Monday, February 27, 2012


The third entry in our series of posts from LeaderShapers working on TEDx Events:
Hello, LeaderShapers!

My name is Lindsay and I am a senior double-majoring in Psychology and English at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.  I attended UT’s first session of the LeaderShape Institute in May of 2011 and it changed my life to say the least.  I developed a vision for how I want to see the world change—“For every individual to have access to an education and sustainable livelihood so they can live safely, healthily, and happily.” I am so passionate about making this vision a reality that I have now decided to pursue a career working with nonprofits instead of psychological research. I truly believe we can make this vision a reality!

One of the goals I set for myself was to host a TEDx event, an independently organized TED-like event.  TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a national nonprofit that hosts annual conferences where the biggest and brightest experts in their field—like Al Gore and Bill Gates—share innovate ideas about how they are changing the world.  Committed to sharing “ideas worth spreading,” TED posts each “TEDTalk” to for anyone around the world to view free of charge, creating a global community of passionate doers and thinkers.  TEDx events are smaller versions of the TED conference that engage local individuals in this global conversation and network of world-changers.

So how does hosting a TEDx event at UT support my vision?  I think one of the first steps to changing the world is hearing from others who are creating that change now in their own unique way.  TED is fully committed to spreading ideas that are changing the world and inspiring each individual to take that knowledge and make a difference.  If we could bring TEDx to UT, we could educate and inspire a group of people in Knoxville—a group that could then begin making a difference.  The University of Tennessee has never hosted a TEDx event before, and I believe it is crucial to create a network and forum for individuals to engage with one another here in Knoxville, the surrounding area, and consequently, the world as a whole.  Imagine what a group of passionate and engaged individuals could do!

With that dream in place, I started planning a TEDx event shortly after I returned from LeaderShape in May.  We set a date of February 17, 2012 for TEDxUTK and have been working hard to make a great event since then.  Now I generally feel pretty comfortable planning events like this, but I have really grown and learned so much during this process.  Let me share with you a few things I’ve learned so far.  As you work towards making your own vision a reality, keep these thoughts in mind.

1.     Plan for everything to not go according to plan.  When I first received approval from the university to host TEDxUTK, I made a timeline.  I made a month-to-month action plan of what our planning process should look like: what we should be working on, when we should be working on it, and when we should meet our deadlines.  That is a really great idea in theory, but everything rarely works out exactly the way you think it will—regardless of how much you plan.  There have been so many things that have come up that I didn’t anticipate (e.g. not having the budget I expected, not being able to secure the venue we wanted, etc.).  Now it is very important to plan and I strongly advise thinking about all the logistics of your event ahead of time, but learn to be flexible as you manage the unexpected curveballs that will undoubtedly be thrown your way. 

2.     Keep the end goal in mind.  I would be lying if I said there weren’t times while planning that I thought, “Why am I doing this?  Why did I think this was a good idea?  Is it too late to call the whole thing off?”  Working towards your vision is scary and sometimes, it can be downright terrifying.  It’s all well and good to come up with goals and visions at LeaderShape, but making those happen in reality is scary!  You set yourself up for frustration, failure, rejection, disappointment, and the list goes on and on.  I have felt so overwhelmed during periods of this process and so afraid that while all of these people are depending on me, I am going to fail miserably and create nothing more than a train-wreck.  It is so important during these moments to re-visit your vision and remember why it is that you are passionate about achieving it.  Embrace that fear as part of the process and use it as a vehicle for action—if you didn’t feel some sense of fear, you wouldn’t care about reaching your goals successfully.   

3.     Surround yourself with others who support you and your vision.  This is key.  Being a leader is lonely and downright depressing at times.  While you are working towards your vision, it is easy to isolate yourself and dwell in that loneliness if you don’t have a strong support system.  LeaderShape is such a unique experience and I think having the support of other LeaderShapers is an integral part of reaching your goals.  My friend Christine has been a life-saver for me.  She attended a different session of LeaderShape, but she understands having a vision and the trials that come from working towards it.  Whenever I share my struggles and fears with her, she is so incredibly encouraging and helps me find that motivation I need to continue planning TEDxUTK.  Reach out to people within your family cluster or other LeaderShapers you know, and really rely on each other for support.  Passion and motivation come and go sometimes, and it’s so important to have others who can encourage you along the way.  Even a short chat over coffee can be enough of a kick-start to help you overcome that obstacle and take one step closer towards your goal.

