How do you pick a topic that is broad and generic, yet personally meaningful to yourself and others? This question floated through my mind often around this time last year, soon after taking on the role as organizer of TEDxIESEBarcelona. I had taken the reigns from a fantastic team that had put together a virtual event the previous year regarding “The Future of Relationships” – a topical theme given that we had spent nearly two years staring at each other through screens at that point. What would be my topic though? How to make it both timely, impactful, and live up to the billing of being the first live TEDxIESEBarcelona event since 2018?
The answer came when catching up with my classmate and TEDx Content Lead, Rong Lai after returning to Barcelona from my internship. She confided the toll that so many aspects of the MBA had taken on her mental health, and how the conscious decision to address this had been so important to getting her back on a better path. And there it was! Or at least the core of an idea. So many of us had been through the proverbial wringer during our time in the MBA. Classes had been intense, perceived self-worth had oscillated like a bad rollercoaster as others around seem to be achieving so much while others still sought jobs or internships, sleep had been in short supply. All of this in the midst of COVID! That small thing. The World Health Organization found that the global prevalence of anxiety and depression rose 25% just in the first year of COVID. Now we had found ourselves passing GO for another round of indeterminate length. The world had seemingly fallen apart around us, and we did not seem to be doing much better inside of ourselves. In light of this, it only seemed right to pick an inspirational theme to both address this and show how we could find the determination to blaze forward on our individual and collective paths.
Picking up the Pieces – if things were broken, it only made sense to discuss how to put it all back together.
With this theme in mind, next came the not-so-small task of putting together the actual event. I am not going to lie and say it was simple, or that I was on top of things at every step. It was tough. We had to rediscover much of the knowledge of how to hold this event in-person that had been lost four years before. Companies were still on a wartime COVID budget and were reluctant to open their wallets again so soon. Putting together an event with the sort of expectations that come along with the name – TEDx – with a shoestring budget pushed the limits of our wit and ingenuity. With the herculean efforts of the amazing team (acknowledged at the end of my post) and the support of so many others we were able to pull it off and produce something that I am immensely proud to have been a part of.
Held in Aula Magna, North Campus on a rainy Saturday in March, the fifth edition of TEDxIESEBarcelona featured seven speakers, two delightful MCs in local communication trainers: Kyoko Takeyama and Cormac Walsh, musical interludes by our fellow classmate Jordan Bohinc, and networking over drinks at the end. Our first speaker, Ian Gibbs, provided laughs and questionable German accents during his speech in which he described the hidden value in talking to each other to internalize concepts and learn better. He was followed by Leslie Saglio who gave a strong, empowering talk about the ways in which women can be more conscious leaders. After the break, Karim Adaimi, from the IESE Class of 2022, moved hearts and brought out tears as he told us of the Beirut explosion and the efforts to rebuild the city. Noud van Hecke then provided his insights as to why teams and peer support are so essential to preventing burnout and crashing in stressful situations. We began the final section of the event with IESE Class of 2012’s (and fellow University of Michigan engineer!) Julie Verdugo who captivated us with tales of how despite having a twin, she could not always be in two places at once, and that true impact could be had right where you are rather than by yo-yoing between your life and service. Dr. Christian Busch joined via video to provide a download on his fascinating field of study regarding serendipity and how in the face of uncertainty we can create our own luck. The event concluded with an impassioned speech from Dr. Lucy Shoolbred who reminded us that we do not always have to answer the question, “how are you?” with the easy, and often inaccurate, answer of “I’m OK.”
The end of the event did not however mean the end of the road though. We are working hard still to complete all the final touches on the speech videos which will be the lasting legacy of this event, and I am in the process of handing over the reins of TEDxIESEBarcelona to the class of 2023. May they mercifully learn from the highs and lows that we went through in the organization this year and produce an even more spectacular event for the future! This was the first TEDx event on campus in many years, but I know it will not be the last.
I could not have been prouder of what we accomplished this year, and that would have been impossible without all of those involved. Many thanks are needed for all our speakers, our MCs, the speech coaches, Jordan for the music, and the technical staff. The event could not have happened without the support of many wonderful individuals working for IESE Business School and the IESE Alumni Association, or the sponsorship of Volkswagen Group, Estrella Damm, Constellats Wine, and Casanovas Catering. The TEDx team of MBA students requires special thanks for all their work in the midst of everything else the MBA threw at them: Rong Lai led the Content Team which also included Mafalda Anjo, Lorenzo Sinisi, and Michael Susanto; Sara Tendero (EMBA ’22) led the Sponsorship Team which included Jeanne Deng, Mohit Mehra, and Pilar Ribot; Fabian Fiege let the Operations Team which included Luis Fernandez and Fred Tolin; Karina Ikhsan led the Marketing Team which also included Francesco Ferran.
Written by Tyler Berghorst, MBA Class of 2022
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