For undergraduates Kirsteen Yeong Li Ng, Parker Yongzheng Li and fellow student organizers, 8 March 2014 will long be a day to remember. On this date, TEDxHKUST took place at the University campus. It was an event where students not only gained lots of insights from eight inspirational multinational speakers, but also experienced the successful outcome of working together with their peers from different subjects, years and nationalities to mastermind the whole forum.
TED was launched 30 years ago in California as a conference where technology, entertainment and design converged. It has since grown into a global concept where ideas of all kinds are explored and spread through an inspirational talk. To foster such growth, the TEDx Program was set up to enable local organizers around the world, such as the HKUST team, to arrange TED-type events.
Tapping the vibrant cosmopolitan community in Hong Kong, this year’s TEDxHKUST presenters included, among others: South African Justine Demmer from Viva, working on behalf of vulnerable children globally; Briton Cosmo Beatson of Vision First, an organization that helps refugees in Hong Kong; Canadian Peter Nixon, founder of Potential Dialogue, which assists individuals and organizations with change management; and Indian Shveitta Sethi Sharma, a happiness facilitator who travels the world to explore the meaning of fulfillment in life. All were identified and lined up solely by the students working behind the scenes and linked under the theme of “Catalyzing Change”.
The first TEDxHKUST was held in 2012. It was so popular with both student organizers and audiences that two further forums have since been arranged. This year, 1,000 applications to attend were received for the 400 spaces available. The project has also twice received the President’s 1-HKUST Student Life Award in recognition of its potential to promote cultural diversity and foster student collaboration among the University community.
The 2014 team handled all aspects of the proceedings, gaining experience in seeking sponsors as well as speakers, marketing, publicity and logistics. As one of two first-year students, Kirsteen Ng, a science student from Malaysia, was happy to find she was regarded as an equal rather than a junior member of the team. “I was able to take the initiative. We each did our research to find our favorite speakers, then pitched the event to them one by one.” Such freedom requires reliability. “As no one assigns the work, you have to be very self-disciplined and well-organized. You need a strong sense of responsibility and courage to take on such duties in addition to your study load,” she said.
Parker Lee, a Year 2 Global China Studies student from Beijing, also appreciated the spirit of strong teamwork among TEDxHKUST’s multinational organizers from Hong Kong, Mainland China, Denmark, India, Malaysia, and Ukraine. “We worked according to what we had discussed and we took up our tasks voluntarily,” he said. However, not everything went according to plan. Parker’s targeted speaker was unable to join due to a clash of time. But through the experience, he has learnt how to face rejection and persistence, he said. "Being a part of such an acclaimed international initiative that demanded top standards was highly rewarding aspect," he added.
The team is currently engaged in post-production tasks, including editing the event videos, which is one of the criteria for renewing the TEDx license to host another event at HKUST. Feedback for improvement will also be given by TED.