How To Organize Rad Talks
Do you want to organize Rad Talks conferences in your city? Here’s a comprehensive “how to” guide!
Table of Contents
- Step 1: Intentions
- Step 2: Date & Venue
- Step 3: Funding
- Step 4: Schedule
- Step 5: Invite Speakers
- Step 6: Invite Audience
- Step 7: Film Crew
- Step 8: Team
- Step 9: Logistics
- Step 10: Prepare & Practice
- Step 11: Email Official Invitation & Reminders
- Step 12: Set Up
- Step 13: Execute
Step 1: Intentions
- Organizers should hope to earn the pleasure of Allah by benefiting the Muslim community through Rad Talks. Exposing Muslim leaders to innovative ideas in an atmosphere ripe with networking potential helps them improve their work and build bridges of unity with fellow leaders.
- Organizers are expected to uphold the highest levels of professionalism when organizing the conference. Allah is pleased with those who practice ihsaan (excellence).
- Organizers should have a no-excuses attitude, working with excellence and getting things done in a timely manner. For example, set up should be complete well before the start time of the conference. The event must start and stop on time, no excuses.
- Organizers should carefully plan the event and execute milestones in a scheduled, paced manner. Don’t rush into things, procrastinate, cut corners, or do sloppy work.
- Follow all laws, regulations, and venue policies.
- Success is from Allah. Keep checking your intentions, trying to be sincere and make lots of dua!
Step 2: Date & Venue
- Choose a date that does not conflict with other major events in your city.
- Avoid major holidays as many people tend to travel or vacation on those days.
- Most organizers typically choose a weekend (like a Saturday) on a day that doesn’t conflict with Islamic weekend schools since many interested speakers and attendees may be committed to teaching.
- Each city holds a conference approximately every 6 months. You can increase the frequency if you like.
- Try to get a venue that is free (e.g. being hosted by a student group in a university) or cheap to keep down expenses, unless you’ve managed to find generous sponsors/donors!
- Venue should have a projector, screen, and a computer/laptop, preferably with internet access.
- Seating should be arranged in theater style with brothers seated on one side and sisters on the other without a partition (e.g. brothers on left and sisters on right with an aisle down the center of the hall). We want the environment to be comfortable for all ideologies without stifling the ability to network between genders.
- Have a microphone and audio system if the venue is large.
- You’ll need about 3 long tables for registration and snacks. Request that these be provided by the venue.
- You’ll need at least 6-8 movable chairs for the fishbowl discussion. Request that these be provided by the venue.
Step 3: Funding
- Rad Talks shouldn’t cost much money. Venue and Film Crew are usually the biggest expenses. Snacks cost about $50. There are several options to cover expenses:
- Getting whatever you can for free, like a venue.
- Finding a sponsor(s) like wealthy individuals, organizations, or businesses.
- Paying out of pocket – this is how we started!
- Asking for an optional donation from attendees.
- If you want to charge admission, you should ensure local tax laws are followed and the cost is reasonable.
Step 4: Schedule
- A conference usually lasts half a day (after lunch to avoid large food expenses).
- It MUST start on time, even if the room is empty and the film crew has not set up.
- It MUST end on time, even if it means reducing time allotted to fishbowls or breaks.
- Each session should ideally last 50 minutes (60 minutes maximum).
- Breaks between sessions should ideally last for 15 minutes or more (10 minutes minimum). Breaks are an important part of the schedule since this is when networking takes place. The emcee should encourage the audience to network at this time.
- Take care to properly schedule breaks for prayers.
- Typically sessions alternate between lightning talks and fishbowls.
- Provide at least 30 minutes for registration at the beginning of the conference. People will not arrive exactly on time and this allows them to get situated.
- Here is a sample schedule (pdf) you can use as a template.
- Speakers sometimes show up late or not at all so be prepared to change the schedule on the fly. Avoid giving speakers a set time when they’ll speak. That way you can quickly swap speaking slots as the need arises.
- If a speaker has a pressing schedule conflict, you should try to accommodate them.
- Every Rad Talks conference should have at least 2 sessions of lightning talks and at least 1 fishbowl group discussion.
- The fishbowl discussion topics you choose must be relevant and polarizing, meaning people should hold strong feelings on both sides of the spectrum. For example, “Are walls separating men and women in the mosque good or bad?” or “Are elders effectively handing over the reins of power to the next generation?”
- You have the freedom to experiment with adding other activities like ice-breakers, team building exercises, panel debates, and so on if you wish, so long as the end goal is either networking, idea sharing, or discussion.
Step 5: Invite Speakers
- Speakers must be diverse in ideology, background, expertise, gender, and age.
- Focus on local talent, both famous and not-so-famous people.
- Invite capable speakers with cool ideas.
- Rad Talks is a relatively neutral platform, so you need not (shouldn’t) agree with all ideas presented.
