TEDx – A Mindblowing Day of Ideas

IMG_3466All around the world on practically every day of the year, people who yearn for the light-bulb effect of new ideas, transformative concepts, and hair raising information line up outside a large hall and “get their TEDx on.” TEDx, an offshoot of the full TED experience, is a locally driven conclave of a very few paid staff and a herd of selfless volunteers.  That is because a day at TEDx is far less expensive than a day at TED (Technology Education and Design) the parent. For example, the TEDx Rainier that I attend yearly sells tickets for $75.00, with lower student prices.  TED proper tickets, like those for TED 2017 in Vancouver, BC will set you back $8500 for four days packed with talks by some of the greatest innovators, educators, researchers, and thinkers on the planet.

TEDx, though shorter in length, is still a welcome brain stimulant, one that doesn’t even wait for the show to begin. Because the audience consists of a couple thousand people who are invested in discovery, they tend to be thinkers.  High caliber conversation floats from seat to seat as participants share their previous TEDx experiences, what brought them here, and topics that interest them.  A cynic might also assert that we all are trying to prove that “we belong” in this cerebral celebration.

One young man, who’s “Hello” tag declared him a “networking consultant” was chatting up (the verbal equivalent of putting his hand on her knee) an attractive blonde shod provocatively in red velvet heels. The oh-so-scarlet left shoe dangled coyly in place to a rhythm of the lady’s own devising: up, down, right, left. The footwear fairly shouted, “Notice me!” And he did. He upped his conversational game several notches and, in the space of a couple of minutes managed to include GRE test words such as “illustrative” and “confluence” in the monologue.

After reminding myself that “illustrative” was an adjective and “confluence” a noun related merging or the joining of two rivers, and then blushing, I was ready for the TEDx speakers’ less libidinous subject matter.  TEDx’s lineup of speakers have been chosen over months of tryouts, that is smaller venue opportunities for them to share their topic-of-choice and practice for laughs, pace, emphasis and all the distinctions in a public presentation. Many of these pre-presentations occur in a series of salons, rather in the manner of the ancient Parisian gatherings of literati, philosophers, and fans. Afficionados IMG_3461 (2)can attend the salons for $5 per seat and be the first to see which speakers might actually get to TED or TEDx. There is much speaker-audience mingling during breaks which provide opportunities to question the expert and share information.

Thus, when they finally reach the stage, the speakers are extremely well prepared, rarely using the available floor screens to keep themselves on track. Because the event is filmed, TEDx presenters stand on a round red carpet that reflects the hue of the ever-present X on stage, in the lobby, on the street, and often, at various sites around town, and the shockingly crimson heels of one attendee.

Sitting and listening is a passive activity, but the halls where TEDx events take place are anything but calm. With minds opened to receive, the audience members are primed and focused in a way not experienced in daily life.  It is as though one can hear the sound of breath being caught and held, ears turning rosy with added flow to the head, and pulses racing as verbal rackets toss ideas back and forth across the stage and out into the assembled worshipers.

TEDx notesEven if recording were permitted, I would take notes, lots of them, with a pen that scratches across the pages of my program or notebook without a thought to staying in lines. While I may not read them all post TEDx, many will be reviewed as I share information with friends, explain it to my students, or write it up for a blog posting. The speakers, having a thorough understanding of their topic, have worked diligently to break it down into comprehensible parts for listeners unfamiliar with the territory. For example, while microbiology is as far from my ken as Earth is from Pluto, I found Rusty Rodriguez’s talk on symbiogenetics riveting.  With mouth agape, I listened as he explained how two different species, a plant and a fungus, for example, could work together to enable the plant to withstand higher temperatures and to need less water. Or, when another speaker, Jesse Hagopian, an educator in Seattle, rocked my own educator’s world when he talked of school testing as a kind of testocracy, a system that did not serve students so much as it turned them off the learning process.

From 9:00am to 4:00pm, often on a Saturday, TEDx events are open to the public all around the world. A long-time fan of TED Talk videos, I still feel the experience of being in the audience and of feeling the mind-meld of the audience as it soaks up the life work of doers and movers first hand can’t be beat.  Fortunately, TED makes finding out about the individual TEDx presentations easy.  A full schedule for 2016 is available at: TEDx World Wide Schedule  Below is only a sample. Do  yourself a favor and take a seat.

  1. England -TEDxWexford   September 23, 2016     Wexford, WX
  2. India -TEDxHyderabad    September 25, 2016      Hyderabad
  3. Mongolia – TEDxNUM      September 27, 2016      Ulaanbaatar, 1
  4. Boulder, CO -TEDxBoulder    September 17, 2016
  5. Fountain Hills, AZ –  TEDxFountainHills   September 19, 2016
  6. Boston, MA – TEDxCambridge    September 29, 2016
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