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Reconstructing: The Road to Giving a Talk at TEDx

Story: Sagar Amrania, Design: Ethan Newburger

In today’s world, one would be hard pressed to go on the internet without being bombarded by senseless soundbites and meaningless memes. But as a refuge from all of the white noise, there are TED talks. Like a beacon of light, these 20-minute talks effectively communicate interesting and important topics that inspire a wide audience. On the TED website, one can find talks about everything ranging from the merits of gender neutral bathrooms to the majesty of magical bamboo houses.

To give individual communities the chance to express their own ideas, the TEDx program was created. This allows for independent TED events to be established, which cater to a region’s interests. The Ohio State community hosts its own TEDx event each year. This year’s Ohio State TEDx theme,“Reconstructing Reality”, perfectly lended itself to the goal of TED: to enrich the perspective of those watching the talk.

However, not everyone is cut out to be a TED speaker.

Creating a talk isn’t as easy as just writing down some words and spouting them off in an auditorium. At a TEDx event, the audience expects greatness and eagerly awaits every word with baited breath. One of this year’s speakers, Abd Al-Rahman Traboulsi, a Biomedical Engineering student and Syrian activist, says “the challenge has been finding what will capture the audience’s attention in a positive manner and engage them and evoke some type of empathy.”

After engaging the audience, speakers have to communicate as much information as possible in the relatively short time period they are given. According to Rebekah Matheny, Interior Design professor at Ohio State, “The biggest challenge is how do I communicate what I would typically say in 30 minutes down to 10, and how do I communicate both the visual and verbal together to project a designer’s tone of voice.”

So once one manages to get the audience’s attention and create a concise speech, there is the matter of a 1200 person crowd staring back. As Matheny says, “I’ve never performed or given a talk to that large of a crowd before, that’s the intimidation factor for a TED event.”

The challenges of giving a TED talk are utterly unique. Even those who had experience in front of similarly sized crowds had to prepare for the distinctive TED format. For example Bria Davis, a senior Communications major, says “I have spoken to a crowd of a few thousand once before for high school graduation. This is a whole new ball game, so I am both terrified and incredibly excited.” With all of the challenges and preparations it takes to give a TED talk, one has to have a lot of passion for their subject, and this year’s TEDx speakers are no exception.

In creating their talks, Davis, Matheny and Traboulsi all shared a common thread: leave the audience with a different outlook. The variety of this year’s speakers led to a wealth of takeaways for their respective talks. Matheny’s talk focused on our connections to physical environments, “with the end goal for the audience to start thinking and experiencing the world through the lens of a designer.” While Traboulsi “Just want[ed] people to understand how bad the tragedy in Syria is, and how many people are suffering right now.”

The diversity of ideas provided by this year’s TEDx guaranteed that the audience’s outlook was altered in one way or another. By allowing for an unmitigated sharing of ideas and unique perspectives, TEDx continues to stand against the perpetual streams of nonsense the internet is home to, and give audiences everywhere a chance to reconstruct their own realities.

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