- Topics must be diverse, interesting, and powerful. The purpose isn’t to preach Islam, but to share cool ideas.
- Rad Talks conferences don’t have themes. This is to keep topics diverse.
- The talk shouldn’t be used to advertise an organization, fundraise, or recruit volunteers. The talk should center on sharing an idea. If an organization is mentioned in passing within the context of the idea, that is allowed, but it should not be the focus of the talk.
- PowerPoints are allowed but discouraged unless the speakers know what they’re doing.
- The talk must start with a story.
- The talk should last 10 minutes or less. Using excess time will generally result in their talk not appearing online.
- We DON’T allow terrorists or their supporters to speak.
- We don’t pay honorariums to speakers.
- Local organizers may pay for speaker transportation if they so choose.
- Once a speaker is confirmed, please be sure to email them these guidelines.
Step 6: Invite Audience
- The conference is an invitation-only event.
- You should invite Islamic workers, activists, imams, mosque directors, volunteers, philanthropists, famous Muslim personalities, local Muslim politicians, social workers, etc. Basically they should be Muslim leaders.
- Try to invite a diverse array of leaders from different communities, ethnicities, ideologies, backgrounds, and fields of work.
- By keeping the conference by invitation only, we maximize the potential for productive networking between attendees.
- We don’t publicize the event’s location. We only provide this information via email to the invitees.
- If someone shows up uninvited, we won’t turn them away.
- Attendees can bring guests (colleagues, team members, family), but small children are not allowed in the hall as they may disturb speakers and filming.
- Send the email addresses of anyone you invite to headquarters so we can send them conference-related updates.
Step 7: Film Crew
- Talks should be professionally filmed by at least 2 cameras. Hire professionals and don’t be biased. It’s better to give your money to a professional non-Muslim than an undependable Muslim.
- Have the film crew watch this talk to get an idea of what we’re looking for. We want multiple angles of the speaker and audience allowing us to cut away every 10 to 15 seconds and keep the video visually interesting.
- Ensure the film crew arrives early to set up.
- Audio must be crisp and clear.
- Footage must be high resolution without shaky or jerky filming.
- Ensure all batteries are fully charged with replacement batteries on hand.
- Don’t film the faces of sisters in the audience as they may not be comfortable with it (back of the heads is ok). Alternatively, announce that the sisters in the front row may be filmed so that the audience has the option to move if they are not comfortable.
- Film must be sent to Rad Talks headquarters for processing.
- By organizing a Rad Talks conference, you agree that all film is considered property of headquarters and will be handed over to them after the conference.
- If a speaker asks not to be filmed, their request should be honored.
- Make sure the film crew is informed of all of the above points.
Step 8: Team
- You’ll need to assemble a team of volunteers to help you set up and run the show. If you plan on doing everything yourself, you will quickly become overwhelmed and burn out.
- Have your team purchase and bring snacks for the snack table.
- Assign a couple of team members to set up the snack table and keep it clean and orderly throughout the day.
- Assign at least one person to sit at the registration table. The table should have sign-in sheets (pdf) and pens. The team member should be told to be strict – no one is allowed to enter the room without first signing in.
- Assign some team members to be ushers. They should stand in strategic locations outside the venue to help people find the room. There should also be some standing next to the registration table, showing people to their seats making sure brothers sit on their side and sisters on their side. They should seat people in the front rows first. If the film crew intends on filming sisters in the audience, sister attendees should be asked if they are comfortable with it. If not, they should be allowed to sit in the back.
- If you are not a confident or capable speaker, consider recruiting an emcee to deliver the introductory speech, speaker bios, run the fishbowl group discussions, and deliver the concluding remarks.
Step 9: Logistics
- Make sure supplies are gathered or purchased and ensure they are brought to the event. Assign these duties to your team of volunteers.
- If the venue does not have a projector/screen, make sure you bring one.
- If the venue does not have a computer, bring a laptop.
- Quality snacks are important. To keep a crowd, you have to feed them well. You should provide something savory (e.g. samosas) as well as something sweet (e.g. Baklava). Finger-foods are easiest to serve and eat.
- Coffee is a must – it’s an important symbol of Rad Talks.
- Provide drinking water at the very least.
- Don’t forget paper/plastic-ware like plates, napkins, cups, spoons (for mixing coffee), serving spoons if needed, etc.
- Here is the registration form (pdf). Print several copies and make sure the registration volunteer stationed at the registration table has them.
- Have pens for registration.
- Name tag stickers for audience (optional). These can be handed out during registration.
- Bring a “clicker” for speakers using PowerPoint to flip through their slides.
- Bring extra batteries for whatever takes batteries.
- Having extension cords handy is a good idea.
Step 10: Prepare & Practice
- The introduction speech sets the tone for the rest of the conference, so don’t just read it off a paper. It must be delivered with the same polish and professionalism as we expect from our speakers. PRACTICE!!!
- Introduction Speech is here (pdf). You are free to change it, as long as the basic premise is conveyed.
