Ideas conference as a door opener: The second TEDxHU event took place in Berlin and fosters knowledge exchange

02. January 2019

Ideas conference as a door opener

The second TEDxHU event took place in Berlin and fosters knowledge exchange

Lamine Cheloufi TEDxHU

Facts and humor: Lamine Cheloufi wants to convince the audience of a cashless future. Credit:

The event starts much like a service of worship. On a video screen in the chapel of the economic faculty of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU), Isaac Lidsky, a blind American author and corporate speaker, talks on how to translate the negative into the positive, on the relationship of vision and visions, and on how each individual is the creator of their own reality. However, the audience at the second TEDxHU event ‘Igniting Innovation’ last December are not there for religious reasons. They are there to celebrate ideas that are worth being heard.

‘A few students from the university’s economic faculty thought the HU was too cool not to have a TED event of its own,’ remembers Konstantina Nathanail, who was part of the team from the start. As chief event manager, she and a 7-strong team organised the event in 2018. TED, which stands for technology, entertainment, and design, started as early as 1984. Initially, it was conference aimed at bringing those three subjects together. TED has since become a global community aimed bringing together ideas and the people that create them and making them better known. One of the first-ever TED talkers was former US vice-president Al Gore. TEDxHUBerlin is one of this global community’s many platforms.

All over the world, there are between 400 and 500 events every year. They are organised according to the strict guidelines of the foundation in charge of the TED brand. The audience at the events is limited to 100 guests and even the stage design needs to adhere to clear rules. All talks are recorded on video and published on a central YouTube channel. Politics, religion, and advertising are off-limits. Applications by young people for hosting an event are encouraged.

Konstantina Nathanail is a law student at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. The 20-year-old speaks three languages and discovered her interest in conferences early on. When the Greek native was 14-years-old, she took part in an international United Nations youth assembly, where she represented Algeria, wrote resolutions, and took part in debates. It didn’t take her long to decide to become a part of TEDxHU. The foundation takes up to eight weeks to approve applications, which include a presentation of the subject. ‘On four, five pages,” says Nathanail, ‘you sketch out the logistics – what, when, and where -, the team, the motivation behind it and its experience.’ The next step is funding. A good event clocks in at about 10,000 euros. Sponsors – which have included WISTA-MANAGEMENT GMBH – must be found. They, too, must fulfil the strict criteria of the TED foundation. All activities pertaining to the event are voluntary. When all this is done, it’s finally time to select the speakers. They are suggested or apply for a slot themselves. Applications must include a CV, video, and a topic suggestion.

Lamine Cheloufi, one of the event’s speakers, is not a big fan of cash. He is an advocate for a cashless society. In principle, he says, transferring money from one ‘pocket’ to another is a transfer of information. Cheloufi is convinced that this can be achieved without using coins and notes. However, he also knows that the Germans love their hard cash. So how do you bring ignite such an idea? Cheloufi is one of many asking himself this question – and he has found some interesting answers. The other speakers of the second edition of TEDxHUBerlin also have exciting things to say. For example, Diana zur Löwen, a well-known influencer, who talks about everyone’s inner optimist and how to set them free.

Time wasters, traitors, failed scientists: academics often frown upon colleagues who change over to the non-academic world. Mariana Cerdeira is well-aware of these prejudices and his calling for cultural change. Lastly, Gunay Kazimzade examines to what extent artificial intelligence can become sexist and racist.

‘TEDx,’ says Konstantina Nathanail, ‘is storytelling. It’s aimed at conveying complicated issues in simple way. We want to approach our subject from all angles and from an interdisciplinary perspective.’

Being entertaining is also important. Cheloufi knows how to entertain a crowd with his rap-like style. In addition to the informative content of his talk, he also presents fun facts, like the following: every German carries an average of 103 euros in their wallet. According to statistics, some of this money must have encountered cocaine at least once on its journey. Moreover, every single coin has as many bacteria on it like a toilet at Berlin’s main station.

Konstantina Nathanail is going to Geneva for her studies and will not be able to co-organise the next round. What stays with her, is the realisation that a small team can achieve a lot.

By Rico Bigelmann for Adlershof Journal

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