Student hosts first TEDx conference

Alexandra So

The inaugural student-organized TEDx Harvard-Westlake featured speakers who discussed their careers as CEOs and writers last Sunday.
Nicky Belgrad ’19, Emmanuel Zilber ’19 and Matthew Gross ’19 organized the conference with the help of interdisciplinary studies department head and history teacher Larry Klein.
Belgrad attributed the conference’s success to the collaboration between himself and the other organizers.
“I think that Matthew, Emmanuel and I actually managed super well to get everything done and stay organized,” Belgrad said.
Belgrad decided to start the TEDx conference due to his own interest in watching TED talks.
“Every night before bed, I would watch or listen to one [TED talk], and that became my routine for a while, but I actually didn’t know TEDx was a thing for a year,” Belgrad said. “I was just looking at websites because they had a student page, and I found out that TEDx was a thing and that you can do student-led stuff, and I’ve been looking to do a project for school, and so I thought that was the perfect opportunity.”
After finding out about the opportunity, Belgrad needed to work with the administration to coordinate the event.
“The hardest part of the process was working through the administration,” Belgrad said. “There are a bunch of people that I had no idea I had to reach out to and contact to get everything done, so I was just sending emails to all of the people in the administration.”
The conference featured speakers Jane Buckingham (Lilia ’21), John Kang, Nanxi Liu and Laurie Sandell.
Kang and Liu are the CEOs of Homesidekick, a real estate platform, and Enplug, a software for digital displays, respectively.
The other two speakers are writers: Buckingham is the president of Trendera, a marketing firm, as well as a contributing editor for Seventeen and Cosmopolitan magazines, and Sandell is the author of “The Impostor’s Daughter” and “Truth and Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family,” and has written for publications such as The New York Times and GQ.
To invite speakers, Belgrad sent an email to introduce the event to people that Klein and Head of Communications and Strategic Initiatives Ari Engelberg had previous connections with.
These people they reached out to included alumni and parents, as well as a few of Belgrad’s own personal connections.
Before the event, Zilber expressed his excitement for the event and spoke of the importance of listening to speakers.
“It is important to hear people, especially adults who have a lot of experience with their respective businesses and in their lives,” Zilber said. “I’m excited to listen to what has helped [the speakers] persevere and arrive where they are today.”
Students said they were inspired by the hard work Belgrad put into the TEDx event and appreciated the opportunity to get to hear from a variety of speakers in person.
“I think it is really cool to see a student taking initiative at Harvard-Westlake and bringing some really great speakers, and I think it [was] a really cool event for the school,” Vanessa Payne ’19 said. “I think we have been talking about it for a while. I know at my middle school we used to have TEDx conferences where we would call in and people would talk to us, but to have an event at Harvard-Westlake with the speakers in person, it [was] a really great event.”