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How TEDxHSESaintPetersburg Will Change This Year?

Last year, TEDxHSESaint-Petersburg conference took place at HSE University – St. Petersburg. The idea came into being thanks to Yaroslav Yasko, a student of ‘Public Policy and Analytics’ bachelor’s programme. The conference will be held at HSE University – Saint Petersburg in March 2020. Yaroslav told us about the future event, what changes are to be implemented, and how many speakers will be at the conference.

How TEDxHSESaintPetersburg Will Change This Year?

TEDxHSESaint-Petersburg Archive

What had you been doing at HSE University – St. Petersburg before TEDxHSESaint-Petersburg?

— Before TEDx, I was a curator of ‘Public Policy and Analytics’ programme. This experience has shown me how differently the world can be looked at. The guys and I saw many first-year students who were supposed to be quite similar to each other. In contrast, their attitude to education and the city was much different, so we had to find an approach to the students.

We were also stood at the origins of the ‘SHSGNIDYUV’, but I had to quit 2 months later because of lack of time. I also was a host of HSE University – St. Petersburg Media forum.

Besides other activities, I also run the HSE Student Council Information Committee. We want more students to know about Student Council activities. We changed our social media posts design, and many people criticized it, but I feel such a design is getting more conceptual and less formal. We want the students to feel comfortable while communicating with the Student Committee members. We are also changing the communication style, so we try to talk to students with respect but avoiding bureaucratic style.

Why did you decide to join the TEDx movement?

— I like TEDx videos, they used to help me many times, for example, when I got the blues or was looking for a way out of some psychological trap I had been driving myself into. After I had watched these videos, many things became clear. I thought that I would be interested in watching TEDx live. Volunteering at TEDx is a good opportunity to take a look at all the things happening, especially if you do not want to buy tickets for 1500-25,000 dollars to attend the main conference in the US. Thus, I became a TEDx volunteer in Chisinau, my hometown. The level of the event organization, preparation of speakers and the team impressed me.

Then I entered HSE University – St. Petersburg, but I wanted to keep doing business with TEDx. I was thinking for a while whether to get my license or find some team to join. My roommate had a friend who organized TEDxBaskovLn, and I was suggested to contact him. So we talked, I became a part of the team and began working on the conference speakers.

Having worked with TEDxBaskovLn, I thought of getting the TEDx license for our university. I submitted an application, in which I mentioned my vision of the event, proposed the event agenda, and made an approximate list of speakers I would like to invite. They had been considering our application for about 2 months, so they decided whether to approve it or not. One cannot organize the event until the license is confirmed. Finally, we got it, and we held the first TEDxHSESaint-Petersburg in April last year.

What were your responsibilities on the project?

— My main task was to coordinate colleagues, speakers, partners and the university’s administration. I also looked for event sponsors through my friends in the St. Petersburg PR community, and I helped curators involved in TEDx conference programme preparation to find speakers and check their reputation.

Who were the speakers last year?

— Last year, we had a long list of speakers consisting of 150 people, but 11 speakers spoke at the conference. Our guests were so different: they were from ‘Yandex’, Volunteers of Saint Petersburg’, and Street Art Museum. We did our best to invite speakers of different professions. Some of them, for example, Zoya Skobeltsyna, were initiative as wanted to address the conference. It seems to me she did a great job as she was the most motivated speaker. This year we have 120 speakers in our long list while 13-14 will address the conference.

Why did you go to the USA and what did this trip bring you?

— I went to the USA to get the expanded version of the TEDxHSESaint-Petersburg license; we had not had it last year. One cannot get the license remotely as one has to go to the USA to visit one of the TED conferences. So I visited TEDWomen in California – the tickets were the cheap and this trip perfectly fit our schedule as the event was in March.

In California, I meet people curating TED movement. They shared their experience and tips on how to better organize the event and communicate with partners. I also watched how TED is organizational insights: I witnessed what cameras were used for shooting, how everything was arranged in the auditorium and at the entrance.

How do you plan to develop TEDxHSESaint-Petersburg last year?

— This year TEDxHSESaint-Petersburg will take place on a new site. The project will have new partners. We are currently coordinating all the event aspects, that is why we cannot announce the venue, speakers and partners. One can follow the updates in TEDxHSESaint-Petersburg group on Vkontakte. And other social media.

Since we have an extended license, our audience will also be larger: we expect 1000 – 1500 visitors. That is a reason why there will be two halls on the site: the one where the conference will be held, and the other one will be equipped with sofas, TVs, snacks and plugs. Visitors will be allowed to use their cell phones and laptops only there so that the speakers and operators will not be distracted by gadgets.

This time there will be more branded gifts and entertaining activities for the audience. Besides, we really want to make a campaign to collect and sort garbage along with the ‘Green HSE’ and other ecological projects.

This year the theme of the event is ‘Culture of everything'. We will publish a list of speakers in February, we have already negotiated with almost all of them. Speakers will talk about the environment, technology, and getting out of comfort zone.

How do you work as a team?

— Since last year, the team has changed, so now we have 12 people, most of them are HSE University – Saint Petersburg students and graduates. There are also 2 external designers in our team.

We have team brainstorms and work processes well-established. We have already recruited two people who started translating the video from the last conference into English – let us many people as possible hear our speakers!

What did you learn from TEDxHSESaint-Petersburg?

— I began to take into account the interests of all the team more, it is important for any project. We have a democracy, so if there is a controversial question, we come to a decision together. I also began to communicate with the project partner better and understood what to offer them and how our communication should be organized.

Besides, I began to allocate my time much better. The main secret, I think, is to write down all the tasks in the daily planner and procrastinate as little as possible. Each morning I make a list of things to do before evening. I note in my notebook how much time I will need for a certain task. For sure, I leave a couple of hours for myself.

That is how I plan my tasks: let’s say I need to discuss projects with three partners at three meetings and also meet the team and the Student Council. First, I plan my schedule considering these meetings. Then I plan my study. Next, I plan other tasks for the remaining time. I know that I need to devote roughly 10-12 hours a week to TEDxHSESaint-Petersburg and 7-8 hours to HSE University – St. Petersburg Media forum. I was able to combine the organization of events with my studies last academic year, so I think it will not be a problem now. I can say that the last week before the conference is always very harsh: both speakers and partners are getting nervous. We will handle it somehow.