I can’t wait to update you all after TEDxUTK!  Join our community and start making a difference in your part of the world along with us.  And if you are working towards your vision, I’d love to hear about it!  You can tweet me anytime at  Let’s support each other as we make our visions a reality!  

LeaderShape Love,

TEDxUTK Twitter:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Day 7 Continues With TEDxOhioStateUniversity

Another post from a LeaderShaper working on a TEDx event:

Lessons that I learned at LeaderShape are constantly being revisited in my life. It helps that I have since been able to continue to surround myself with fellow LeaderShapers who experienced 6 days of growth and bliss with me and serve as constant reminders of the amazing people and opportunity that await if you live with an open mind and adventurous soul.

I'd be lying if I said I never experienced "LeaderShape withdrawal" in the weeks closely following our return. Thankfully, those feelings have since been transformed into my source of positive energy and have become my fuel of excitement and motivation to turn my dream that was once a LeaderShape vision into reality. During one of the final nights of LeaderShape we had an activity that would subsequently play a dramatic role in changing the course of my vision. It was through this seemingly simple activity that I was able to physically see the support from fellow peers and faculty members at my home university arise. Not only was this a very inspiring and humbling experience but it helped to empower me to return back to my home campus at The Ohio State University and take action.

Now, over five months after having entered into my "Day 7" I can proudly say that I am the licensee for Ohio State and officially organizing TEDxOhioStateUniversity with the help and majority of the main support from our original student team stemming from LeaderShape. For those reading this post who may not be familiar with TED, it is a nonprofit that was started with the mission to spread ideas. Although it was originally devoted to talks based off of technology, entertainment, and design their scope has since become more broad and they have over a thousand featured TED Talks that can be accessed for free through their website,

TEDx events are independently organized TED events that use the inspiring and innovative TED-like format in local communities all over the world. On March 31st Ohio State will have our inaugural event that will highlight local thinkers and doers who have amazing stories to share. Our student team has grown from the 5 LeaderShapers (including a LeaderShape facilitator who became the faculty advisor for our student organization) to almost 20 active student members who bring diverse perspectives but are sure to share the common vision of empowering our Ohio State community through this event.

It is our hope that TEDxOhioStateUniversity will be an environment that will connect students, faculty, and staff members from all different areas of campus and inspire them to put ideas into action. We will continue to build a TEDx community at The Ohio State University and hope to see it become an anticipated event by all who thrive off of creativity and innovation. LeaderShape has taught my fellow team members and me the invaluable lesson of having a healthy disregard for the impossible and was essential to the development and success of our organization. I am so thankful to have experienced the power of LeaderShape and continue to be immersed in the LeaderShape community far beyond the 6 day program. Oddly enough, I almost find that TEDxOhioStateUniversity is my opportunity to pay it forward by following through with my original LeaderShape vision and letting it expand to whatever may be in store.

To find out more about the event please visit our website at or find us on Facebook and Twitter @TEDxOhioStateU. Thank you LeaderShape for the outstanding impact you've made on my life and stay tuned to see where it leads!

Carpe Diem,

Jordan Edelheit
TEDxOhioStateUniversity Organizer
Leadershape Graduate 2011

Monday, February 20, 2012

LeaderShapers and TEDx

Over the past few months we have discovered more and more LeaderShaper's out there working on TEDx events. We are so impressed by and proud of these folks that we have to brag on them! We've asked these folks to contribute to our blog, sharing a bit about their TEDx experiences. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we have. Below is the first post we have to share.

From Yasser Masood Khan, LeaderShape Qatar

Last time I left you open with my previous entry about how my LeaderShape vision now began to materialize into 2 separate and worthwhile TEDx events post-TEDGlobal 2011. What were they? TEDxYouth@Doha in November 19, 2011 and TEDxEducationCity in Q1 2012 (Check it here for a flashback).

