Preparing his third TEDx in Paris – Sabri Ben Radhia

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Most students concentrate on their studies in the hope that they’ll put their education into practice after graduation. But some students stand out, they shine for their entrepreneurial spirit and leadership. Recent graduate Sabri left education having already accumulated a trail of success. Sabri is the founder of Paris’ only English-speaking TEDx event. He has certainly made his mark within the expat and local community. As the third edition of TEDxIHEParis approaches this May we sat with the founder to discuss his journey.

What is TEDx?
It’s an event where we bring together people who have a great idea which we believe can change our daily life, as individuals, as a group and, ultimately, change the world. A speaker needs to teach us something, to explain to the audience why their idea is worth listening to and show us how it can impact life.

You’ve organised the only English- speaking TEDx in Paris, why the decision to organise an English-speaking event?
When I arrived in Paris in 2013 I was immediately impressed by the international
and multicultural environment of the city. However, I could sense a gap between the French locals and the locals with foreign origins. As a native French speaker from Tunisia, I found myself in the middle of both groups and thought that an inspirational event could help bridge the gap and bring both communities a little closer. The easiest way to make a step towards that was to connect the two through a common/global language, English.

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How pivotal was that decision to implementing the event?
It has proven essential! It has made our talks accessible to a larger group of people, both physically and virtually.

This year’s theme is One Life, what can you tell us about it?
‘One Life’ has a different meaning for each of us, but I’m sure we all agree that we should make the most of it. This year’s theme gives us the opportunity to share ideas that aim to make one’s (and another’s) life better through simple ideas, science and technology. As TEDx aims to provoke conversation and spread ideas, I believe this year’s theme is a great way to help people reflect and find inspiration.

800 attendees are expected this year, how much preparation goes into the event?
We kicked off the preparation back in August 2016 and after a month of planning and imagining the event, we got the team and started looking for speakers, reaching out to sponsors, venues…

Many inspirational speakers have now taken to the stage, who do you remember most and why?
It’s difficult to answer this because we’ve been extremely fortunate to welcome 17 amazing speakers on stage, all of whom were unique, inspiring and played their role.

I do have a special place in my heart for all the speakers who came to our first event when we were very small, they all showed belief and trust in an unproven concept. Among those speakers was Gabriella Kern who gave an inspiring and emotional talk about her search for her biological parents. From last year’s event Elena Herdieckerhoff stands out for her talk on highly sensitive people. Her talk has spread like wildfire online with over 800k views, I must have watched it 20 times myself.

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Photograph: Anne Barot – www.annebarot.com

What are you looking for when reviewing a TEDx talk application?
First, we look for the idea. It needs to be relevant, original and can have an impact on us. Then we look at the speaker’s profile and expertise. Finally, we have a meeting with the person to discuss the idea, the goal of giving a talk and the call to action. We want to make sure that the audience will leave the talk with useful and interesting information or takeaway.

TEDxIHEParis 3 years ago was a much smaller event, what memories do you have of the first event?
I remember it as a great event and I was happy and proud of that first one. It was a small event, as we didn’t have a budget and we were just trying to do the best we could. I can now see the difference between the first and the second. But I think the most important was that we had a good speakers and that was enough to satisfy the audience. They were great and they understood it was just the beginning of something that today, is much bigger than me or the team. Without that first event and the people in the audience 3 years ago we wouldn’t be talking about the upcoming event which will welcome 800 attendees.

What are your expectations for this year’s event?
The priority is, of course, a high quality event, it includes the speaker talks and the whole experience of the audience as soon as they arrive at the venue. We learned a lot from the last edition and this year we have a whole team taking care of the delegate’s experience too.

What is your advice for organizers looking to develop a successful event?
Have a good co-organizer who will always take a step back and be more objective than you are. I often get too excited and sometimes I have crazy thoughts and need to be brought back to reality. Also make sure to choose the right people for the team, not based on their skills but on their personality. Commitment is really important when you are a volunteer. And finally, never stop asking people for help. You never know!

I know you’ve got an amazing line up of speakers this year, can you share some of their stories?
Yes! We have 11 different speakers with 11 different and unique ideas. Including Neil Davey who has worked in many laboratories pursuing biomedical research in oncology and infectious disease. At the age of 18, Neil started deploying his solution of detecting cancer out of one drop of blood using a low cost, simple and accessible method.

Then there is Sara Safari, who survived the devastating 7.8 earthquake that hit Nepal in 2015 whilst on Mount Everest. She hiked back down to help the victims and families. She is a board member and director of development in Empower Nepali Girls.

There is also John Isaac who worked as a photojournalist for the United Nations for 25 years and travelled to over 100 countries documenting war and famine and the never ending struggles of our changing world. After retiring from the UN, he decided to turn his attention to nature and wildlife and to help save the tigers of India. In addition to his work for the UN, he is also known for his independent freelance work photographing celebrities, including Audrey Hepburn and Michael Jackson.

These are three examples of the talks to expect on May 20th. I assure you the other 9 are just as interesting and fascinating, but I’ll let you discover those on the day itself.

TEDxiHEParis takes place on May 20th. Tickets can be bought directly on www.tedxiheparis.fr

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