TEDx: A Stage for New Ideas

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If innovation comes as a result of refining an idea by presenting it publicly, then Tedx is an innovator.

Throughout human history, the spread of innovative and creative ideas has been a hallmark of great civilizations. New ideas change the ways we live, learn, work, and communicate. Until the printing press came along in the middle of the 15th century, the spread of ideas moved at a snail’s pace. With the capacity to produce printed material in quantity, thanks to printer and inventor Johannes Gutenberg, mass communication was born, and although painfully slow by today’s standards,it changed the world. Now, far broader means of communication cast a wide net or web if you will, for the discovery and global broadcasting of ideas.

TEDxChattanooga programs are co-chaired by Dr. David Levine and Dr. Linda Frost.

TEDxChattanooga programs are co-chaired by Dr. David Levine and Dr. Linda Frost.

In 1984 a presence called TED [Technology, Entertainment and Design] appeared with a powerful format and capacity for distributing ideas on video. TED describes itself as a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading big ideas globally in the form of presentations lasting up to eighteen minutes. TED’s mantra is, “We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world. Our agenda is to make great ideas accessible and spark conversation.”

TED talks can include virtually any topic under, or even beyond, the sun. As long as an idea meets TED’s high standards, any topic is fair game. TED serves “A community of curious souls. . . . and is a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world.” That invitation extends to licensing local communities to participate in the form of TEDx programs. TEDx provides opportunities for communities like Chattanooga to self-organize, explore, and share powerful and innovative ideas in the same format as TED.

The TEDx website describes its essence in this way. “In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TED Talks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection.”

TED is highly selective about who receives a license to present programs under the TEDx banner. High quality, captivating themes are required. A first-level license limits the size of an audience to no more than 100 people and requires a detailed proposal and rationale. In 2014, TEDxChattanooga, having obtained the first-level license, presented topics that included Dr. Hill Craddock of UTC on the scourge of chestnut blight and James Chapman of the Causeway organization on creating a culture of selflessness.

Graphics depict the theme of this year's ticketed event.

Graphics depict the theme of this year’s ticketed event.

TEDxChattanooga programs are co-chaired by Dr. David Levine, Professor and Walter M. Cline, Chair of Excellence in Physical Therapy, and Dr. Linda Frost, Dean of the Honors College, both at UTC. Dr. Levine describes his experience with TED as he recently applied for a broader license allowing audiences over 100 people.

“In order to host a TEDx event you need to be granted a license from TED. For our first TEDx event in 2014, TEDxChattanooga, Linda and I applied and were eventually granted a license (It is not an easy process.), and the event was limited to 100 people.”

To hold a TEDx event with 100 or more people, applicants must attend a TED conference. These are only held a few times a year. “Even getting a ticket to the event is competitive,” says Levine. “I went to a TED conference in February of 2015. Some of the major speakers were Bill Gates, Monica Lewinsky, Barbara Corcoran, Aloe Blacc.”

Levine says the TED conference was a great experience. “Besides attending a week of TED talks, I was able to connect with other TEDx organizers from around the world which was an incredible experience,” he says. TEDxChattanooga now has the more robust, “100+” license.

As a result, a major event is coming up in 2016 when TEDxChattanooga will present a day-long program, painstakingly coordinated by April Cox, manager of graphic design, UTC University Relations. Cox’s role as executive producer is an important one. “She’s a key player in the entire process and the one that keeps everything running smoothly,” says Cox. “She is a planner and coordinates with a ton of people to pull things together.”

The program will be presented this year on February 27th and will offer 12 talks at the Roland W. Hayes Concert Hall in the Fine Arts Center at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The theme of the program is, “This might sound crazy, but…” The talks have been selected from 90 applications by special committee.

TEDx Chattanooga sparks questions for attendees.

TEDx Chattanooga sparks questions for attendees.

The price of a ticket (adult early bird $40) also includes lunch at the new UTC library—and a T-shirt. Some pleasant and entertaining surprises will be sprinkled between some of the talks. An additional $25 will secure an entré to an “After Party” at the Tennessee Aquarium that will include a tour of the aquarium as well as heavy hors d’oeuvres.

The lunch and after party will bring together people who have shared a TEDx experience, and provide a rich opportunity to discuss and exchange views on a raft of newly encountered ideas—catalysts for conversations that enhance the substance, richness, and spirit of our community.

The Chattanooga area is home to a treasure trove of people with original, creative and uplifting ideas. As with most programs like this, TEDx needs funding. Sponsorship of TEDxChattanooga by the community is key to ensuring that the future will continue to harbor a forum for bringing important and unifying ideas into view, perhaps even spread them beyond our local bounds.

Linda Frost points out that, “TEDxChattanooga organizers are seeking sponsorships from local businesses and individuals. We are looking for partners to help us engage the innovators who will be speaking at and attending TEDxChattanooga. Sponsoring TEDxChattanooga is an opportunity for local businesses and individuals to showcase a vision for our community’s collective future and to stand out as thought leaders.”

“TedxChattanooga is a big production with many volunteers,” says April Cox. “You have to have a heart for Ted.”

Chattanooga Magazine is a proud media sponsor of TEDxChattanooga (tedxchattanooga.com). Story by Richard Morel. Photography Courtesy of TEDx Chattanooga

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