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June 10, 2021

Student view: Making a live event virtual

Johnny McGraw graduated in 2021 with a degree in media and interpersonal communication from the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. He was the curator of TEDxMSU, a student-led organization that works to amplify the brightest and most innovative voices in the MSU community.

Shifting gears to make TEDxMSU a virtual event definitely made this year’s conference an exciting challenge. What typically looked like an auditorium-size event at the Wharton Center with around a thousand people now looked like my team filming our nine speakers in a smaller, more intimate venue. We knew that we wanted to do an event Livestream, so we got our talks filmed and went straight to the editing room.

Our videographer made sure each talk was properly cut for the online viewing environment and, from there, we held our event live stream. It quickly received over a thousand views, and the talks will soon be posted individually on the official TEDx YouTube account to their 31 million subscribers. 

The main fear we had about this year’s event was the fear that we would not be able to get applications from potential speakers due to an overwhelming year full of tragedy and hardship. Thankfully, the brightest minds of the MSU and East Lansing community still came full force when we opened our applications to speak at our event. From wise professors and promising students to artists and doctors, our event was stacked with talent from top to bottom. Among our speakers were Tamara Steffens, the managing director of M12 — Microsoft’s Venture Fund — and Jamie Racklyeft, the founder of the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium.

Our main takeaway from this abnormal, yet successful, format is that we were up to the challenge of adapting and it paid off. Many TEDx conferences this year sadly didn’t happen, but we knew that we had to make it happen somehow because we feel that we have a duty to our TEDx community to give them an amazing experience every year. TEDx events showcase interactive booths that allow guests to participate in fun and innovative experiences, with ours featuring virtual reality tours of futuristic landmarks, as well as allowing guests to engage with MSU students who are at the helm of cutting-edge research projects. We even feature performances from renowned MSU dance and vocal teams during our intermission! The event’s main focus, though, is our incredible lineup of speakers each year.

As someone who just completed an undergraduate degree one month ago, I couldn’t be more thankful to our team and speakers for making my last TEDxMSU event that I will ever lead an incredible experience that I won’t forget. Because I am passionate about both media and how human beings interact, TEDxMSU was the perfect hybrid to allow me to let my interests run wild.

I mean, it’s an event that utilizes multimedia to convey powerful messages presented with strong interpersonal storytelling skills by people who are extremely passionate about their work — how much better can it get? Leading this wonderful organization has given me the ability to sharpen a wide set of skills that will prove very useful for my career in the realm of communication, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds.

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