What it takes to bring TEDx to life


In 2018 alone there were over 3600 TEDx events held across the globe. This year, Macquarie will host one of its own. We spoke to TEDx Macquarie University Director and Curator Hossai Gul to find out what’s involved in pulling off an event of such international acclaim.

How far in advance do preparations begin?
The preparations begin just over 12 months in advance of the event. Usually we would have infrastructure from past TEDx events however, we have had to start from scratch as the previous organisers left MQ a while ago. We have worked hard to ensure the next event is set from the ground up – we have documentation and minutes of all meetings and strategy. We will have clear hand-over procedures and a foundation for the next team to take over. This will help in ensuring the sustainability of the platform.

What is involved in securing the event at MQ?
Running an event at the cross-section of two big brands – MQ and TED – requires approval from a lot of different people. The other Director, Zeyad, and I began by pitching to MQ portfolios for sponsorship and funding. The response was immensely positive, and everyone collectively agreed that TEDx needed to happen at Macquarie. Once we had Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Sakkie Pretorius; Executive Director, Student Engagement and Registrar, Gail White; and the Student Representative Council behind us we were good to go.

The second phase involved getting a licence from TED to run our event. This is particularly difficult for a large event like ours. Luckily, we had support from our colleague Sheila Pham, who has run TEDx events around the world. After a few months of collaboration with TED in New York, we were granted a licence! And this meant we were all stations go go go!

How do you curate the speaker line up?
The best thing about TEDx is that it’s not a conference. It doesn’t matter how experienced or how old you are, what your profession is, or what discipline you come from. Once you strip a person from all these things you are left only with an idea and their capacity to tell a rich story. And that has been our approach to curation: focusing on the idea. As the lead curator, I have spent so much time attending events and meetings in different parts of the University, asking for recommendations for speakers, spending weekends at events. In one week, I was speaking to a high school student, former president of the Human Rights Commission Gillian Triggs, a well-known poet, and some members of Julia Gillard’s team!

Most of our speakers have been recommended by several people inside and outside of MQ. Once we had a huge pool of potential speakers, we spent many months from October last year to June this year narrowing down our powerful line-up. Though it was not easy, we are so happy with our line-up with even more to be announced. Every speaker is unique. No two topics are similar.

Being an “Idea Curator” has been one of the most transformative experiences I have ever had. I can now say with honesty that I have an open mind to ideas – because this process has forced that out of me.

What is your favourite part of the process?
My absolute favourite part of the process has been meeting, and learning from so many incredible people across Macquarie who I otherwise would never have met. It started with putting together a team, which now has around 20 people in it and will expand to around 80 by September. It’s been great to provide an opportunity for members of Macquarie who value community involvement, idea sharing, and leadership experience for those of us early in our careers. TEDx MQ brings together PhD candidates, PACE students, undergraduate students, staff and professional portfolios into one team dedicated to giving our community a chance to connect with the power of ideas. To me that is incredible!

If you want to see an ex-footballer that led a global movement to save a refugee in Thailand, or Sydney’s best pastry chef; or see what happens to our brains when we listen to music, or how artificial intelligence will change your visit to the doctor then come to TEDx Macquarie University.

The day has been filled with topics that will suit staff from across the University, both Professional and Academic and the ‘Fast Ideas’ component of the day will give the audience a chance to share their idea on the TEDx stage.

Check out the photo gallery from the last TEDx event held at Macquarie University






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  1. While I fully support the notion of TEDx I find it hard to reconcile how this is meant to be an enriching experience that promotes the attendance of students when the costs are prohibitively expensive. It is great to have PhD, undergrads and PACE students on the organising committee but the train of thought I’d be employing is to ask “would any of them be able to attend if they weren’t organisers?”

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