I've been working with a team of 16 people including myself to pull-off the 1st TEDxYouthDay in Qatar as it joined more than 100+ other events around the globe to celebrate UN Universal Children's Day. As it had to be held between November 19 - 21 to count as part of TEDxYouthDay, it was evident that 19th was the only option as it was a Saturday.

I had even taken part in a TED Conversation, and then I was quoted for my answers when they had put up a blog entry on their official TEDx blog (Check out the entry here). Just the significance of my contribution being featured further reinforced my commitment to making this event worthwhile for the youth.

What was our biggest challenge?
How do we educate and inform the youth about TED and TEDx?

It seemed like insurmountable odds, and I predicted that more than 75% of them would not even know about it. Compound this with trying to cover as many schools as possible, and that also under different education systems. Quite a feat to pull off, especially when I still recall the reasons on why I chose to make it happen; you could say that TED, the TEDx and TED team, and even people from Qatar were the source. Some were not open to such things as they haven't kept pace with new educational breakthroughs, while others were keen on experimenting with it and dove in head first.
Florent and Omer (see photo below) from Northwestern University supported me from the early days (which was from October 2010). Here's another thing about these two: they also attended LeaderShape's 25th anniversary celebration when they were studying abroad in Evanston, IL. They even jumped aboard for TEDxYouth@Doha since the very day I got my license approved. You won't believe how long it took to get it. Any guesses? (Hint: it won't be as long as you would normally think)

Then began our efforts to build up our team to handle the potential influx of more than 300+ youth. We chose to set a benchmark for what should be done in Qatar; our event was bilingual with live translation, and we went out of our way to make our event fully accessible that would be all-inclusive. Nobody would be turned away if they had any disability, as we felt that everyone should have the opportunity of being part of a global conversation about the youth's shared future. We even took it further to have it livestreamed for the world to see and enjoy.

71 days and 16 people is all that I had in my hands. We know what all we went through, as challenges began to manifest themselves with each and every day. Sounds like a lot of ground to cover within our short time span, but what did I learn from LeaderShape? A 'healthy disregard for the impossible' and I forged on with my team to make this event a reality. We didn't want to sap the youth's expectations, but we chose to start off small enough to pique their curiosity and build up support for next year's.

Showing the youth of Qatar that TEDxYouthDay is something that they should be part of was quite a challenge. However, numerous opportunities came knocking on our door. We also contributed to the official TEDxYouthDay introduction video that would be played at every TEDxYouth event happening worldwide between November 19 - 21. Our footage was selected, though it was but a short segment (around the 0:55 mark).

You could say that we had the honor of helping to represent other countries in the Middle East and North Africa region hosting TEDxYouth events.
We also committed to webcasting our event to the world, so that people across Qatar could also watch it. The stats for the webcast made my jaws drop, as over 3,000+ viewers tuned in and 50% of them came from Qatar.


What unfolded after the event really touched my heart, and I realized that I had a promised commitment to myself to keep this torch lit for next year's. The youth have showered their support and even asking for another one, but I told them to wait till November 2012.
I'll leave you with this photo from the conclusion of the event, when most of my core organizing team were on stage.
You can even check out some of my event's contribution on the official TEDxYouthDay website from the following links:
What's next after this? Besides TEDxYouth@Doha in November 2012, there is but another TEDx event, and it's been in the planning for more than 1 year. Many TEDx events of the 'university' type are already themed and tailored to each one of their campuses. What if I told you that mine will be taking it further and will integrate over 6 universities? Here in Qatar, we already have the privilege of having 6 American branch campuses but it goes even further.

Imagine a TEDx event that brings them all together, and also extends that opportunity to the home campuses located in their respective states in the U.S. It's an opportunity to truly have each of these universities to be part of a conversation that is unfolding 1000s of miles away and they are still part of the Qatar Foundation family with the other universities. It would also serve to show the globalized nature of higher education that has transcended many boundaries...

This is TEDxEducationCity, and has been part of my reshaped and redesigned LeaderShape vision for quite a while.

Make sure to pencil in March 2012, as you can watch it live wherever you are in the world. Looks like more Qatar LeaderShapers will be joining together.
For your pleasure, check out my Storify of the event