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ML: Can you tell us about your background and what brought you to Monaco?
NM: I’m originally from Iran and in 1978 when the revolution happened, we moved to the South of France. I had family in Monaco, so I’ve spent a lot of time here since my childhood and moved here permanently three years ago.
I’m a Mechanical Engineer by training and worked in Bioengineering, Information Technology, Logistics, and Finance before doing an MBA in Luxury Management.
ML: You take advantage of all that Monaco has to offer. I see at the F(ê)aites de la Danse at Casino Square, listening to live music at the American Bar in the Café de Paris, and dancing at Jimmz’y. What do you love about living in Monaco and what makes it unique?
NM: What I love about Monaco is that it’s familiar to me. It has the most beautiful views, great weather and I feel safe here. It feels like home. It’s the place I’ve come back to every year since I was born. I enjoy time with my friends over some good wine, and I love music and dancing. I work hard but I like to go out on weekends. It’s interesting that you mention F(ê)aites de la Danse as it was the first year, but it was an amazing event. I hope they do it every year. We attended it and danced almost ten hours straight with my friends.
ML: Name a few of your favourite places in Monaco.
NM: Wine Palace for great wine, Piazza for the best food, Sass Cafe and American Bar for live music, La Bionda for their piccana, and the open air cinema just to name a few. The free Thursday Live Sessions at the Grimaldi Forum are also great fun. There are so many great places it’s hard to name them all.
ML: You founded the first TEDxMonteCarlo last year. What is the difference between TED and TEDx and how did the idea to bring TEDx to Monte Carlo come about?
NM: The x in TEDx stands for an independently organised TED event. TED – “Technology, Entertainment and Design” – is a non-profit devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading” and was founded in 1984 in Monterrey California.
There are two annual TED conferences with the main one in Vancouver, Canada, around April, bringing experts from all fields to share their ideas in less than 18 minutes. In 2009, TED created a program, TEDx, to enable local communities to create and host their own TED-like conferences licensed by TED but self-organised. TED and TEDx have created the world’s largest archive of ideas that are all free and online for global access and viewing.
TEDxMonteCarlo came about when I was a student at IUM in 2013. My friend, Lynn, who is the organiser of TEDxCoventGardenWomen inspired me so much with her event in London that I wanted to give the Monaco community access to a similar experience. I applied for a university TEDx license in 2013 and hosted TEDxIUM in June 2014 and continued with TEDxMonteCarlo in 2016 – with the push of some of my friends – Galina and Wladimir Singer and Mark Hillsdon.
ML: Take us through the steps you had to take to make TEDxMonteCarlo a reality. What were some of the biggest hurdles?
NM: To host a TEDx license that hosts more than 100 people, you have to be certified by TED. This happens after attending an official TED event. After applying and receiving your license, you have to raise funds for your event, get a team together, find your speakers, coach the speakers and help them prepare their talks, plan the logistics for the speakers and curate the entire day trying to keep everyone – speakers, attendees, your team and sponsors – happy.
The biggest challenge was finding the funds and sponsors. Many people didn’t know TED/TEDx in Monaco, so it was a challenge selling them the idea. Also, Monaco is not a cheap place to host an event – my budget is 10x my friend’s budget in London for the same number of speakers and attendees. In London, everyone knows TED/TEDx and many providers give in-kind benefits that help reduce the event cost; however, this is almost impossible in Monaco.
Also, the team works countless hours for free and sometimes things get tough and stressful – speakers, attendees, ticket holders, press, suppliers, etc … so when we have to deal with unappreciative and disrespectful behaviour (which happens a lot), I have zero tolerance and I make sure to protect my team as much as possible.
ML: Tell us about TEDxMonteCarlo. How do you choose the themes and speakers?
NM: I see what the most pressing issues are in the news and in the local community. What is Monaco great at and how is it contributing to the world? What would we want to share with the world and what would our community want to hear about?
In the application I need to give TED three ideas and areas of focus for my event (each year). Once I’ve set the areas/ideas, I look for experts in these fields, from university professors to entrepreneurs, scouring through news articles, podcasts, and so on to find my speakers. For our 2017 event, we worked through a list of approximately 150 speakers that we narrowed down to the 17 you will see on November 11 at the event.
ML: What is your goal with the TEDxMonteCarlo series?
NM: I hope to inspire the community. I hope to connect people and start new conversations. I hope to bring together CEOs and students who share the same passion. I hope new friendships will develop. I hope to drive change if an idea inspires the attendees. I hope that the world can see that good ideas do come out of Monaco by creating a new window for people to see Monaco in a different way – beyond its glamour with the Yachts, Formula 1 and its beauty.
ML: What have you learned about yourself from putting on the event?
NM: That I am very patient and tolerant, and that the community craves inspiration.
ML: What can people expect from the November 11 event?
NM: A lot of great speakers! An amazing team! An amazing event! A day full of inspiration and emotions. It will be a unique experience for anyone attending TEDx for the first time.
ML: What is a typical day for you?
NM: A lot of emailing and asking for money. I spend 80 percent of my time chasing potential sponsors. I have reduced that in this edition to focus more on my speakers and curation.
ML: What is the one tool you cannot live without?
NM: My calendar. I’d miss every meeting, call, rent payment deadline, lunch or dinner if it’s not in my calendar.
ML: How would you describe the female community in Monaco?
NM: My core team is mainly female, not intentionally but it just happened that way. They are hungry for networking, good conversations and being part of “something”.
ML: How involved are you with other associations?
NM: I’m a member of MonacoUSA, and also support the Monaco Ambassador’s Club when I have some free time. I used to be a member of the CREM through IUM.
I think it’s very important to support each other. We live in a very small community, everyone knows each other and it’s important to share our knowledge and help when we can. We are always stronger together when we are not trying to compete. If two associations are trying to accomplish the same thing and are competitors then they should just combine forces. There are too many things going on and everyone is trying to do good, but we go much further if we do it together.
ML: What is something you’ve always wanted to try or do in Monaco but still have not?
NM: This is a really tough one! I’ve been fortunate enough that my family and friends spoiled me and fulfilled all my Monaco dreams. I can’t think of anything just now. A dinner with Ms Ornella Barra – she’s quite inspirational. I would say… See Coldplay, Bruno Mars or Gypsy Kings perform in Salle Des Etoiles one day – I haven’t done this yet!
ML: What’s the best piece of advice another woman gave you?
NM: One of my first bosses told me in her office one day something that I always kept with me and live by: “Don’t complain about an existing process or something without having a solution to fix it, because if you can’t think of a solution then maybe the way it is, is the best way.”
Article first published September 8, 2017.
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