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.

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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.