I had the pleasure of giving a TEDx talk at Kinnaird College last month. For those of you who do not know what a TED talk is, well, I was one of you not too long ago. I was first introduced to this “alien” concept by one of my dear friends, Areej Mehdi, who happens to be the curator of TEDx Kinnaird (and now, the TEDx ambassador in Pakistan). Every time she would return from one of her numerous international TED-related trips or talk about her hectic routine leading up to the event at Kinnaird, I couldn’t help but ask her “what is this TED??” She would tantalizingly laugh and say, “You’ll just have to look it up”, almost as if a 6 year old has been told to solve a riddle before receiving the ultimate prize that is candy.
So I remained in the dark until the September of last year, when Areej asked me if I was interested in speaking at their upcoming event. Without having the slightest clue of what I was getting myself into, I said yes right away. I don’t know if it was the curiosity of the unknown or the excited manner in which Areej posed the question, my first instinct was that I just had to be a part of this. And so I received the first official invite from TEDx Kinnaird, briefing me about the whole concept and proposing potential topics for my talk.
By now I had an idea of what TED talks were all about (thanks to YouTube) but wasn’t too sure of where I would fit into all this. I still remember my first (and only) Skype call with Amna Raja, the speaker coordinator. As we brainstormed about different issues ranging from women’s tennis in Pakistan to the lack of media coverage given to tennis players, I couldn’t quite come to terms with what was expected from me and how I would contribute to their event.
Being a tennis player compounded by having to speak about tennis posed a slight problem: I had way too much to talk about. So, I really had to narrow it all down. Rather than narrating a whole host of problems faced by tennis players in Pakistan, why not propose a meaningful solution? And that is exactly what I did. My initial draft, thankfully, prompted a positive response from the “editor of all editors”, Areej. And, we took off from there. Further fine-tuning, talk rehearsals, making of slides followed during our Saturday meetings over coffee. I awfully enjoyed these meet-ups. Yes, there was good coffee but more than that, here I was in the company of two remarkable women (Areej & Amna), who were not prepared to leave even an inch in pursuit of perfection. I could tell this meant a lot to them. For Areej, TEDx Kinnaird was her baby and I was well aware of that.
Lucky for me, I played tennis. What I mean by that is, any person involved in competitive sport develops an innate ability to give their all in absolutely anything they do, be it scrabble, cooking or in my case, giving a TEDx talk. So, I happily reciprocated their love for TEDx with my love for tennis.
The final rehearsal took place a week before the actual event, of which I could not be a part of as I was on national Fed Cup duty in freezing cold Astana. Besides getting the worst cough ever, I missed out on the opportunity of getting a real sense of what was to unfold come that rainy Saturday.
You would be surprised to know the impact a roomful of educated, talented and passionate individuals from different walks of life could have on you. As I sat there waiting to take the stage, listening to various speakers, either telling their story, sharing their ideas and opinions on different subjects or merely expressing themselves through music, poetry or art, I couldn’t help but ask myself why I had not come across this “TED phenomenon” earlier? What a wonderful little discovery this was, I thought to myself. From an aggressive feminist, a Harvard lawyer to a philanthropic Filipino amongst others, each one had an idea worth spreading (TED’s tagline). My version of “Tennis for a Tenner”, thankfully, met a positive response. It was an experience like none other and as I tweeted later that night, “a rainy Saturday well spent!”
All this time, I had wondered what could possibly be so special about TEDx that my friend had literally devoted all her time and effort to. And now I knew. So, the next time you stop to wonder what TED really is, attend one of these events in your city. It is definitely worth the visit.