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TEDxUF Conference Returns To Gainesville After A Year Of COVID-19 Uncertainty

The TedXUF team sets up at Heartwood Soundstage for the 2021 event. (Photo courtesy of Jada Lewis)
The TedXUF team sets up at Heartwood Soundstage for the 2021 event. (Photo courtesy of Jada Lewis)

After TedxUF Paradox was canceled last year due to the pandemic, the team of organizers adapted to a fully online format. This year, they are holding the conference in a hybrid form.

Jada Lewis, a senior at the University of Florida and the curator for the 2021 UF TedxUF conference, explained the challenges of planning the TedxUF Synergy conference in the midst of a pandemic.

Overseeing a team of 50 students, Lewis said the team faced a lot of challenges.

She explained it was most difficult to plan the logistics of the event due to not being able to hold the event at UF.

Lewis said the team wanted to have Tedx at UF as usual but were unable to obtain a permit this year due to the university’s COVID-19 regulations.

“We essentially couldn’t hold an event on campus because we couldn’t get an event permit because they’re only issuing event permits directly affiliated to UF,” said Lewis.

In addition, she said another challenge in planning the event was the fear of “Zoom fatigue.”

Brooke Bernstein, the speaker director for the 2021 conference, said they will be holding an in-person “pre-fest” at Heartwood Soundstage’s north lawn on Friday in order to offer an interactive component to the online talks.

The “pre-fest” will be an event where local Gainesville and UF people and organizations have the opportunity to showcase the work they’re doing for the community.

Lewis said her team is thankful for the relationship they developed with Heartwood Soundstage, where they pre-recorded last year’s TedxUF Paradox conference and will be livestreaming this year’s conference.

To maximize outreach, the conference will be livestreamed via Zoom, posted to YouTube and held in person for an intimate gathering of the speakers’ family and friends.

“We are giving people the platform and the opportunity to showcase whatever they want about the community and culture that is here in Gainesville which is so rich and so important to highlight.”

Bernstein said about 850 people are registered for the event so far.

“This is a lot more than we were expecting,” she said.

The conference will be held Saturday and Sunday and will be livestreamed for the community.

In addition, Lewis said regardless of the turnout, she is thankful for being able to amplify the voices of the Gainesville community.

“This whole time the event is in your head and there’s so many moving parts so I’m just so excited to see it all come to life,” said Lewis.

Aeja is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.