What I learned as a volunteer at TEDxGhent

I joined the organisation of TEDxGhent in 2013, so about 5 years ago. Since then it has had such a big impact on my life in terms of friendships and opportunities that I wanted to share why I joined and how it has changed my life for the better. And maybe why you too should join a local TEDx :-)

What is TEDx?

Most of you will know TED, but might not know how TEDx relates.

So TED is a non-profit that is dedicated to spreading ideas. They do this mostly by organising conferences where inspirational speakers share their ideas. These talks are then distributed on their website and Youtube for the whole world to see.

TEDx has a similar mission, but these events are organised by local people. They have some ties to TED, but are run independently. Every local TEDx organisation is run completely by volunteers who share this passion for spreading great ideas.

Why I decided to volunteer

In the summer of 2013 I had just quit my job (with no prospects of a new one) and had ended a 2-year long relationship. So two big parts of my life had suddenly disappeared and I felt I needed ‘something’ to keep busy and feel like I was contributing. I had always loved watching TED(x)-talks and so applying to be a volunteer seemed like the natural choice.

TEDxGhent had been around for a few years already and luckily they were on the lookout for fresh blood ;-) So me and about 10 other people were invited to a ‘Vision, inspiration and strategy’ meeting which would outline the way TEDxGhent would operate in the coming year(s). I immediately felt like I belonged there. The room was filled with enthusiasm, the willingness to make a change in this world, to get out and make stuff happen, to inspire people, … That was exactly what I needed!

My TEDx journey

In my first year at TEDxGhent I was actually away for quite a few months. Part of my “I’m trying to figure out who I am after leaving my job and relationship“-quest took me on a backpacking trip to Australia. So I wasn’t as much a part of the team as everyone else. However, since I had always been making websites as a freelancer, that was my first ‘task’ at TEDxGhent and it was easy enough to do from abroad.

Upon my return I was part of the communication team and helped wherever I could. Due to some internal conflicts the team lead actually left and I sort of jumped in as her replacement. I continued doing this the next year as well.

In my third and fourth year I decided I wanted a change and so I took on the responsibility of overseeing the finances and also dubbed myself as ‘Happiness officer’ meaning I was responsible for internal communication and organising team events like our annual team weekend in the Ardennes. Apart from that I also organised a few of the smaller events called ‘Salons’.

And this past year I was responsible for what we call ‘Spices’ at our main event. It’s kind of the ‘side entertainment’ where we try to show off new products, give workshops and put social projects in the spotlight for all of our guests. Very rewarding :-)

What it has brought me

A chance to challenge myself

What I learned as a volunteer at TEDxGhent - musings -

As you can see from my own journey, TEDx can give you the opportunity to try out stuff. If you want to take a leadership position, then you can. If you want to challenge yourself and take on a task that’s outside of your comfort zone, you can. It’s a great community of supportive people that want to give chances to anyone that wants one.

Amazing friendships

What I learned as a volunteer at TEDxGhent - musings -

I met some of my best friends in or through TEDx. People that want to volunteer or come to these kinds of events are naturally open-minded, looking to challenge themselves, kind and just all-round good people. So it’s only natural that you would make close friendships there that last.

Network & business opportunities

What I learned as a volunteer at TEDxGhent - musings -

Yes, it’s a bit of a cliche, but if you bring together a group of people that want to make stuff happen, it makes sense that they would already have a good network and be more than willing to help you reach out to it. I myself have gotten freelance gigs, tickets to restricted events and so much more via my friends at TEDx.

Learn from my mistakes

Since TEDx is a group of volunteers there’s always a fine balance to be kept between ‘doing a good job’ and ‘experimenting with new things’. But the wonderful thing is that you really do get a chance to experiment. And you can make mistakes without being scolded for not doing a good job. Everyone in the team is there to learn, have fun and inspire people. And you really are allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. And that’s maybe my number one reason on why you should join a TEDx team yourself.


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