Behind the scenes
I was at Beirut’s annual event last year, held at the Berytech Technological Pole in the heart of Mkalles. Aside from nightclubs and universities, I had never seen so many young people in Beirut congregate in a single space. The majority of the 2011 attendees were students, but all age groups were present. The event was so successful that videos of the talks are still shared today. © Nadim Kamel / TedxBeirut
Behind the scenes
Last updated: May 20, 2013

The annual TEDxBeirut hype

On November 17, the second TEDxBeirut conference will take place at the UNESCO palace.

I’ve watched TED (note the absence of the x) talks online. To attend an official TED conference, I’d have to shell out a good sum for a cross-Atlantic flight and the $6,000 membership price. TED events have been highly criticized for their exclusivity.

TEDx events, on the other hand make it possible and affordable for the Average Joe to attend. From Madrid to Riyadh, these independently organized conferences are held worldwide. They are consistent in the sense that speakers are allotted the same amount of time to speak on the same iconic, circular carpet. Generally, they conform to the original United States-based TED format. 

I was at Beirut’s annual event last year, held at the Berytech Technological Pole in the heart of Mkalles. Aside from nightclubs and universities, I had never seen so many young people in Beirut congregate in a single space. The majority of the 2011 attendees were students, but all age groups were present. The event was so successful that videos of the talks are still shared today.

On the event’s Facebook page, the team reports that more than 1600 applicants registered for this year’s event, although the UNESCO theatre can only accommodate 1200. Those who don’t settle their $30 fee will miss out.

TEDxBeirut goes through a tedious process of auditions to select its speakers. Does this person have something worthy to say? Are they influential enough? Do their ideas matter? The team then filters the applicants to a total of twenty speakers and performers that they believe are worthy of the attendees’ time and attention.

Subjects are unpredictable. Speakers do not necessarily focus on their profession and can discuss any idea they would like to focus on.

The entire list of speakers hasn’t been disclosed yet; the TEDxBeirut team has been playing a little suspenseful game where they announce a single speaker per day on their social spaces. Thus far, they have announced fourteen speakers, including a cartoonist and an aquatic scientist.

Each speaker completes the sentence “all we need is” with a single word, contributing to the theme of solutions rather than problems. On their online application, registrants also complete the sentence with their own word - which alongside a profile picture, will be printed on their event badge. I was a little rebellious and finished the sentence with two words. 

It is a high profile, large-scale event organized by a team of mostly volunteers.

Bana Bissat
Bana is a Beirut-based regular contributor to Your Middle East. Visit Bana's website www.bananapook.com.
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