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TEDx Deerfield Broadens Outreach and Promotes Change
Thomas Song '19 Staff Writer
January 27, 2017

This year, Deerfield Academy will host its 3rd annual TEDx event. The committee has made some recent changes aimed at attracting a larger audience.

Credit: Lynnette Jiang

On Saturday, February 18 at 6pm, a diverse group of speakers, including six Deerfield students, one faculty member, and two Deerfield parents, will deliver 12-18 minute talks in the Large Auditorium of the Hess.

In the past two years, the themes of the event — last year’s was “risk” and the year before it was “time” — were released before the application process began. However, this year, the committee decided to wait until after the speaker-selection process before deciding on an overarching theme. The TEDx Committee consists of student leaders Kiana Rawji ’18, Abby Lupi ’18, Nadia Jo ’19, Karen Tai ’17, and Sarah Du ’17, and faculty advisors Director of Communications and Visual Arts Teacher Mr. David Thiel and IT Specialist Ms. Heather Sharpes-Smith.

Mr. Thiel noted that in the past, “announcing the theme caused speakers to stick rigidly to it.”

This year, Ms. Sharpes-Smith explained that “letting the theme evolve naturally” allowed for “more creative expression” among applicants, resulting in a wide variety of topics. Only after selecting the speakers did the committee look for a common thread between the ideas.

As Jo stated, “We saw that a lot of people wanted to talk about things that called for action, shed a new light on a topic that we already have an opinion about, and asked [the audience]… to see something in a different way,” prompting the TEDx Deerfield organizers to officially set the 2017 event’s theme to “change.”

Ms. Sharpes-Smith mentioned that, since the talks are not all explicitly related to the theme, she hopes that the attendees of the event will learn that “change is not as linear as one may think.” The broad theme and the range of topics related to it will force audience members to think creatively to find connections between the talks.

Jo added that one of her greatest hopes is that this year’s event and its theme will benefit the community by cultivating a willingness to “change one’s opinion or consider another perspective.”

This year, the committee is also working to increase attendance and to make the event more open and inclusive. In the past, the TEDx event was held on a Sunday afternoon, but this year it was moved to a Saturday evening to allow more people to attend.

Additionally, on top of advertising the event at Deerfield Academy, marketing has also focused on reaching out to nearby communities such as Greenfield and Shelburne Falls. The official change of the event’s name from “TEDx Deerfield Academy” to “TEDx Deerfield” also reflects the desire of the committee to broaden their outreach outside of the school.

Another change in this year’s event compared to last year’s is that it in addition to featuring the talks themselves,  other activities and exhibits related to the theme will also be presented. Lupi, the student leader in charge of event coordination, revealed that a student art gallery in the Hess Lobby, tours of the Von Auersperg Art Gallery, and an Innovation Lab sponsored activity will also be featured to encourage greater attendance and create a “conference-like” atmosphere.

Moving forward, Mr. Thiel stated that  bringing in a larger audience and broadening the range of events are two main objectives for TEDx Deerfield. He also mentioned that collaboration with nearby TED entities will be explored in the near future.

To get involved in TEDx Deerfield, students can apply to be a speaker next year, join the TEDx committee, or simply attend the event.

As Mr. Thiel mentioned, speaking at TEDx Deerfield offers a great opportunity to develop invaluable skills such as intellectual analysis, communication, and presentation skills.

Articulating the significance of TEDx at Deerfield, Lupi said, “I think it is a fantastic opportunity to have [Deerfield] voices heard.” To echo TED’s mission statement, she explained that the event’s ultimate goal is to promote ideas worth spreading in the Deerfield community and beyond.