What’s it like being at TEDxVITPune?

I watched my first TED talk when I was in class 10, and have been a fan ever since. What amazes me the most about TED is the clarity with which each idea is presented – The speakers are extremely articulate and their ideas thought provoking. I’ve never come across a TED/TEDx talk that I didn’t find interesting. And so when I discovered that I might get a chance to attend an independently organised TED event in my own college, I was overjoyed and applied without hesitation. I remember feeling very pleased with myself when I learned that my application had been accepted. TEDxVITPune is often referred to as VIT’s “most sought after” event. I was soon to discover why.
At 11 am on the 7th of April last year, I was among the hundred attendees that had gathered on the lawn right outside Sharad Arena, each eager and excited for the event they had heard so much about. After a thorough ice-breaking session, we were led into the auditorium. The stage had been set up beautifully, and on its floor lay red and white blocks that TEDx is so well known for. VITisn’t a college that leaves a memorable first impression on the onlooker. However, every student has moments in his first year when he feels extremely proud of being part of the institute. I’ve been lucky to have had two such moments, one of which was when I set eyes on the blocks that happened to read “TEDxVITPune”*.
We were soon led to our seats. The conditioned air of the auditorium brimmed with anticipation as attendees chatted like old friends, despite having been strangers less than half an hour ago. Beside me sat a thirty-five year old who had just launched his start up; in an adjacent row, a second year with a passion for public speaking. Rumour had it that our youngest attendee was only fifteen. Before long, the show commenced as the first speaker, Chintan Ruparel, took the floor.
Having had watched my share of TED/TEDx talk videos online, I’d thought I had a fair idea of how a TEDx conference would be. I had thought attending a conference would be much like watching a series of TEDx videos one after the other, with slightly more comfortable seats. I couldn’t have been more wrong. What defines a TEDx conference is so much more than just the talks. It has much to do with the atmosphere the conference creates. Apart from serving as a platform for speakers to present powerful ideas, it also creates a space where the idea presented can be reflected upon, where diverse perspectives on it can be shared, discussed and debated extensively. In this way, an idea gathers all the steam it can, so that it may touch lives and perhaps make a noticeable difference to the world.
The four hours following the commencement of the conference passed by remarkably quickly, with talks ranging from travel to gravitational waves. Each talk stirred my imagination; each talk challenged me to think from perspectives I didn’t know existed. The refreshment breaks between sets of talks, apart from preventing the conference from being too heavy on the attendee, gave me an opportunity to talk about the ideas presented with my fellow attendees. Needless to say, the refreshments themselves were delicious, and consisted of a particularly memorable piece of chocolate cake which, to my dismay, got over too quickly.
I remember the last talk of the conference very clearly. While I expected the talks delivered at the conference to be of an exceptional quality, little did I know that one of them, Adithya Narayanan’s talk on the “Crucibles of Leadership”, would be one of the most inspiring I have ever watched. The conference ended with a prolonged applause. As I descended the stairs to make for the exit after the conference that day, I paused for a while and looked at the stage. A few of my fellow attendees were now clicking pictures along with the iconic red and white blocks that I keep mentioning. A few moments later my gaze shifted to the first row of the auditorium, where members of the organising team couldn’t keep from smiling. What an astounding success the conference had been! I wondered how the experience of organising such an event would be.
Some dreams do come true.

*The other being the first time I heard a charged up crowd chant the iconic slogan “Upper Jilha Zalach Pahije”.