I'm picky when it comes to what I will or will not volunteer for. My time is valuable, and if I'm not getting paid, then I want to devote my time to something I truly believe in. That's why I became a volunteer for TEDxBasel 2016.
I'm a big fan of TED and it's mission to "ideas worth spreading." I'd watched TED talks online over the years and found many of them to be insightful and informative. When a friend suggested that I volunteer for the upcoming TEDxBasel event, I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of something that I respected and thought provided a beneficial service. It couldn't have come at a better time for me.
I was approaching my one-year anniversary in Basel. Despite my best efforts, I was still jobless. Frustrated and unsure of what to do with myself, TEDxBasel seemed like the perfect antidote to my malaise. Looking back, I can happily say it was … and more.
The best part of my TEDxBasel experience was the people I volunteered with. At our first volunteer meeting, we divided tasks and formed groups to prepare the necessary items for the day of the event. What should have been mundane work (we were assembling name tags, counting seeds for a talk, and pressing buttons) turned out to be anything but boring. Everyone was friendly, and within no time life stories were being traded and laughs shared. The hours flew by, and before we knew it, our work for the day was finished. I left that meeting happy and enjoying the feeling of being part of a small community working together toward a common goal.
That feeling was only strengthened when I moved from assembling name tags and lanyards to building the stage set for the event. Myself and the other volunteers labored throughout the week leading up to the event to build the letters spelling "TEDx" and a Basel Fasnacht-inspired lantern to decorate the stage. It took long hours, a lot of work and a fair amount of improvisation to pull it off, but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and looked forward to going to work every day.
Of course, all of our hard work would have been for nothing if the event didn't go well. On the day of the event, while many of the volunteers were working to prepare the theater and then help with the attendees at the front of the house, I was tasked with managing the stage setup. That meant working with the audio crew — basically just staying out of their way; they were professionals — and coordinating what furniture went on the stage and where depending on each speaker's needs. It was a little nerve-wracking; you don't want to be the one to ruin the show, especially with it being recorded! I didn't get a chance to listen to any of the speakers because I was too busy making sure each change went seamlessly on my end, but I was OK with that. I did my part to contribute to the event going off without a hitch.
I went home that evening exhausted and elated. It felt good to have been part of a team of such hard working and dedicated people. The only downside to my experience was that it all happened so quickly. But, there will be another event next year, and I'm looking forward to again being part of TEDxBasel's volunteering team.