And Just Like That, I Learned to Be Inspired to Inspire Others.

Having the opportunity to participate in the organization of two TEDx events has been incredibly rewarding. For me, each event has been distinctive in its own way and has left me with a need to do it all over again!

When I first joined the TEDxBerkleeValencia team, I considered myself to be a true TED advocate. Being an all things TED cheerleader helps when joining the team. As I sat down in our team’s weekly meetings, I realized that I was in complete awe of the people around me. While this may not seem like a big deal, it made all the difference in the world to me since it motivated me and helped me make valuable contributions.

The TEDxBerkleeValencia team is made up by a diverse group of individuals. Hailing from different parts of the world and from various walks of life, we are united by the common desire to share “Ideas Worth Spreading” with our community. Earlier, I pointed out my awe while working along side these individuals because as it turns out, this same respect and admiration helped me to better connect with them, others, and myself.

Behind the scenes, we regularly envision our event, and think about everything you can possibly imagine. Together, we spend hours throwing out whatever idea comes to mind, encouraging each other to be crazy, and saying things like the sky is the limit! While this may all sound a bit cliché, it is this kind of environment that has allowed us to provide our audience with truly unforgettable experiences in the past (such as seeing a real life mermaid deep dive with sharks just before an intermission break).

With less than 26 weeks to plan this year’s most recent event, we each set out on a simple mission – to find the innovators, dreamers, game changers, and doers that would take the TEDxBerkleeValencia 2016 edition to the next level. While our event is always open to anyone who wishes to apply to speak, the team enjoys scouting potential speaker candidates as well. After all, you can never connect with too many TED lovers!

Personally, I thought long and hard about the numerous people I could reach out to. This year I wanted to focus my attention on someone I looked up to. Remembering the team’s words to be crazy, I decided to reach out to Alexandra Lúgaro, an attorney and businesswoman from Puerto Rico, who was now running for the post of governor of the island, as an independent candidate.

Making her voice heard via social media channels, Alexandra first caught my attention on Facebook. Having been born and raised in Puerto Rico myself, I do my best to keep up with the happenings back home. While I usually prefer to steer clear of politics, I really appreciated how Alexandra was eliminating traditional media to ensure her message to the world was not distorted. In my eyes, this was a direct, smart, and genuine approach. It was also pretty badass.

Luckily for her but quite unfortunate for me, I was not the only one who seemed to appreciate her approach to politics. Alexandra had more than 250,000 followers on Facebook, 18,000 followers on Twitter, and 50,000 followers on Instagram. She also had multiple speaking engagements on a daily basis and was even traveling to meet with the U.S. Congress for an entire week soon. Knowing these details made it difficult for me to believe that she would ever see any message I sent her way. Still, I decided that it was worth a try. That is how I poured my heart into writing an honest message encouraging her to apply to speak at TEDxBerkleeValencia 2016.

Much to my surprise, as the weeks went by and the speaker applications began to pour in, Alexandra personally responded to my message. I must have done a happy dance the entire day! While this only meant that she’d be sending in an application (not that she would be selected), I had at least succeeded in making my own voice heard to someone who seemed virtually impossible to get in touch with. This in itself was a small victory and filled my heart with joy.

This year, we received dozens of speaker applications. Each application was carefully reviewed and discussed as we worked together to narrow down the final selection to 10 speakers. I was very excited to find out that Alexandra had made it through the first review round and into the interview portion of the application process. The interviews are always important since the team gets a chance to actually speak with the potential speaker candidates. It is one of my favorite parts of organizing a TEDx event because not only does the entire team debate on the final speaker selection but we are able to meet the incredible people from around the globe who are interested in speaking at our event.

During these interviews, I enjoyed listening to other great speaker candidates like Tatiana Simonian Oliveira, who shared an incredible personal story, or Will Lydgate, who talked about the benefits of eating chocolate every day! I must admit that when the time to interview Alexandra came, I probably felt more nervous than she. Up to this point I had only interacted with her via written messages so to actually see or speak with her was definitely something I looked forward to. Of course I did my best to contain my inner fan girl and remained objective as this interview would decide whether she’d speak at TEDxBerkleeValencia or not.

While the team took some time to make the final decision on who the ten speakers would be, we made great progress on other important details related to our event. The beautiful Oceanogràfic, in the City of Arts and Sciences, was confirmed as our venue. The sponsorships and partnerships department successfully secured endorsements from at least 20 companies and organizations. We found a Cirque de Soleil inspired dance performance along with 5 musical performances. The marketing and communications team played with our “Connecting the Dots” theme to promote and sell tickets. And a large volunteer team was put in place. In summary, everything was slowly coming together in a smooth manner.

The day finally came when the team handpicked this year’s TEDxBV speakers. To see the team vote in favor of Alexandra’s participation is still hard to put into words but most definitely filled me with pride. When you work on an event, the way our entire team worked on TEDxBerkleeValencia, it literally feels like your baby, your creation. And to know that you were able to positively contribute to your baby’s success is a great feeling!

