Selecting speakers for the Global Speakers Series

For the past month, Jessika and I have spent much of our time trying to find an interesting and engaging speaker to have next year at the Global Speakers Series. It won’t be easy to top last year’s team, which was lucky enough to land K’naan and Dambisa Moyo.  However, we’re determined to do just that.

The first step was to create a list of potential authors, intellectuals, entrepreneurs, philosophers, activists, and economists. We looked for ideas on Twitter, from the newspapers, from our bookshelves, from our friends, from our families, from a couple Time’s “most influential” lists, and from our co-workers, Chad Hyson from the VP Students office, and professors Fox, Ng, and Sens. We watched copious amounts of TED talks, read countless columns, and spent our days tweeting about interesting people and their interesting ideas. 97 names later, Terry had a “short list.”

Then, and this was probably the toughest part, we had to narrow that list down to our favorite 40 names, 20 from myself and 20 from Jessika. It was so difficult, I could only whittle it down to 25!

Once we had that settled, we convened for one of the best meetings I’ve ever attended. The whole Terry team–Chad, Dave, Joanne, Allen, Jessika and myself–met in a boardroom and wrote names on a board.

There we were, brainstorming for hours. Who do we know? Who do we like? Who do students want to hear? Is he engaging enough a speaker? Is she well known enough? Is he healthy enough to make the trip? Does she have anything new to say? Would he surprise us? Would she be too expensive? Why does Terry care? Why should students care?

Since that day, we’ve been sending emails, sending letters, and making calls. For one name, they wouldn’t take an email and preferred that I fax my invitation. I ran through the bowels of Brock Hall desperately trying to find a fax machine, and I was mocked for it! Nick Thorton from the Chapman Learning Commons suggested that this potential speaker and I acquaint ourselves with the year 2011. I said that I would fax that message along, but I think James Cameron probably knows modern technology pretty well.

For others, I spoke with big-time agents. Let’s just say that I have a new appreciation for Entourage, because I think I may have spoken to the real-life version of Ari Gold. In all honesty though, that was an aberration–most have been wonderful.

Though we have some very promising leads, the search continues. There will be more letters to write, more phone calls to answer, and more brainstorming to be done.

We’re still open to suggestions! Who would you like to see? What makes a good speaker? What are the important issues you’d like to hear about? Oh and one more thing, are you friends with any famous people who you can convince to come to UBC? Ha! Thought I’d try.

Related Topics


Gordon Katic (@gordonkatic) has been student coordinator for the Terry Project for over two years, and in that time started BARtalk, and the Terry Project on CiTR 101.9FM. A former Ubyssey columnist, and now a student at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism, Gordon is trying to use journalism to tell important stories about global issues.

8 Responses to “Selecting speakers for the Global Speakers Series”

  1. Timmy Wong

    What about V.S. Ramachandran? His work was revolutionary in the world of neuroscience/psychology, and reaches across multiple disciplines.

    Al Gore too, but depending on your budget, might price himself out of the running…

  2. Kelsey

    I agree with all of those except Michael Moore… But how about Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad from the radio show Radiolab, their show is all about science literacy and making science fun and engaging, which I think fits with a lot of the goals of the Terry Project really well. Also Tina Fey or Alex Gibney, the documentary filmmaker who did Client 9 and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room would be rad. And how about more Canadians like Douglas Coupland, George Strombolopoulous, Peter Mansbridge, Jian Ghomeshi, Anna Maria Tremonti, David Suzuki, John Furlong…

    But seriously Jon Stewart would be unbelievable! And Nelson Mandela… I can only dream

  3. Alex

    I wonder if you’ve tried talking with UBC Alumni to see who they can add to your list. I could even land you a free high calibre speaker!

  4. Gordon Katic

    All excellent suggestions!
    Can you imagine a live RadioLab in the Chan? That’s something I’d love to see.

  5. Elysa

    So proud of you guys! Keep on truckin’

    PS I soooooo spoke to an Ari Gold last summer- so brutal!

  6. S Brennan

    What about Alan Frew?

    Singer/Songwriter Alan Frew is a 5-time Juno Award winner, 5-time Canadian Classic Award winner and a Grammy nominee.
    As a songwriter, Alan has written numerous top ten songs with several of them having the distinction of reaching the chart topping #1 position. Someday, So Blind, I’m Still Searching and Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone) are just some of these hits.
    Most recently Alan has co-written the 2010 Olympic Broadcast Theme called “I Believe”.

    He has toured and performed with many artists including Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Julian Lennon, Journey, Roxette, Cheap Trick, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Huey Lewis and Fleetwood Mac and has traveled extensively including performances in Bosnia, the North Pole, Israel, Egypt and Afghanistan (twice) for the Canadian Armed Forces and their allies. Alan is the celebrity face/performer for the annual “A Rose in My Book” Gala and Golf Tournament to raise funds for Breast Cancer Research.

    As a speaker Alan’s acutely observational comedy finds humour in some of the more edgy moments of everyday life including the experiences surrounding getting older, medical conditions and examinations, air travel, family relationships and growing up poor. Alan travels coast to coast speaking about attaining success on your own terms.

    His first book is on the shelves of fine bookstores and is called “The Action Sandwich – A six step recipe to success by doing what you’re already doing”. It is a practical guide to abundance told comically through his tale of a tenacious street kid’s bumpy ride to success and personal contentment. His Gordon Ramsay meets Deepak Chopra style has made the book a bestseller in Canada. His second book “Free to Be(lieve)” will be completed later this year.

    Alan made his stage debut as the crusty patriarch “Pops” in Ross Petty’s musical production of “Snow White and the Group of Seven” at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto. On television you can see him on CMT’s “Plucked”, Showcase Television’s “Billable Hours” and in his own show “Road Stories with Alan Frew”. Alan was the celebrity “Man on the Street” for Sportsnet and TSN during the FIFA World Cup.

    On the big screen Alan can be seen in April Mullen/Tim Doiron’s “Gravy Train” alongside Saturday Night Live alumnus Tim Meadows, released in theatres across Canada and now on Rogers on Demand.

    Alan remains one of Canada’s favourite entertainers and most recognized celebrities.

  7. The Terry Project in 2011/2012: A Year of Change | Terry

    […] we spent weeks thinking about what issues would be most important to our students this year, and which speakers could best address those issues for our Global Speakers Series. As you could imagine, this was no easy task. Just think of the year we had: rising popular […]

Leave a Reply

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.