEDxGeorgiaTech event last November.

“My speech was titled ‘How a Global Pandemic Helped Me Start My YouTube Channel’,” Khader said. “I talked about my experiences during quarantine, my drive to make an impact, and how both of those led me to create a YouTube channel.”

Khader discussed his memory of the event.

“The experience was extremely uplifting as I was able to creatively express myself and inspire others,” Khader said. “After my talk, many people discussed with me how my speech really opened their eyes and motivated them to excel in their own pursuits.”

This semester, Das and other members of TEDxGeorgiaTech are excited to host fully in-person events again.

“I would like to applaud the team for doing such an amazing job during the pandemic to ensure that we were still fulfilling our purpose,” Das said. “While the virtual events were a success in their own terms, we all are looking forward to the events we have coming up in-person to really get that face-to-face communication going once again.”

Connecting with members in and out of TEDxGeorgiaTech is part of what makes involvement with the organization valuable.

“I think one of the things that drew me to this organization was how close knit a large group of 30 people were,” Das said.

“I have made some life-long friendships through this organization.”

Giving back to the Tech community by providing an opportunity for open conversation is also what makes involvement with TEDxGeorgiaTech worthwhile.

“I have been blessed all of my life in terms of education, opportunities, and nurturing. With all these blessings and coming into a college as prestigious as Georgia Tech, I wanted to give back,” Khader said.

“Therefore, I started searching for platforms where I could motivate and inspire others, and, after talking to a few friends, TEDxGeorgiaTech seemed like the perfect choice.”

Khader explained how he gives back through TEDxGeorgiaTech.

“This year, although I don’t have a new idea to give a TED talk, I can certainly still help out. I am on the speakers recruitment team to help this year’s speakers refine and perfect their speeches,” Khader said.

“Even if I’m unable to impact others directly through my own speech, I can still have an indirect impact through helping the speakers.”

Das echoed similar ideas about giving back with TEDxGeorgiaTech.

“Our purpose is to showcase ideas from our own community that inspire change on Georgia Tech campus and beyond. We have had our own students and professors as speakers, as well as people beyond the GT community come out and use our platform to share their stories and ideas,” Das said.

“We are an organization that welcomes diversity, creativity and innovation, and we will continue to do so in the future.”