Lessons from TEDx

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou 

By Taylor Tokarz, W@F Intern

What is it like to be part of a TEDx event?  W@F Intern, Taylor Tokarz gives us a behind the scenes peek at TEDxUGA and the powerful lessons she learned about leadership along the way.

At odd hours of the day I would watch TED Talks: as I waited for laundry to finish, in between classes, while eating dinner. I watched them during spots of monotony, when I wanted to feel like part of something greater than myself – a part of a community constantly exceeding limitations and expectations in every way imaginable. When one of my professors, Dr. Scott Shamp, asked about student interest in holding a TEDx event, I jumped at the opportunity.

Going in, we were told very little. Most of us assumed we’d spend our time watching old TED Talks, analyzing them, and then hoping we wouldn’t have to stand and give a talk ourselves (we did).  As it turned out, we would play an integral part in TEDxUGA. Initially, Dr. Shamp paired us with student speakers whose newly formed talks needed shaping and shining for a Student Speaker Competition. This event- separate from TED, allowed students to compete for one of a few spots at the TEDx event. The brilliance in pairing the student class members with the student speakers was that we were both learning as we went along. By the time Dr. Shamp assigned us faculty and alumni speakers to work with, we understood what a Keynote presentation should look like, the importance of the talk’s first minute, and how personality transfers over to public speaking.

For TEDxUGA, I was paired with Susan Fonseca, Women@TheFrontier’s (W@F) founder. Though I had never met Susan, I knew a couple of things about her from an email: she was a UGA alumnus and she liked to add emoticons to the ends of emails.  I immediately knew we would get along. In our first meeting she made it clear that we were a team; she would be giving the talk, but it was a collaboration. It was ours to share and mold as we saw fit.

Taylor and Susan. Photos courtesy
of New Media Institute via Flickr

Later, I became an intern at W@F and this mentality carried over to my time there. I learned what a leader looks like and it isn’t one person walking ahead of the rest. A leader is someone who successfully brings out the best in their team, someone who facilitates discussion, and hears out every opinion. I never felt as though I was working for Susan, as a subordinate; I was working with her. And those two words, as inconsequential as they may seem, made all the difference in the world.