TED x BU: A Q&A with event organizers Ethan Weinberg and Thomas Rigal

On April 27, 2019, a sold out crowd of 300 students attended the first ever TED event at Boston University. TEDxBU is an independently run event organized by students Ethan Weinberg (QST ’21) and Thomas Rigal (QST ’21). In accordance with the TED Conference, the event featured speakers with new and innovative ideas under the overarching theme of “avant-garde.”



Event coordinators Ethan Weinberg and Thomas Rigal shared their experiences with The COMmunicator a few days before the event.


Andrew Dudley: Why did you and the TEDxBU team decide to create the event?

Ethan Weinberg and Thomas Rigal: The idea for the event was sparked last semester by a class assignment. We had to deliver a presentation in the same format as a Ted Talk. We both saw the power of these 12-18 minute presentations because the speakers use personal stories to move forward strong messages or morals.

In our proposal to Ted headquarters, we wanted to convey the need for an event that would put innovation at the forefront of students brains on our campus. We wanted students to feel comfortable with being uncomfortable…to hear from speakers about their stories of experimentation in many different capacities, across a slew of industries.


AD: What was your role as a co-organizer?

EW: As co-event coordinator, I co-developed the proposal to Ted’s headquarters. When we received the license to host and organize the event, we were kind of like “Well, now we actually need to see this idea to fruition.” We pitched to various student government entities, including the College of Arts and Sciences student government who gave us ample funding to secure our venue.

I worked in particular as the correspondent for the opening speaker for the event.  With Travis Roy, I engaged over the duration of the preparation period to ensure quality control of his speech from the first draft to the final Ted Talk. Also, I will serve as co-emcee for the event, leading the opening and speaker introduction.


AD: How have you changed professionally and interpersonally while planning this event?

EW: This event has increased my organizational ability ten-fold. Working alongside Thomas, I learned how to effectively balance leadership with listening. This begins with selecting a team of multi-talented and highly competent individuals. Additionally, this has helped build my network of professional contacts in Boston, vastly expanding my knowledge of specific ambitious individuals who would be great for high-quality projects in the future.


AD: What were the biggest challenges while planning TEDxBU?

TR: We took for granted the importance of securing a stellar venue at the beginning of our event planning process. This was undoubtedly our largest struggle, but ultimately we locked down the Burke Club Room at Agganis Arena which was a huge morale boost for the team, catapulting the event’s perceived legitimacy. Another challenge was ensuring that our chosen speakers drafted Ted Talks that were in line with our envisioned theme—“avant-garde.”


AD: What do you think students should know about TEDxBU?

EW: This event is for students, by students, and through the TEDxBU we aim to help spark a greater level of vision, drive, and ambition for the BU community. We might be 19, but age truly is just a number. You don’t have to be an established professional to go out and create something big. Innovation and event coordination can be a slow road, but there will be those “eureka” moments along the way that drive your idea to even higher levels of quality. Also, shoutout to CAS student government for the funding! Cheers!


AD: What are your future plans as an organizer for TEDxBU? Do you wish to expand?

TR: We’re certain that this isn’t the end of TEDxBU. It’s only going to grow, and we’re hoping for an encore in the near future. We will learn from our mistakes and replicate our strong points. We also have big plans for future event coordination at Boston University, outside of just the TED brand.



If students have any big ideas they want to share, or want to be a part of the TEDxBU team in any capacity going forward, feel free to reach out to either Thomas at thrigal@bu.edu or Ethan at etweinbe@bu.edu.




Andrew Dudley, Staff Writer

Andrew Dudley is a junior in the College of Communication at Boston University who is studying advertising with a focus in political science. You can find him on campus perusing his twitter feed or enjoying his 30-minute walk to class. Andrew’s two favorite things in life are traveling and eating Chipotle, whenever he has enough money in his bank account.

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