CSM to host college district’s first TEDx conference

SMCCCD students are urged to submit their proposals for TEDxCollegeofSanMateo

For the first time ever, College of San Mateo (CSM) will be hosting the community college district’s first TEDx (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference, dedicated to empowering students’ critical thinking through public speaking.
CSM Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), in partnership with the CSM Honors Project program, brings TEDxCollegeofSanMateo, a self-organized event that invites students from CSM, as well as from Cañada and Skyline Colleges, to speak about their ideas virtually in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
PTK students Manraj Gill and Mark Wong are the minds of this initiative. With the pandemic causing employees and interns to lose their jobs, and with the events being cancelled because of restrictions on face-to-face meetings, Gill and Wong looked for an alternative where they could “collaborate and work on something meaningful.”
“(Mark) saw TED talks as, to be honest, initially somewhat of a joke, because we didn’t think CSM would be capable of getting that license, or that we couldn’t qualify,” said Gill, who is the PTK chapter president, revealing how the idea to host a TEDx at CSM started. “But eventually we got it. … Mark and I started this whole event sometime in summer. We worked with an Honors coordinator at CSM — That’s how we got approval from some faculty.”
With the help of a TED representative, Gill and Wong were able to receive the TED licensing within a day, which, according to them, could have ended up taking around eight weeks to receive approval.
“After that, we start to recruit the people hosting the event,” said Wong, the chapter’s vice president for finance.
Different students across CSM have joined, and partake in the initiative as part of the organizing team, with each having specific responsibilities and each representing their respective clubs and organizations.
Gill also mentioned that they have spoken with the Honors program coordinators from Cañada and Skyline Colleges to reach out and invite their students their speech proposals.
Gill finds it easier to organize this event, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think, to be honest, that it’s a lot easier doing it online than it is doing it in person because the structure of communication is more consistent,” Gill said. “TED talks have been done virtually for like the past decade, I’m sure. So it’s not a new thing, in terms of it being open to being online.”
However, he said that communication can also be hard at times, especially with people not being aware or not being able to email.
The conference’s theme, “Living in Uncertainty”, refers, of course, to the uncertainties people are facing while being quarantined due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event urges students to “present their thoughts under these uncertainties.”
TEDxCollegeofSanMateo posted their proposal submission guidelines on their Instagram and LinkedIn accounts. Under these guidelines, students are given the opportunity to submit proposals in the areas of STEM, humanities, arts, history, literature, etc.
The organizers are flexible with the topic choice, but it is highly encouraged for the topics to relate to the theme, according to Wong and Gill.
“If it’s a bit different, we can help them align with the theme, but if it’s completely out of scope, then it’s kind of difficult for us to put them on the platform,” Gill said.
Selected presentations are also required to create a 10-15-minute presentation with a visual aid. They encourage the use of pictures, graphs, and charts, if necessary, and ask that sources be properly cited.
The deadline for the proposal submission is on Oct. 26 at 11:59 pm, and proposal acceptance notifications will be sent on Oct. 30.
Gill also provided reassurance that they will be guiding them through every step of the way: from polishing up their proposal to helping them improve their public speaking skills.


Students, faculty, and staff are invited to participate as audience members and should expect emails containing the Zoom registrations.
While this is a first in the history of SMCCCD, it is not the first TEDx event to be held in San Mateo County. Some TEDx events that have taken place around San Mateo County in the past are TEDxSanMateo, TEDxYouth@TheNuevaSchool, and, more recently, TEDxBurlingameHS.
“Giving a TED talk is something of its own,” Gill said. “Organizing it is even more unique. Not many people have that opportunity.”