Blog post

What if? TEDxUniversity​ofDerby

The iconic red TED sign means different things to so many different people. To me, it was an opportunity to involve myself with a worldwide organisation who help to inspire people daily. Combining education with entertainment, I became fascinated with TED and TEDx talks at a young age. These were the talks I grew up watching, the stage that I had always admired and the speakers who filled my thirst for knowledge.

By Melanie Welaratne - 13 February 2019

Over the years TED and TEDx talks have provided inspiration, education and knowledge to my life. Due to my father's job, I moved around a lot. This meant I had to change schools every few years. TED was a constant throughout my education. I co-hosted after school clubs in schools, introducing TED and TEDx talks to young students and leading discussion and debate on them after viewing. 8 schools later, I decided to take a break from watching and try my hand at organising one instead. TEDx is the organisation's way of getting everyone involved. The X stands for "Independently organised TED event".

The decision to apply for my TEDx licence was an easy one. I realised that I had built up enough connections and knowledge about the University to be able to organise one here. Being a student trustee for the Union of Students opened up my mind to the endless possibilities the University and Union could help me with. I noticed it had never been done in partnership with the University before and instantly knew this would be a great and exciting opportunity for everyone.

After a long and rigorous interviewing process, I patiently waited for a month before hearing back from TED. On the 13 November 2018 I received an email titled TEDxUniversityofDerby Licence Approved! That email was the start of the incredible journey that is TEDxUniversityofDerby. I immediately started working closely with the Student Experience team, who offered me plenty of support and advice, recruited a team of student volunteers to fill up the required rolls to be able to organise a TEDx, contacted Derby Theatre... the list is endless and still growing. However, we as a team have come to realise that every task done has helped us grow and given us so much experience!

I had organised events before but nothing quite like this, having to balance TEDx regulations and University requirements was challenging in the best way. I've had the pleasure of working with so many passionate students and staff on this project and the TEDxUniversityofDerby community keeps growing by the day.

When it came to picking a theme for the conference I was set on having one that would enable someone to talk about anything, from how great marshmallows are to a new scientific breakthrough. This is when the questioning topic of "What if?" came up. The small two worded statement has the power to encourage people to think about new perspectives, grow our knowledge and generate new and exciting ideas... whatever they might be! The conference promises to be a thought-provoking collection of "What if?" moments. The topic soon became a way of identifying the TEDx conference, and as we started advertising on the University TV screens more and more people started to recognise the question and think about it for themselves.

The next step was to look for some speakers! The University environment is booming with bright minds all over the educational spectrum, from Undergrad to PhD students, from part-time lecturers to union staff. When we opened up applications they came flooding in, all inspiring in their own way. The final decision for speakers was a group effort - I consulted academics, students and staff that I knew to make sure I made the right decision for the conference. Hearing everyone's individual thoughts and passions was an experience in itself. I had the privilege of sitting down with multiple people discussing creative new ideas, and providing a few with the experience of talking on a TEDx stage. TEDx has not only given the TEDxUniversityofDerby team the opportunity to grow, but it's given others the opportunity to think "What if?" with over 40 applicants.

Each day is so different to the next and I am so thankful to both the University and TED for trusting me with this opportunity.

A huge thank you goes to my team of dedicated student volunteers who all work amazingly on the event. We can't wait for 16 Feb!

Find out more about the event.

About the author

Melanie Welaratne
BA (Hons) Fine Art student at the University of Derby

I am a 20-year-old 3rd year Fine Art student at the University of Derby looking to progress onto a Master in Education with aims of helping sculpt higher education for future generations.