On 24th of April 2015 we got great news: TED gave us the approval to organize the very first TEDxKielUniversity! But there are only a few months left to organize this big event. That is why students and doctoral candidates are already quite busy and give the best they can to create an inspiring experience for the audience. For us that is reason enough to talk to two members of the Core Team – Fan, license holder of TEDxKielUniversity, and Ulf, one of the few dreamers before the start and co-author of the application for the license.
How did you get the idea of doing TEDxKielUniversity?
Fan: I know TED/TEDx since years and was always impressed by how inspired everyone feels after listening to the talks. Then I realized that TEDx was not very well-known in Kiel although you can find many cool people and ideas here. That’s why I decided to organize a TEDx event in Kiel. But I knew that I won’t be able to pull it off alone. So I passed the idea to Sabine Milde, a staff member from the Graduate Center. She knew that Kate (Key Skill Center) was also interested in the idea of having a TEDx event in Kiel. She brought Ulf into the team.
Ulf: Together with Kate Simmons I’ve been organizing the Science Show for several years now. The concept is about young scientists who present their research and scientific passion to a heterogeneous audience. During the last years we met interesting people and stories – because of that Kate came up to give them a greater platform like TEDx.
Have you been involved in TED/TEDx before?
Fan: While we were preparing our application Kate and I went to TEDxKEA in Copenhagen last year. The TEDxKEA team is very young and energetic and they delivered a very well chosen and well prepared TEDx event to us.
Ulf: I was last year at TEDxTUHH in Hamburg and it was great to experience the atmosphere. It is very exciting to get in contact with a lot of new people all having the same passion – sharing ideas worth spreading. It also helped to actually see how a TEDx event can be and to get an idea about what was already good and what can be done better.
To be able to organize a TEDx event you have to applicate for a license at TED to make sure your event will share the TED vision and give the attendees a TED-like experience. Who helped you in writing the application and what was your biggest challenge?
Fan: Kate was a big help because she encouraged me to write from my heart and she proofread and amended the context. Ulf is very experienced in organizing the Science Show so he was able to help as well. The problem was that we wanted too much for TEDxKielUniversity so we got a little bit lost in many themes, ideas and topics. Stephanie, a friend of Ulf, gave us the idea for our great theme: Crossing Frontiers. It is a nice overarching yet interesting one. That helped us a lot.
Ulf: After TED read the application they asked us to add a list of potential speakers. That was actually for me the biggest challenge: we needed to find potential speakers that fit our theme and present a wide range of topics. It helped that I already met quite a few different speakers when organizing the Science Show and that the scientific “landscape” of the University of Kiel is quite familiar to me.
How long did it take you from the idea to getting the license?
Ulf: It took us around four month.
Fan: Of course we were not working every day on the application!
Did you have any experience before in writing applications / organizing events like this?
Ulf: I already wrote two proposals for the German Research Foundation (DFG) to get funding for my PhD project. I have also experience in organizing different events while being a representative of the students in the biology department and with organizing the Science Show as well as the annual general meeting of the German National Environment Competition.
Fan: Actually this is the first time I applied for and organized such a big event. Of course there were many small events or funding applications I wrote – but nothing like this before. I am truly very excited to see how it will work out.
What kind of feedback / support did you get from the University?
Fan: We got very positive feedback from the Graduate Center, the International Center, PerLe (Project for successful teaching and learning) and the Key Skill Center. All centers provide either their manpower, knowledge, location or funding to support us.
Ulf: We got great financial support from PerLe – that way we have been able to pay for a student’s assistant only for organizing TEDxKielUniversity and we have been able to offer the students a course to prepare them for working in the organizing team. Furthermore we have great people at the graduate center (Dr. Sabine Milde), the Center for Key Qualifications and from the International Center (Jan Bensien) that helped us with their experiences.
What feedback did you get from other PhD candidates and students?
Fan: There are many PhD candidates and students who are interested in TEDxKielUniversity and willing to be part of the Organizing Team. Most people that knew about TED/TEDx before acted very thrilled and proud when they heard the news about TEDxKielUniversity.
Ulf: The people that knew TED/TEDx before were all excited right away and the ones that didn’t know TED/TEDx before liked it after getting to know what’s behind the event. Some of them even became part of the organizing team or would like to give a talk on stage.
What is your impression so far how the organizing teams work together and progress?
Ulf: We had some typical starting problems – everyone had to get to know each other, we had to learn working together in such a big project and to find a structure. But now they are doing great work.
Fan: The organizing teams just started and I am already moved how many passionate, brilliant students and doctoral candidates offer their knowledge, time and effort for this. Now it is the time we build an effective connection between ideas and executions as well as between one team and the others.
What is the Core Groups responsibility?
Ulf: At the beginning we had a Core Group in order to bring teachers of the Key Skill Center, PhD candidates and students together. Also we needed to figure out how everyone will be working together. Now we have the four organizing groups Budget, Location, Media and the Speakers Group. Each one of them has a coordinator that for the Core Group. That way we wanted to make sure all groups have the same information.
Fan: The Core Group is not like a boss – it is like someone having an eye on everything, seeing the big picture and organizing the teams so that each team can focus on what they need to do. We also give guidance if there is any needed. I would like the Core Group to be the wifi, screens, power support and fire workers, while the teams are actually computer processors.
What is your biggest wish for the next few months and the event itself?
Ulf: I hope that everything works out well; that we find great speakers and that we are able to inspire many people during the organizing process as well as at the event itself.
Fan: I have many wishes: I hope that everyone can manage their time and find a balance between their studying and preparing TEDxKielUniversity. I hope we can show that we are able to manage big events like this, learn from other’s wisdom and finally achieve the goal together, because most of us studied or worked alone for a very long time. I hope that all ideas and opinions are going to be heard and evaluated so we can make the best use out of them. And as part of the Core Group I hope that we do our best job to provide the teams the best platform so all their wisdoms can spark, all their abilities can be enhanced and that their experience will be a great one.