TEDxUW – Catalysts for Tomorrow: Impeccably Inspiring

Amer Abu Khajil - 3B Civil
Posted on: November 16, 2011

Bringing TEDxUW to the University of Waterloo was no easy feat. After 8 months of rigorous planning, the dedicated leadership and volunteer team managed to shape an idea written on a piece of paper into a fully formed, seamlessly executed TEDx event.

TED is a non profit organization focused on “ideas worth spreading” from a diverse set of disciplines. The “x” in TEDx stands for independently organized TED event. This TEDxUW event was the first of its kind at the University of Waterloo, bringing speakers from various walks of life. Each shared a message, idea, or plan of action to motivate the attendees and viewers to be “Catalysts for Tomorrow.” The event gave 100 attendees the opportunity to be present at Hagey Hall for the live presentations; live streaming stations were also provided at the Student Live Center and Davis Center for public viewing.

The amazing factor regarding this event was that each speaker had some link to the University of Waterloo, whether they were alumni from undergraduate programs, graduate programs, or professors at the university. It was inspiring to see how such leaders developed their lives from a common denominator – the University of Waterloo.

A refreshing performance by the Waterboys kicked off the event followed by the opening remarks presented by Ron Tite, the extremely entertaining host of the event.

The speakers, ranging from an Emmy Award winner, successful entrepreneur, industry leader, community builder, experimental physicist, and many more, all delivered their passion to the attendees. The most notable aspect of the TEDxUW presentations was the ease in which speakers delivered their presentations; it was easy to see that when one is passionate about an idea or a cause, he or she is able to smoothly present it in an interesting, convincing, and inspiring manner. Most speakers used a personal life experience to leverage their point and inspire the attendees to become “Catalysts for Change”, find their “X Factor”, or to “Take Action.” The speakers were comical, emotional, sincere; within an 18 minute presentation, each speaker managed to connect with the audience members and engulf them with an inspiring lesson or experience.

The breaks between each few sessions provided the attendees with the opportunity to mingle, connect, and share ideas. Booths from some of the event sponsors, live music, and a photo area kept the atmosphere light; impeccable planning of such breaks provided attendees with the maximum potential to enjoy their time socializing while also maintaining the TEDxUW goal of sharing ideas and passions.

A remarkable presentation by Larry Smith, an inspiring University of Waterloo economics professor, regarding finding your passion in life and overcoming any obstacles finalized the speakers for the day. The event ended with closing remarks by Ron Tite, a delightful performance by the Unaccompanied Minors, and a very warm closing statement by the event organizers.

The TEDxUW organizers went the extra mile and invited all the participants to an after party at the Bomber; a final opportunity to connect with other people who attended the event that share a similar passion for change.

This event was certainly one of the highlights of this term; an event that will ideally be a recurring feature of the University of Waterloo. TEDxUW presented inspiring leaders and passionate delegates with a forum to share their experiences, passions, and to spark change in the world. I highly suggest that you go to www.tedxuw.com for more information and links to the videos from the event.

In closing, it was really interesting to see how TEDxUW represented the University of Waterloo’s culture and spirit. The speaker’s stories and inspiration related to all attendees and managed to inspire and move us all individually. I highly suggest that, given the opportunity, one must attend a TED event; even better, it would be amazing to see more students rising up and choosing to plan such events here at the university and strive to be part of this legacy.

The most important ideas I learned at TEDxUW were: think about what drives your passion, make a decision or a plan, commit to realistic goals, and battle the obstacles. As an Engineering student, a word that really inspired me, presented by one of the speakers, Safwan Choudhury, was “Imagineering: Letting your imagination soar, and then engineering it down to earth.”