Agora’s Notepad

At TEDxCairoUniversty, we are staunch believers in the power of ideas left free to spread and roam free. Out of our belief in the power of TED’s long-lived slogan, “ideas worth spreading”, we wanted to make sure this slogan was reflected not only in every talk but also in every aspect and little detail during the event, all the way down to the package attendees left home with.
We wanted to share a glimpse of an imagined state in the future where citizens of the world (cosmopolitans) would unite their minds at the touch of a screen. In our Internet age, this freedom is made possible. In a way then, the modern Agora can be realized if a group of people decides to meet ‘virtually’ or share their ideas in the cyberspace.
That is what we wished to communicate with our attendees – by way of the cover of our notepad.
Every attendee and every member received one of these awesome red packages that contained multiple TEDxCairoUniversity souvenirs, including a ‘message in a bottle’ and a colorful notepad that looks odd and out of place with the Agorian theme. So what did our designers want to communicate?
If you look closely, you will see that the cover of the notepad (you can find it at the end of this post) is spattered with vividly colorful recognizable characters and Internet memes that may revive a nostalgic feeling to the 90s and early 2000s golden days. This piece of awe-inspiring artwork was once one big, blank canvas that was posted on Reddit. Users were invited to start drawing on it but with very limiting instructions, each user can only put a single colored tile every 5 minutes. Lots of working groups started to form, each group determined to work together with their colored tiles to finish up their little contribution artwork on this HUGE canvas. What added to the excitement is that battles between different groups were waged, so not only every member of the group helped finish the artwork, but also they had to defend their artwork against offenses and twist every vandalizing change imposed by enemy groups and use it for their advantage. This awesome masterpiece was a result of 72 hours of collaborative work, debates, paradigm changes, intricate planning, ideas exchange and collective mental cocoon-like gathering that resembles Agora, the real Agora, and our Agora.

This collaborative spirit lies at the crux of Agora and reflects a fundamental element of our theme: the belief that joint work can produce robust and brilliant results and ideas, the belief that debates are key to progress, that mental and social interactions are crucial for a healthy society that appreciates creativity and is open to new ideas.
If you like this idea and its backstory, give it a ‘share’ with your friends and family.
Bonus! If we get 100+ likes on this blog post on our Facebook page, we as TEDx Cairo University shall replicate this Reddit project.

A Messenger

Last year at our Decipher event, we were honoured and enlightened by a talk that’s definitely an idea worth spreading. Aya Nasser’s talk, titled A Messenger, takes you on a brief journey to explore the taboo world of mental illnesses.

Aya starts her talk with a comic video, recapping how mental illness is still perceived in most movie productions and people’s minds. Aya then recounts ‘the’ story, the story of her friends, X and Y.

Aya starts off by describing how X used to suffer from a case of severe depression that changed her personality and deeply affected her life. X refused to succumb to the illness, though; she kept fighting and ended up beating depression big time. Getting over depression was an arduous, tough journey for X, yet it’s because of it that she emerged a better person.

Aya shares Y’s story, which shares most features with X’s story. Y used also to be a patient of social anxiety disorder. Luckily, Y, too, was able to overcome her illness and become a better person than she ever planned to be.

This seems like a happy ending, but is it?

This is not the story Aya was there to share with us.

Aya wished to share how devastating it had been for her to call her friends not by their true names, but by shadowless letters, X and Y. Even though she’s really proud of how her friends triumphed over their mental illnesses, society tells her that she still has to refer to them as X and Y. Neither Aya nor her two friends can openly be proud of how far they have reached in their struggle against illnesses still deemed unworthy by society.

What’s worse than mental illness is how it is dealt with in our society. How they have to cope with comments such as: “can’t you just shake it off?” “It’s just a bit of sadness, cheer up!” “We all get stressed out; stop being a brat!” Naturally, patients seriously think they ought to hide their inner struggle and keep up a pretense of feeling alright.

Aya was there to discuss how hard mental illness is to live with, inside and out. It is hard enough to have your own brain destroying you, plaguing you with demonic, dispiriting, soul-crushing thoughts. She says it is one thing to put up a fight against your very own brain, but it’s another to simultaneously be the recipient of defeatist, ignorant comments. The cumbersome burden mental illness victims carry is not only battling themselves but also onlookers to survive.

Aya was there to share the sad fact that we, as a society, do not acknowledge the existence of mental illness, nor their danger or fatality. As a result, so many patients hide because they think mental illness is ‘wrong’, or because others must think it is a joke, or worse still, that it can be easily shaken off like a minor headache.

