On Friday, March 24, professors, comedians, dancers and masters of all arts converged on Athens’ Classic Center stage for TEDxUGA’s fifth year of presentations.
Hosted through the University of Georgia’s New Media Institute, the talks are the culmination of a year-long process of curating and refining the ideas of the event’s 15 presenters for audience consumption.
The 2017 TEDxUGA event marks a big step in the history of the organization. This year is TEDxUGA’s first year at the Classic Center, having been hosted in Tate Grand Hall in years past.
This change comes in response to growing demand for tickets, and allowed the organization to welcome a crowd in excess of 1,000 people this year.
“We kept selling out very quickly so we felt it was time to take the next step to move it to a bigger space,” said Emily Dardaman, a senior at UGA majoring in public relations from Norcross. Dardaman works with TEDxUGA as the organization’s media relations director.
According to Dardaman, the coordinators of the event began preparing for TEDx about a year in advance, reading nominations and applications for speakers throughout the UGA community. Professors could either self-nominate by contacting TEDx with their presentation proposal or they could be recommended to TEDx by their peers and colleagues.
In the months leading up to the event, event organizers were broken up into teams to work with each of the speakers, helping them refine their presentations to the TED standards.
“We are looking for crystal clarity,” Dardaman said. “We are looking for an idea that can be presented in one sentence.”
Fifteen presenters shared their passions with the audience in three sessions lasting from 1p.m. until 5 p.m. Speakers at UGA’s TEDx events come from a variety of backgrounds but all share a connection to the university, as they must be students, professors, or alumni.
The topics of these presentations varied widely. Dr. W. Keith Campbell, for example, presented on his 20 years of experience studying narcissism as the head of Franklin College’s Department of Psychology.
Shaunak Godkhindi, a senior from Alpharetta studying communications and new media, presented at TEDxUGA as well but in a fashion that many would not have expected to find at a TED event.
Godkhindi has been performing as a standup comedian in Athens and Atlanta since the end of his freshman year, so his time slot at the event was dedicated to 10 minutes of his own written material.
“This is a really interesting experience where I have people performing in front of me who are like thought leaders in their fields,” Godkhindi said. “ It’s been cool to kind of sit backstage and be like ‘so what do you do’ and they’ll be like ‘solving the world’s problems’ and I’m just up here narrating mine.”
Other speakers at the event included Lee Pierce, Darius Phelps, Bart Newman, Carolyn Crist, Kamal Ghandi, Valerie Babb, Leah Carmichael, Cameron Harris, Jake Carnes, Ngozi Okafor, Michael Thomas and performance groups Asura and Pamoja.
It is this variety of stories and experiences showcased at the event Dardman said has led her to nominate many of her close friends to present at TEDx.
“My fiance is in this organization [as are] half my wedding guests,” Dardaman said. “I think people who are really curious and open to new experiences are likely to come to TED and that’s why we get so close.”