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  • Amit Banerjee

Another TEDxSMU Weekend as Amit Banerjee


This weekend TEDxSMU had its 7th annual TEDxSMU and TEDxKids conferences. I was so excited to again be a part of one of the biggest weekends in Dallas. This year was my 5th year with TEDxSMU and my 4th as Youth Advocate. I have seen all the different parts of the conference: I've been an attendee, volunteer, emcee, and presenter. I've become a part of the TEDxSMU family. About three weeks ago, I was asked by Heather Hankamer, the director of TEDxSMU, to provide a recap of the TEDxKids event for the adults at the Saturday conference and talk about its impact. I was so honored to be given another opportunity to get up on the TED stage.

On Friday, as I walked into the Dallas City Performance Hall for TEDxKids@SMU, I saw middle schoolers running around outside with their high school "hosts" trying to keep up with them so they don't get lost. I knew already that today was going to be an amazing day with lots and lots of energy! I went inside to pick up my name badge, and I go to find Heather. She explains to me that my role for that day was to play reporter. I was to take notes on EVERYTHING that happens. From the talks by the presenters to the laughs and cheers from the audience to the excitement of attendees to the discussions that the "hosts" are having with their groups, I wrote it all down. I was watching the talks, running around asking kids what they think about TED, getting quotes from the volunteers, helping the Young Fellows with whatever they needed, taking pictures with the different vendors, and talking with the presenters. It was very hectic, but was so much fun. I captured so many different perspectives about the conference that I felt I attended it at least a hundred times. Now, I was ready to prepare my presentation for the adults' conference.

At the Saturday conference, I was watching the presentations and preparing my speech. I was making progress. I had gotten three weeks to mentally prepare myself, and now I have gotten about 18 hours to actually prepare my presentation. It was a bit of a challenge to get everything together, but I was ready...until about an hour before I was to get onstage. I was in the Green Room going over my talk when Kelly, one of the emcees, calls me out into the hallway to tell me something. She asked me if I was okay with introducing myself. I excitedly said "of course!". She asked me if I was okay with introducing the speaker after me. I hesitantly said "sure...". Then, Kelly told me that somewhere in the presentation, I needed to tell the audience members to check under their seats for cards with pieces of advice written on them by a TEDxKids attendee. I gave Kelly a look of confusion because I didn't know if I could incorporate that into my presentation, but I said that I'd do it because I knew it'd be a fun addition to a presentation about TEDxKids. After a little bit of reorganization, I added the surprise into my talk. With 45 minutes until my talk, I go to Kim and David Leeson, the couple who were taking and processing pictures of both events, to get a couple of pictures from TEDxKids so I could make a powerpoint to accompany the talk. They said they'd send them my way as soon as they got the chance. It was crunch time. The audience was just dismissed for a snack break before the last session. I knew I needed to finish the powerpoint fast. The pictures of kids from Friday were finally sent to me, and I quickly made the powerpoint and sent it to the stage crew. The adults were still on their break, and Rives, the other emcee, comes to me and tells me that he's going to add ANOTHER surprise to the already content-filled presentation: he said that the Catalyst Arts Movement was going to come onto the stage and use the slingshot to throw stress balls into the audience, just like they did the day before. It was at this point when I realized that I may have taken too much on my plate and I was more than overwhelmed. I agreed to have them come on and gave them a phrase that would be their cue. So now, I had to introduce myself, give the TEDxKids presentation that involves telling the audience to pick up the advice cards and bringing out a stress ball slingshot, AND introduce the next speaker. I didn't know how I was going to do this. This sure was #UNXPECTED After the attendees went inside to watch the last session, I stayed outside and talked with Andres and Sofia Ruzo. They assured me that Kelly and Rives know about my abilities as a speaker, and they wouldn't have given me these responsibilities if they knew that I couldn't knock it out of the park. I realized that Andres was right. I could do this, and I could do it well!

After Joaquin Zihuatanejo gives a heart-wrenching talk, I went up onto the TED stage and introduced myself (check) and began my recap; I talked about what TEDxKids is, why we have it, and how everything happens (check). During this, I told the audience to check under their seats for the advice cards (check) and called out the Catalyst Arts Movement and began to launch t-shirts and stress balls into the audience (check). I concluded my talk about TEDxKids and introduced An Ranson, the next speaker (check). I was walking offstage and I was elated!

There's something magical about the red dot on the TED stage. Once you step on it, all of your fear and nervousness vanish. I was anxious, overwhelmed, and stressed about my presentation even though I had been on that stage five times before. Because of the faith that Kelly, Rives, Heather, Andres, Sofia, my parents and several others had in my abilities, I was able to talk as though I had prepared for weeks. It was definitely one of the most exhilarating learning experiences I've ever had. TEDxKids and TEDxSMU were again an experience like no other, and I can't wait for it all again next year!

You can watch my talk at http://livestream.com/tedx/TEDxSMU2015/videos/102190777 just at the 3:34:00 mark