From watching talks with her family to joining her college’s chapter, TED and TEDx are an integral part of Sophie Désert’s life and have been since she was a child.
In a recent interview with TEDxAtlanta’s Storytelling Team, she shared what it’s like being part of a TEDx team — and provide insight into the past year working within the TEDxAtlanta team.
Question: What first drew you to TEDx?
Sophie Désert: My parents! We would always watch TED and TEDx videos. [As for how I got involved], it was really random. The first time I went to a TEDx meeting was because one of my friends invited me to go with him. I’ve stayed involved ever since! It’s just a really nice community to be a part of. You get to meet lots of cool people whether it’s on the [volunteer] team, the speakers, partners. Everyone’s always really helpful, and it’s always a good time.
What’s your favorite memory from your time working with TEDx?
SD: When I was involved in TEDxSurreyUniversity, it was the first time I was leading such a big organization.
I remember it being a very stressful year, managing a whole team…Then, when the event ended, you could feel the pressure kind of releasing. We were on stage with all of the volunteers taking pictures at the end, and some of the volunteers left and came back with a bouquet of flowers for me. I had no idea they were going to do that, and it felt amazing! It was really tough, and sometimes I felt like I wasn’t doing as well as I thought I would. But, the fact that they really appreciated what I did and got me that surprise gift at the end of the event really meant a lot.
With TEDxAtlanta, one of the highlights so far was my first speaker mixer. Before the event, we have a little party with drinks and a buffet. It’s a time when the volunteers get to meet the speakers and the coaches. It was all the people working on the event, from different sides that had never met each other, coming together, and it was a really fun night that I’m actually looking forward to again this year.
If you could describe your volunteer experience with TEDxAtlanta in three words, what would they be?
SD: I would say ‘pressure’ as the first word because it is a bit stressful. Sometimes, there’s a lot going on and a reputation to uphold.
But it’s also, I would say, ‘engaging.’ It’s difficult to be half-in and half-out. When you’re in, you’re in, and you want to do the best you can. And if you can’t, that’s okay. You can just join another time when you have more time to commit. And then ‘rewarding’ because of that feeling at the end of the event once everything happened and we can just relax and celebrate.
What’s something people would find surprising about TEDx?
SD: People are surprised that it’s all volunteers because it’s so big. People are doing this for free; it’s 100% volunteer powered. It’s actually really easy to join.
Someone recently joined the team and was like, ‘I’ve always been interested in TED, but I never knew it was this easy to join a TEDx.’ All you have to do is show a bit of commitment and skills that could be used in event planning and production.
Can you remember one of the first TED or TEDx talks you watched with your family growing up?
SD: Jill Bolte Taylor’s, “My Stroke of Insight.” It’s one of the most famous ones. It’s about a neuroscientist who describes herself having a stroke. She was doing all of this research on having a stroke and then she actually had one, so she was kind of studying herself. That’s the most impactful one.
What is your favorite TED or TEDxAtlanta talk?
SD: My favorite one I usually go back to is about teaching girls bravery rather than perfection — especially in the STEM industry. I think it’s just really powerful, and it’s a new perspective. It’s about having more women in the science and engineering fields, making sure we’re not putting too much pressure on people, and making it accessible for everyone.
How has joining TEDx changed your day-to-day life?
SD: I think it’s being able to catch those out-of-the-ordinary things that jump out and say, ‘Oh, there’s a story behind that. There’s something to share.’
Everywhere I go, I’m like ‘How could I include this in TED or in TEDx?’ Or, anytime I meet someone and they have an interesting story, I’m like ‘This could be a nice TED talk or TEDx talk!’
Has TEDx helped you grow professionally or personally?
SD: Definitely both! Especially professionally because I have a similar relationship with Jacqui, my TEDxAtlanta ‘manager,’ as I do with my manager at work.
They both teach me how to be a better leader to my own team [and] a better communicator. So, it does teach me a lot. Not only how to lead a team but also how to find the leaders within the team and help them grow and keep that loop going. We’re all helping each other. Building each other up to our full potential. That’s something that I’ve learned over the years and especially through TEDx.
Why should others volunteer with TEDx?
SD: Being part of a great team and having loads of volunteer socials!
It’s not all just work, work, work…I’ve made really good friends on the team that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. So, join for the people. Join for that rewarding feeling at the end of each event and seeing happy audience members. It’s just a feel-good moment.