The truth is, though, that mental illnesses are a lot more painful and serious than most of us realize.  

We are obliged to crush the taboo around mental illnesses, so that depression and anxiety patients come out of their hide. Moreover, our role is to be tolerant and open towards mental illness patients, if not to help them seek help, then at least to empathize with their very real struggles.

There are so many mental illnesses, but the most common are depression and anxiety. You can go on and read more about depression and anxiety, or mental illness in general.

You can watch the referred-to TEDxCairoUniversity talk, A Messenger, by Aya Nasser, here:

Please share this with your friends and family. Let us know how you’ll help spread Aya’s message.

Your Ultimate Guide to a TEDx Event

A TED experience is like no other. A TED event has the total ability to change something inside you, to have you get out of there feeling completely enlightened, to open your eyes onto something, to guide you somewhere, to give you new perspectives.

We’re giving you the guide to making the most of, benefit from, and enjoy a TED event so you can make sure you’ll get that benefit fully absorbed:

Before the event:

1-Study the agenda.

Before the event, the event’s schedule will be released. You’ll also be handed a hard copy of the day’s plan. Do not hastily skim it; read it well and know which talks are when, when the breaks are, when the performances are, and so on. Study the agenda so that you avoid feeling lost.

2-Know the speakers.

The speakers will be announced before the event each one will be briefly introduced. Keep up and know who you’re going to be spending your event listening to.

On the event’s day:

1-Arrive on time, don’t leave early.

Try as hard to attend every part of the event, because it’s all pieces put together. Don’t just be there for some of the experience; take the full experience and attend every moment!

TEDx events are usually claimed to be long, but we have our ways to not make it boring, so don’t worry about that!

2-Clear your mind.

Prepare yourself by completely clearing up your mind before you go to the event. Try as hard to not let any thoughts interrupt your focus so you can really process what’s being said and digest it well.

3-Make minimal use of your mobile phone.

Smart phones are addictively distracting devices. If you’re constantly checking your FB Newsfeed and WhatsApp messages, you won’t be fully present during the event. Clearing your mind requires pushing distractions aside, especially electronic devices. Unless you’re tweeting about a talk or sharing an Instagram photo, your smartphone should be kept at arm’s length, silent or turned off.

4-Listen attentively and mindfully.

Don’t just hear what’s being said, listen carefully and process. Prepare yourself to reach a state of mindful listening during which you’re aware of everything around you, while genuinely being “in” the moment, taking in every uttered word.

5-Take notes.

Pack a pen and notebook to scribble down quotations taken from talks or, better yet, your comments, critiques, and rating of each talk. This way, you can relive your experience any time in the future.

6-Have snacks and essentials.

Keep a bottle of water and crumble-free and ‘silent’ snacks at hand so your hunger pang wouldn’t force you to leave the hall before break time. You don’t want to miss part of a talk and end up losing concentration, do you?

7-Make your breaks timely.

If you urgently need to leave the hall for a few minutes, try not to slice up a talk one or more times by taking mid-talk breaks. Believe us when we say a talk is best enjoyed whole and complete.

8-Meet the ones behind it.

We, the organizing family, will be dispersed around the hall throughout the event. Needless to say, we are always happy to talk with enthusiastic attendees. Be at ease when you speak to any of us, take photos with us, take photos with our X, tweet please, do not be on your own during breaks!

9-Mingle in the breaks.

Have fun and engage in activities. If you’re particularly quiet and shy, this is such a great chance to overcome your shyness by mingling with strangers. Speak to organizers, speakers, MC, and other attendees. Everyone probably has some amazing stories to share; so, when it’s break time, get out there and make friends!

10-Create your own social media buzz

Whether or not you’re active on social media, attending a TEDx event is truly an event worth spreading and sharing with your friends. This is a great opportunity to tweet, snapchat, post Facebook LIVE videos, statuses, WhatsApp and Instagram stories.  Make sure you use the event’s hashtags and follow up on the host’s social media accounts. (in our case it’s TEDxCairoUni)

11-Enjoy the performances!

After every 3-4 talks, performances change the scene and lighten up the atmosphere. Performances are especially designed to entertain after digesting an intense brain-filling session. Relax, unwind, and enjoy them!

12-Advertise yourself and seek advertisers

During breaks, you may wish to exchange business cards with other attendees.  

The TEDx experience differs from one person to another, yet if you follow our guide, we can guarantee that you’ll get the most out of this experience.