This year, TEDxBerkleeValencia sold out once again, welcoming an audience of over 500 attendees. Each team member made an important contribution so when this full house gave us not one but two standing ovations, we simply looked at each other and smiled. Moments like those are really what TEDx is all about.   

As I look back on my entire experience, I would like to share this. For the past two years, helping organize TEDxBerkleeValencia provided me with the opportunity to meet innovators, dreamers, game changers, and doers. It helped to connect me with women like Alexandra Lúgaro, whom I now can say I stay in touch with. And it helped me to realize the important value of the people I surround myself with! By surrounding myself with individuals who not only inspired me, but encouraged me to be crazy, and told me that the sky was the limit, they helped push me to achieve more than I knew I could. By surrounding myself with those who expected nothing but great things from me I changed… in a good way. And by surrounding myself with others who cared about giving back to their community, I realized that I too had the power to become an innovator, a dreamer, a game changer, and doer (if I wanted to be), for which I am forever grateful.

Watch Alexandra Lúgaro's TEDx talk on 'Independent Candidacies, Social Media, and the Rescue of Democracy' here.


 

Stephanie Hernández is one of the Marketing and Communications Coordinators for the TEDxBerkleeValencia team. She joined the TEDxBV team two years ago while completing a Master’s in Global Entertainment & Music Business from Berklee College of Music, Valencia Campus. Stephanie is now finishing a Post-Master’s Fellowship that she was awarded immediately upon graduating from the same GEMB Master’s Program. To connect and keep up with her latest endeavors, you may visit http://www.meetstephaniehernandez.com

When Reality Sinks In, Hope Whispers One More Try

By: Laura Shand, TEDxBV '15 Artistic Coordinator

My year at Berklee was by far one of the highest of highs I have ever experienced. I threw myself into every possible opportunity, from class representative to production assistant, to becoming one of the founding member’s of the Berklee Women’s Empower Symposium, to the Artistic Direction Coordinator for TEDxBerkleeValencia ’15. I loved it all. I worked so incredibly hard on TEDx, living and breathing the event. One of my proudest achievements was securing top model Ashley Graham as a speaker for TEDx. I remember the day her application came through like it was yesterday: I was sitting in my economics class, and jumped out my seat as I read my email inbox, causing a bit of a scene. It was unbelievable to watch her speech evolve as I coached her in preparation for the event. There I was--I had the opportunity to coach someone I truly looked up to, and then see her take the stage… #Mindblown

Since TEDxBV, I have watched her momentum grow and seen the talk that I helped shape be aired on E!, Entertainment Tonight, Good Morning America… and many more! Since taking the TEDx stage, Ashley has become the first plus size model to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated; I can’t go out in public without seeing her face somewhere on magazine covers, and billboards. To know I had a small influence by simply writing to her to invite her to apply back in October 2014 is insane. This is also a small reminder that I have connected dots all my life and it's not going to stop now only because I am getting shot down in this highly competitive field otherwise known as the music business.

Like all highs, usually lows will follow, and no one really prepares you for the loss felt upon leaving the amazing community that is Berklee College of Music. I felt as though I had just gone through a major break up with over 100 people for a good couple of weeks post graduation. I lost a family. You try grasping, in the attempt to make “long distance” relationships work - with some it does work out and with others you just come to face the fact that you may not see them again (at least not for a long while). It is absolutely heartbreaking.

Sometimes it is hard to stay positive when you transition from working with so many high profile industry professionals and being surrounded by people who share your same passion to being back in Delaware living in your parents’ basement. The truth is that some dots in my life feel far away and hard to reach. While completing my studies at Berklee, I accomplished so much, proving myself over and over again. When that momentum stops, you are left not really knowing what to do with yourself next.

I feel like I have connected a few dots since graduation but I cannot make out the full picture just yet. Just as I think I am close to completing the picture, the dots disappear again. I have been to a ton of interviews, second round interviews, and even made it to the final round for two different manager positions in NYC but it seems that stubborn last dot, “the job dot”, is not ready to connect. This has got me thinking that maybe there is a reason for this. It is difficult to keep the faith when you see others becoming successful, but I have recently learned that pangs of jealousy don’t get you anywhere but hurt. My time will come, this I know! Everyone has their own dots to connect, and you can’t get distracted with the pretty paintings that other people are creating. At the end of the day, those paintings are their own and you have to focus on your own to make it uniquely yours.

I confess that when I was first asked to write this blog, I panicked, I had no idea what to write. I laugh to myself because I felt as though I had nothing to share. Then I realized the power that comes from perseverance and finding the courage to create my own painting, out of my own dots. This is why I made the decision to stop waiting for that “job dot” to appear and basically create other dots myself. In the same way I picked up and moved to beautiful Valencia, Spain to attend my dream school, I will pick it all up now and move to Miami, a city I love and that I hope will love me back. My dream of becoming a festival coordinator in the Latin Music industry might take time. But it's time I am willing to invest to design the life that I want. Fingers crossed I don’t end up back in the basement!

 

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