Much-anticipated TEDxSaintFrancis 2023 shines on the stage

by Will Li (’23) and Utkarsh Agarwal (’23) | March 10, 2023

Photography by Paige Allen (‘23)

On Saturday, March 4, TEDxSaintFrancisHS returned to the Performing Arts Center for its fourth annual event. A diverse lineup of thirteen speakers from all four grades shared stories with the Saint Francis community on themes ranging from digital detoxes to multicultural identity. The evening served as the culmination of ten months of dedicated coordination and preparation from speakers and organizing board alike.

“It’s been very fulfilling to see everyone’s work over the past year come together,” said co-director Claire Luo (’23). “I think it turned out really beautifully.” 

Assembled last April and May, the board opened speaker applications in September, then selected this year’s speakers in October, according to co-director Arhana Aatresh (’23). In November, speakers outlined their talks and began writing rough drafts, refining the content through workshops and one-on-one time with various board members. Aatresh explained that content-wise, introspection and authenticity of content were crucial, as well as ensuring that speeches combined “a good story and a good idea.”

Rehearsals in the theater began in February, allowing speakers to hone their talk delivery in preparation for the actual show, explained Director of Speakers Alexander Chang (’23). Along with other board members, he provided post-rehearsal feedback to facilitate consistent improvement in speeches. “We really wanted conversational takeaways. That includes both the way that we write the talks, but also the way that we present the talk,” he explained. “It was incredibly rewarding that I got to see all of [the] talks go from ideas when first proposed to full-fledged talks on stage.”

For the speakers, finally stepping on stage in front of the broader community after a steady stream of drafting sessions, workshops, and rehearsals proved challenging yet rewarding. Aarav Sontakke (’25), who spoke about the intersection between astrophysics and nihilism, recalled his heightened anxiety just before speaking, despite his copious preparation. But he nonetheless felt “relieved and just amazing” after his speech, knowing that his efforts were fruitful. 

Other speakers like Kyle Nguyen (’23), who spoke about developing a masculine identity without a father figure, also experienced apprehension in the minutes leading up to their speeches. But similar to Sontakke, Nguyen felt as though a “weight had been lifted off [his] shoulders” after speaking. And Kasper Halevy (’24), whose talk revolved around the cognitive and social benefits of chess, described his feelings of “euphoria” immediately after walking off the stage. He added, “That feeling of working so hard for such a long period of time and having everything come to fruition—that was my favorite part.” 

TEDxSaintFrancisHS 2023 owed its success not only to its speeches, but also to its hospitality, publicity, and tech teams. During the event, drinks and light snacks were offered in the lobby, as well as programs, speaker biographies, and the opportunity to handwrite notes to each speaker. Meanwhile, Elsa Ying (’23) designed an ingenious logo that integrated the topic of each individual talk through hand-drawn doodles, and Matthew Tran (’23) crafted artwork that conveyed broader themes resonating through all the speeches for the slide deck that visually accompanied each speaker. 

This year, the board was also able to capitalize on a new opportunity to promote engagement with the student body: the glassrooms in the recently-completed Eggers Innovation Center. With the assistance of Ms. Shraddha Chaplot, the team set up a TEDx-themed glassroom designed to encourage idea generation as well as showcase the thirteen speakers’ biographies, according to Aatresh and Luo. 

Regardless of their role, every Lancer involved in the show’s production was able to enjoy teamwork with others who shared a passion for storytelling and spreading intriguing ideas. Co-director Andrew Adkison (’23) recounted seeing “everybody fulfilling their role to its entirety, always jumping in to help out as necessary, and loving what [they] do.” He added, “It’s the relationships built that matter the most in life, and I’ll never forget the lasting memories I made this year with TEDx.”

The team’s synergy was undoubtedly indispensable to its smashing success on Saturday. “We got a lot of feedback from people who are familiar with TEDxSaintFrancisHS, that this round of talks was probably the best round of talks they’ve seen in a while,” said Chang. “I would have to agree.” 

Categories: News

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