- Before calling on a speaker to come in front of the audience to talk, briefly introduce them to the audience and clearly state what their topic is. These speaker bios should be prepared by you or your emcee ahead of time.
- Fishbowl group discussions work in a unique, interesting, and fun way. Instructions must be clearly explained to the audience. Here are the instructions and set up details (pdf). Practice giving the instructions.
- Concluding remarks are quick and simple: thank the volunteers, the speakers, the attendees, and, most importantly, thank Allah. Also direct them to follow Rad Talks on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Here’s a sample (pdf).
Step 11: Email Official Invitation & Reminders
- Email an official invitation to all speakers and invitees at least 1 week before the event. The official invitation has all the details: venue, directions, maps, date, time, and policies. Here is a sample (pdf). You can copy it into an email and modify the appropriate details.
- 3 days before the event, you can remind them with date/time/venue and a list of speakers.
- 1 day before the event, you can remind them with date/time/venue and the schedule and fishbowl topics.
- After the event, you can email them thanking them. Beyond that, do not spam them.
- Make any emails to invitees short and concise.
- Do NOT spam your invitees. Once a week is the upper limit. The only exception is reminders the week of the conference in which case 2-3 emails is the upper limit.
- Your email titles should clearly and concisely state what the email is about. No cute click-bait titles like “You won’t believe this!” or “Guess what?!” Instead it should be professional like, “Speaker List Updated” or “Next Conference: Jan 12”.
- Keep your emails plain text without HTML markup. At most you can use bold and hyperlinks, but avoid fancy newsletter layouts, graphics, or colors. They often cause users to ignore them or have poor usability on mobile devices.
- Spell check your email 3 times!
- Proofread it 5 times!
- If sending a mass email, make sure recipient emails are hidden from others (e.g. use BCC).
- Give clear instructions on how to find the conference room. Include maps or links as needed.
- The “Rad” in “Rad Talks” isn’t an acronym. Don’t write it in all caps.
- “Rad” is the Arabic word for thunder.
- “Rad Talks” is 2 words with a space between them.
Step 12: Set Up
- Make sure everything is ready at least an hour or 2 in advance.
- Test the projector system.
- Try to make the wall and background behind the speaker look tidy and professional as that is what will appear in the video.
- The PowerPoints of all speakers should be preloaded and ready to go.
- Test the clicker.
- The audio system, if there is one, should be tested.
- Snack table should be set up.
- Seating should be set up in theater style with one side for brothers and one side for sisters (e.g. sisters on right, brothers on left).
- Have movable chairs set aside for the fishbowl discussions.
- The registration table should be stationed at the entrance such that people cannot enter without first encountering the table.
- Have ushers strategically stationed outside the venue to direct people to the correct room.
- Have a couple of ushers (preferably 1 brother and 1 sister) stationed at the registration table to help people find their seats after they’ve registered.
- You can put up this PowerPoint on the projector screen before the intro and during breaks. It shows the Rad Talks logo and social media info. It also contains a slide you can optionally use when explaining the fishbowl group discussions.
- You can play this sountrack during breaks and registration. Don’t set the volume too loud or people won’t be able to network effectively.
Step 13: Execute
- Make dua!
- Registration is vital to growing your audience base because it helps you easily stay in contact with past attendees and invite them to future conferences.
- You must start on time, even if the room is empty and the set up in not complete. Kick things off by praising Allah and then delivering the intro speech.
- Before calling on a speaker to come in front of the audience to talk, use his/her speaker bio to briefly introduce them to the audience and clearly state what their topic is.
- Give the speaker the video camera’s microphone to clip on and bring up their PowerPoint if they have one. Also give them the PowerPoint clicker if they need it and quickly tell them how to use it.
- Some speakers will show up late or not at all. Be prepared to swap speaking slots on the fly. Speakers should not be told a precise time slot since things can and will change. Instead, they should be told to be ready to speak whenever their name is called. Of course, if they have a pressing commitment and need to leave early, you should work with them.
- Their talk should last 10 minutes or less. The emcee must time them while they’re talking.
- If speakers go over time, the emcee must stand next to the speaker. If after 60 seconds, the speaker has not finished, they should be politely interrupted.
- When cutting off a speaker, be polite, saying something like, “I’m so sorry we’re out of time, but thank you very much.”
- Fishbowl group discussions are not filmed.
- End on time, even if it means reducing time from breaks or fishbowl discussions. You MUST end on time.
- Care should be taken during breaks to ensure the snack tables are clean and orderly. Assign a team member to oversee this.
- Arrange to have all footage sent to HQ for processing.
- The registration sheets must be sent to headquarters after the event.
- By organizing a Rad Talks conference, you accept responsibility for all aspects of the conference and any repercussions that may result.
- Rad Talks will not be held liable for your actions.
- Ready to get started? Any questions? Email us at infoATradtalksDOTcom