My TEDx UoSM 2019 experience

Last night, the TEDxUoSM committee hosted a dinner with all the speakers. It was a casual meet-up to dine together before the BIG event, happening the very next morning.

The hardworking TEDx UoSM 2019
organisers, committee and volunteers
In fact, some team members were still hard at work in the event venue to get the auditorium ready for the event and could not join us for the meal.

The excitement went up a few notches when a friend at University of Southampton Malaysia sent me a photo of the action that was happening in the auditorium to let me have a sneak peek of how the team was getting the venue ready for TEDx UoSM 2019.

Meanwhile, it was good to meet with fellow speakers and get to know the Managing Director of Educity Iskandar Malaysia Sdn Bhd, Wan Ahmad Saifuddin, award-winning English teacher from Keningau Vocational College, Sirhajwan Idek, and Lecturer in Newcastle University Malaysia, Dr. Edmund Ong.

Speakers [L to R] Dr. Varun, Amir Shahlan, Dr. Ed Ong,
Yours Truly, Juliette Lai, Wan Ahmad and Sirhajwan
It was also very good to meet two familiar faces among the invited speakers, Dean of Faculty of Cinematic Arts, Multimedia University, Amir Shahlan Amiruddin, and gifted musician and composer, Juliette Lai.

However, Dr. Varun Thangamani, Assistant Professor in Aeronautics and Astronautics, University of Southampton Malaysia, was not able to join us.

After a restful night, I wake up to a grey and cloudy morning. In spite of this, I know that nothing is going to dampen my spirits because I’m all set for TEDx UoSM 2019.

On my phone, there are messages from the organisers, reminding me to bring my latest visual presentation along (just in case!) for them to use during my talk.

All set for TEDx UoSM 2019
The route to Educity in Iskandar Puteri is a smooth drive from Johor Baru and by the time I reach the University of Southampton Malaysia campus, the light drizzle has turned into a proper downpour.

As I park my car close to the door – that led to the elevator – volunteers approach, armed with umbrellas to escort me into the building.

When I step through the door into the auditorium, I pause to shut my eyes and allow them to adjust to the stark contrast within. It was so dark!

Moments pass before I find my footing to descend the steps in the dark auditorium and head towards the front where it is lighted and decorated in the theme colours: Black, Red and White, complete with the display of the iconic alphabets, TEDxUoSM.

My talk kicks off with ... my grandparents
Then it hit me: We are here for TEDx UoSM 2019!

It was just last December when Lee Jun Xuan (Lead Organiser & Curator) wrote me and in January 2019, he followed up with a telephone-conference with me, along with Noelle Tan Huey Wen (Co-Organiser & Curator) and Chn'g Chyi Jiun or CJ (Curator).

I turn cautiously to look left and right where the light reaches and I spot the silhouettes of cameras set up on tripods, with lenses trained toward the front of the auditorium.

I firmly decide to ignore the cameras and focus on getting the practical things sorted out quickly before the event starts.

I give CJ my visual presentation to prepare on his laptop and we have a quick review to make any necessary adjustments.

Sharing about our pepper and gambier heritage and
how pepper and gambier earned its place of honour
Then I try on the head-set microphone, which Wan Ahmad assured me (last night) that when I put it on, it should make me feel like Madonna…

I’m glad the TEDx policy was recently amended to allow authors to promote their books so my books are available at the Book Sale table set up by the MPH retail team at this event.

According the event schedule, I am the third speaker after Wan Ahmad and Dr. Varun.

I’m reminded that when Dr. Varun is invited up to speak, I should shift over to sit behind the tech guys to get the microphone fitted and ready myself for my turn.

The Johor Chingay is an important tradition
of the Johor Old Temple
In the TEDx tradition, the audience seated from the third row onwards are hardly visible in the dark auditorium as the spot lights are only focused on the speaker in front.

The event kicks off as scheduled with Wan Ahmad as the first speaker and when Dr. Varun takes center stage, I move discreetly to occupy that seat behind the tech guys.

The tech guys and cameramen wish to improve their recording so they advise me to wear the microphone below my chin while another guy whispers his advice – to limit my movement within the marked area on the floor.

So I’m good to go.

The My Johor Stories brand continues to develop...
The tech guys have my visuals ready and the next 18 minutes are all I have to share the contents of my talk, “Connecting People through My Johor Stories,” in the theme, “Illuminating Possibilities.”

There is so much to say but so little time. But I have to abide by the TEDx rules to keep it short and sweet.

Then it’s my turn to share my talk in a proverbial nutshell.

I plant myself firmly at center stage and remember not to move outside of the marked area.

And in these precious 18 minutes, I keep the rapt attention of my audience as I share all that I have to say to illuminate their possibilities.

My two books were published in partnership
with Think City and MPH Publishing
As the applause rings around the auditorium, I return to my seat for the tech guys to retrieve my microphone.

Associate Professor Dr. Suhaila Sanip, Head of Research in UoSM and also TEDx UoSM 2019 advisor, steps up to offer her congratulations and comments.

She tells me that she grew up at Kampung Mohamad Amin and clearly connected with the contents of my talk.

In fact, she is also my regular reader and used to follow my stories when they were published in Streets Johor. This publication ceased in 2015.

She then invited me to visit her father who (like my late grandmother), has a vivid memory and is a fountain of information, as he would be delighted to share his memories with me.

With Amir Shahlan and my books
The MC announces the break for lunch and we make our way to the concourse of the Multi-Varsity campus where a buffet line is set up.

Next to it, is the Book Sale table where the MPH retail team is busy attending to queries and serving those eager to get hold of my books.

The space is narrow but it’s enough for me to squeeze in to sit down and autograph my books for them.

Dr. Varun tells me that he spotted my books in the MPH bookstore at the airport and he’s delighted to meet the author today and get his books signed too.

The highlight of the event’s tea break (later in the day) must be the generous servings of apple pie.

It was my pleasure to autograph my books for them
While brainstorming about the contents of my talk, I highlighted my experience with the pie lady, Kak Mariam, whose apple pies have met with “Royal Approval,” and how her life had changed since my story about her was published in 2007.

The organisers were so keen to have a taste of her amazing apple pies that they ordered in a few pies for the committee and speakers to enjoy after our rehearsal, held a week before the event.

Everyone clearly enjoyed her pie and did not hesitate to have second helpings.  

But I didn’t know that it was unanimously agreed by the organisers to again, order in Kak Mariam’s apple pies for the event proper!

My TEDx UoSM experience
started with these three...
So during the tea break, her apple pies were thoroughly enjoyed by all, complemented by freshly brewed fragrant coffee by the barista from Alleylab.

Refreshed by this tasty treat, the event continued with the talks and entertainment slots to close on a high note with the final talk presented by Juliette Lai.

My grateful thanks to the TEDx UoSM organisers, committee and volunteers for letting me be a part of this momentous event.

I trust that my contribution will start new conversations and challenge/inspire everyone to discover the possibilities within each one of us.

All the hard work and preparation has indeed been worthwhile. It was a most meaningful and memorable day for me – one that I will remember for a long, long time.

And while the event is over, I’m deluged with questions as to when the talks will be available for viewing on YouTube. Soon, I tell them. Very soon.

UPDATE: Here is the link to Connecting People through My Johor Stories.

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