TEDx, Springboard, and Dormfest Cancelled 2020: What Now?

By Koko Christiaanse

The AUCSA offers students a wide variety of events to organize, from informal jam nights in common rooms to big-budget events such as Springboard, TEDx, and Dormfest. The Dutch government announced on the 21st of April that “events” of over 30 people are prohibited until September 1st of this year and perhaps to later dates also. This has been disappointing news for many students involved in committees hoping to organize events. For big-budget committees revolving around large events such as TEDx, Springboard, and Dormfest, which draw over 300 people, the teams and committees organizing them also have had to navigate the financial and logistical sides of these cancellations.

“It was a good decision. Terrible, but good.”

Anna Spiering, TEDx/Head of Logistics

TEDx was meant to take place on April 17th, but the organizing committee decided to cancel the event even before the Coronavirus measures were extended until June. Anna Spiering, Head of Logistics, explains that “We thought that if we were to do it on the 17th, not enough people would come. We didn’t know if our speakers could make it, especially because some had to fly in. We thought of postponing, but that didn’t work with the caterer and the venue.”

The decision wasn’t taken lightly. “We did almost ninety percent of the work,” says Nilesh Lalbahadoersing,Chair of TEDx. The committee had spent the year finding sponsors, securing a venue, and organizing a caterer. The committee was set to promote the event a week after AUC announced the suspension of on-campus classes (on the 12th of March). “I was so hesitant, I didn’t want to let go of the thing we had going on,” says Lalbahadoersing. “But we had to cancel it, we couldn’t make it work another way. It was painful.”

Financially, TEDx “lost very little of the budget,” according to Spiering. They lost the first half of the catering fee, which was inevitable in case of a cancellation. However, the committee was able to negotiate with the venue. Spiering says, “We already paid the first half, but then they said, they would give us everything back and we only had to pay a couple hundred euros in cancellation costs.” The committee spent the allocated budget on pitch night, which took place on the 18th of February, which the board regarded a success. Coen Coomans, Head of PR for TEDx, adds: “We also saved a lot of costs by not promoting anything, not making big purchases such as the goodie bags, we aren’t having a speakers borrel, or the preparation.” The board is reaching out to sponsors to ask if they would like to be refunded or use their money to sponsor next year’s event.

The cancellation also has a long-term impact on the board. Lalbahadoersing says “For those of us who went to last year’s TEDx conference, we had a reference point. Now, for the first years, there is no reference as to what it looks like or should look like.” As for the venue and speakers that TEDx organized for this year, Spiering says, “We can recommend the speakers and the venue to next year’s board, but it’s up to them. It’s going to be their call.”

The board was saddened by the decision. Lalbahadoersing says, “I compared it to baking a cake, you have the entire cake but you can’t taste it yourself because someone threw it away.” Spiering says that despite the disappointment, “it was a good decision. Terrible, but good.”

“It really gets to you.”

Boris Koehoorn, Dormfest Team/Co-chair

The Dormfest team, which is appointed by the AUCSA to organize Dormfest, a festival that takes place in the Dorms, announced on Monday that the event would be cancelled. Originally, the organizers were hoping to postpone the event until September. In their announcement on Facebook, the team says “In light of the uncertainties that the world is facing right now and out of an abundance of caution, we see that the postponement of the event to September is not an option anymore.”

The original date of Dormfest was set to be June 20th, but was cancelled early on in the year. Boris Koehoorn, Cochair of the Dormfest team, says “We knew that many people would go home and not return for the intensive. We thought it would be a weird vibe at dormfest, you want as many people here because the festival is for everyone.”

Dormfest hoped until recently that they could postpone the event to September, and was still meeting as a team, working on promotional materials and looking for alternative dates. “We [were] keeping our ears to the ground and hoped that there [was] going to be some optimistic news so that we could continue organizing,” says Koehoorn. However, the trajectory of the outbreak and the announcements made by the Dutch government meant that Dormfest could not be postponed.

Dormfest hadn’t expended any funds yet, as the event was scheduled late enough in the year. Rosa Wijnen, Cochair of the Dormfest Team says, “We made a lot of plans and did contact companies, for the stage and security and things like that, but we hadn’t signed any contracts or decided on anything yet because we were in the early stages of planning.”

“We feel sad,” says Koehoon. “We suddenly had to change gears to make sure we could go on, what would happen, and I think that really gets to you because you start off your AUCSA board year hoping you can organize a great Dormfest, and then there’s a really big hurdle you need to take.”

“I was very disappointed when we made the decision, but I kind of knew it was going to happen.”

Koh Okuno, Springboard/Head of Acquisitions

Springboard, an annual career-oriented event that aims to connect companies and start-ups with students, was cancelled and originally intended to have taken place on May 12th. According to Koh Okuno, Head of Acquisitions for Springboard, the decision to cancel the event was sudden but resolute. 

“It seemed pretty unfeasible to organize an event of over three hundred people in May, so we were sure it would have to be that decision,” says Okuno. He says, “It was sort of a half-half split, some people wanted to postpone the event for the academic year 2020-2021, but it was logistically too hard. To be responsible for another four of five months did not seem right to us.”

The team did consider the possibility of hosting the event in October or November of 2020. Okuno says, “we didn’t want the end result to just be nothing.” However, the team realized that this would raise many questions for how Springboard 2021 would have to take place, as they would have to organize two events in one academic year. Okuno says, “It led to a lot of questions that we didn’t really have the answers to, we thought it was a better decision to cancel the event for this year.”

Springboard immediately sent a cancellation update email asking their sponsors if they would be interested in attending next year. All of the sponsors confirmed that they would be interested. One of the sponsors had to be reimbursed as they already sent the partnership fee. Apart from this, Springboard was able to reduce costs by ordering their merchandise without a year printed on them. This way, the purchases made for Springboard 2021 could be reused for every year.

Despite the cancellation of the actual event itself, Okuno says he doesn’t regret working on Springboard. He says, “I think the corporate relationships with organizations we made this year, and all the contacts we made, and also alumni, we think that that is very valuable, I like to think that even though we don’t have a result this year, all of our work didn’t go to waste.”

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