TEDx DHS: How seven months of preparations culminate in a 10-minute presentation


Dartmouth Week

2019 presenters pose on stage with show runners Ms. True and Ms. Sousa. This was the last time that TEDx DHS was live in the auditorium.

On Friday, April 8, TEDx DHS will host their annual TEDx Talks event in the auditorium. The roughly ten-minute long presentations will take place all day, breaking during the PASE period, 8:35am-9:15am, and during the lunch period. Topics center around the theme “Connections to the World Around Us,” and range from robotics and relationships to body language. 

TEDx DHS first started after a field trip to the Zeiterion Theater in New Bedford, says TEDx DHS co-advisor Hilaria Sousa. Ms. Sousa and Ms. True, the second co-advisor, took a group of students to the Zeiterion to watch TED presentations. Their students were excited by the trip, and Ms. Sousa thought about bringing a TED-style event to DHS but with student presenters.

The students loved the idea.

In the beginning, the TEDx events coincided with National Foreign Language Week; consequently, the themes were world language-based. However, since the first event in 2016, estimates Ms. Sousa, the topics have diversified. All interests and topics are welcomed and encouraged.

It is cool to see the kids find their niche.

— TEDx DHS Advisor Liz True

Ms. True says, “It is cool to see the kids find their niche.”

Ms. True says they started TEDx DHS “to give kids an avenue to talk about topics they are passionate about. The point of the presentations isn’t to get everyone to agree, it’s to get everyone to think.”

However, the presentations on April 8 are just the tip of the iceberg. Preparations for the TEDx DHS event begin with the start of the school year in the fall. In late September, possible themes are brainstormed and one is chosen. Presenters then brainstorm their own topics and begin work on their presentations. 

Senior Lucas Dion says he chose his topic about robotics and relationships “because I love robotics, and through my personal experiences in robotics, I’ve gotten to know a lot of people, and have developed a lot of close relationships, so it’s really just a topic that’s close to my heart.”

Both advisors expressed the sense of accomplishment presenters and themselves feel after the event is over. 

“The kids feel a sense of accomplishment, almost euphoria, once they finish their talk,” says Ms. True. She likens herself to “the proud mom,” and along with Ms. Sousa loves “seeing the kids shine.”

Besides the obvious life skill of public speaking reinforced in TEDx DHS, there are numerous other important life lessons taught in this unique club. 

“Nobody’s going to know if you missed a line. Nobody’s going to know if you missed a word,” says Ms. True.

The TEDx Talks teach students how to work under pressure and continue shining even if something does not go as planned. Students make mistakes and learn to move on from them.

TEDx helps with public speaking and getting comfortable in front of a large crowd. Especially this year since we will be in the auditorium again, you develop confidence in your topic and yourself which is good practice for class presentation.

— Senior Kaitlin Silva

Senior Kaitlin Silva says, “TEDx helps with public speaking and getting comfortable in front of a large crowd. Especially this year since we will be in the auditorium again, you develop confidence in your topic and yourself which is good practice for class presentation.”

Dion notes that his experience as part of TEDx DHS this year has improved his writing and time management skills. He adds that his biggest challenge was balancing his time between his senior responsibilities, school, college applications, and TEDx DHS. 

“I almost did not have enough time to complete my presentation,” says Dion. 

But it all worked out in the end. Dion, and the other presenters, impressively devoted the time and dedication to their presentations to complete them on time. 

Ms. Sousa says her favorite part of co-advising TEDx DHS is “seeing everything come together in the end. It always works out.”

This year, TEDx DHS was originally scheduled for March 11, but due to complications, the event was postponed to April 8.

Despite these challenges, the presenters and advisors are ecstatic for Friday.

Each day after school this week, presenters are practicing run-throughs of their presentations in the auditorium. This Thursday after school, the day before the event, presenters, advisors, and the stage tech crew will rehearse the show and ensure all details are finalized. DCTV will also come to do a microphone check with every presenter on Thursday and make sure everything is ready for the following day, explains Ms. Sousa.

DHS students will be able to watch the talks in person in the auditorium again this year after last year’s live-streamed presentations due to COVID-19 restrictions. Additionally, parents will be able to once again watch their kids on stage, a special moment Ms. Sousa expressed gratitude and excitement to have back this year.

Dartmouth residents will be able to watch the talks on DCTV and anyone can watch the livestream of the presentations courtesy of Media Productions teacher Robert Perrotti’s DHSTVMedia program. Watch online here.

Senior Elizabeth McKinley says, “My favorite part is the day that we present. There’s a lot of nervous and excited energy, and it just bonds everyone together.”

McKinley will be presenting about the divide in politics in the United States in recent years. “It’s a topic that’s affecting all of our lives so much right now, and it’s important to have some education on why politics have become so much more divisive recently,” says McKinley.

Presenters and advisors alike both advise students interested in giving a TEDx Talk to take the risk. All of the presenters and advisors emphasized the supportive community that forms over the year, especially in the weeks leading up to the event. 

“Although it might seem daunting, everyone will be in the same boat as you. As long as you know your topic really well, you’ll be able to give a strong presentation,” says McKinley.

Silva says, “It’s not as scary as it seems, just try it out and you’ll have a great time!”