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Carnegie Mellon hosts TEDx talks, ‘fearless’ speakers

TEDx speaker Mk Haley is a faculty member at the Entertainment Technology Center and spoke of taking risks without abandon. (credit: Courtesy of TEDxCMU ) TEDx speaker Mk Haley is a faculty member at the Entertainment Technology Center and spoke of taking risks without abandon. (credit: Courtesy of TEDxCMU ) TEDxCMU team members joined together to bring a unique group of speakers representing a variety of diciplines, including fine arts, business and marketing, and international travel. (credit: Courtesy of TEDxCMU ) TEDxCMU team members joined together to bring a unique group of speakers representing a variety of diciplines, including fine arts, business and marketing, and international travel. (credit: Courtesy of TEDxCMU ) Chase Jarvis, one of the speakers at TEDxCMU, is a photographer, director, and social artist who has done commercial work for high-profile companies including Nike, Pepsi, Volvo, Reebok, Apple, and Red Bull. (credit: Courtesy of TEDxCMU ) Chase Jarvis, one of the speakers at TEDxCMU, is a photographer, director, and social artist who has done commercial work for high-profile companies including Nike, Pepsi, Volvo, Reebok, Apple, and Red Bull. (credit: Courtesy of TEDxCMU )

What is ranked as the number-one fear among human beings?

Jonathan Fields, former private equity attorney turned lifestyle entrepreneur, informed his audience that it was, amusingly enough, “the fear of public speaking.” Fields spoke at the TEDx conference, hosted by Carnegie Mellon on Sunday, April 4.

TEDx is a relatively new program that allows local communities such as schools, businesses, libraries, and neighborhoods to organize, design, and host their own independent event using the annual Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference model. The “x” in TEDx stands for “independently organized TED event.” TEDxCMU was one of the many mini spin-offs of the annual TED talks that are held in locations around the world. The original TED event aimed to bring together luminaries who are often unacknowledged in the fields of science, politics, philanthropy, business, and art.

A team of 11 students organized the Carnegie Mellon-centered event, overseen by Yongho Shin, a junior business administration major, and Sachit Gupta, a senior information systems major. “When I saw it online, I thought how amazing would it be if instead of just watching the talks online we could actually bring it here and have people actually sit in the place [where] it was happening,” Shin said.

The theme of this particular conference was “being fearless.” “I decided on the theme fearless,” Shin said, “because I thought it was a quality people can benefit from, and by bringing people that have done fearless things I wanted people to learn from that. We want the guests to actually think about what they are hearing and leave with something that they didn’t have before.”

“And use that to sort of do something later on. We want them to learn something that they can use to change something in the world,” Gupta added.
The presentations took place in McConomy Auditorium in the University Center last Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. As expected, there was a lot of interest for the event, but unfortunately seating was limited. As a result, over 200 people were denied a seat in the 450-seat auditorium. “We were surprised by the response,” Gupta said when asked about the possibility of making more seats available. Speeches at the event were capped at 18 minutes, and there were no question-and-answer sessions. Speakers were not paid for the appearance and received no compensation for their travel expenses. What’s more, speakers had to sit in the audience before their talk, and no laptops were allowed for note-taking.

Emcee Aman Chawla led and organized the conference. Chawla described the conference as a great opportunity for Carnegie Mellon and the community in general. “It increases CMU’s presence in a public light by bringing such illustrious alumni to the campus and by bringing so many people to CMU to see this, which I think is fantastic for the community and CMU,” Chawla said.

TEDxCMU speaker, cartoonist, and multi-disciplinary artist Raghava Kalyanaraman, better known as Raghava KK, was no stranger to TED. Just two months ago, in February, KK shared the spotlight alongside Bill Gates and Sheryl Crowe at the TED conference in Long Beach, Calif. “I am no authority on how to handle fear, but I have some instances on how to deal with fear,” KK said. “I use fear to motivate me. One of my philosophies is that if you want to do something, do it now. If you don’t have what it takes to do it, acquire it. Don’t second-guess yourself. Learn from your past.”

Apart from Fields and KK, the other speakers at the event included Carnegie Mellon alumnus and CEO of two Pittsburgh-based companies Robert F. Culberston III, blogger and world traveler Chris Guillebeau, Carnegie Mellon faculty member and former Walt Disney imagineer Mk Haley, photographer and social artist Chase Jarvis, Carnegie Mellon alumnus and CEO of Pittsburgh-based Deeplocal Nathan Martin, and Carnegie Mellon alumnus and entrepreneur Stacey Monk.

Their talks covered a variety of topics with personal experiences and anecdotes, all with the ultimate aim of spreading the lessons the speakers had learned about being fearless. Culberston, surprising the audience with a rap, spoke about the importance of saving money because of the power of compound interests.

Guillebeau, on the other hand, tried to encourage fearlessness by recounting the path his career had taken. Each speaker had something different to offer, and each had learned the importance of being fearless through different experiences. There is no doubt that their inspirational tales and messages will have made an impact on their audience.

In addition to Shin and Gupta, TEDxCMU team members included: Tejasvi Ashok, a chemical engineering master’s student; Shivaas Gulati, a master’s student at the Institute for Software Research; Shivranjani Gupta, a first-year economics major; Krish Ajmera, a sophomore business administration major; Varun Srinivasan, a senior H&SS interdisciplinary major; Nipun Gupta, a master’s student at the Information Networking Institute; Brian Yee, a sophomore H&SS interdisciplinary major; and Juliana Diaz, a design master’s student.