X Marks T\the Spot
by Samantha Wright
Feb 11, 2013 | 554 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print

TEDxTellurideLive Celebrates Ideas Worth Having

TELLURIDE – Variously described as “the ultimate brain spa”, a “cocktail party without alcohol” and “a journey into the future, in the company of those creating it,” the annual four-day TED conference in Long Beach, Calif. assembles the world’s leading thinkers and doers and asks them to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes or less. 

People pay $7,500 for the privilege of attending the conference, which always sells out and has a waiting list numbering in the thousands. 

TEDxTellurideLive brings one day of this heady idea-soup to the Palm Theater via simulcast on Wednesday, Feb. 27. It’s a TED-like experience at the local level, and best of all, community participants get to experience it for free. 

As people gather at the Palm Theater for the day, similar events will be taking place simultaneously in communities around the world. They are fully planned and coordinated independently, on a community-by-community basis. Telluride’s organizing committee is headed up by Katrine Formby, co-owner of the Nugget Theater. 

Formby, a citizen of the world with a passion for discovering new trends, stumbled upon the TED phenomenon about five years ago, and right away knew she had to experience a conference. TED puts on two big events each year – one in Long Beach and another in the United Kingdom.

Formby applied to attend the Long Beach conference, but did not get past the waiting list. She set her sites on the U.K. event instead, figuring it would be less competitive to get in. At the time, it was taking place in Oxford, but has since migrated to Edinburgh.

The gamble worked; she was thrilled to learn that she had gotten in. “I went and sat for four-and-a-half days and was absolutely blown away,” she recalled. “I left feeling so optimistic, after hearing so many powerful ideas that could change the world.” 

The following year, she attended a TED simulcast event in Palm Springs, and for two years after that, she paid $1,000 to watch the TED conference live on her computer. It was still thrilling, but not so much as experiencing the event surrounded by other curious and excited people. She came up with a better plan – spearheading an independently organized TED simulcast event in Telluride. 

TED makes it easy, and cheap, for people such as Formby to do just that. 

In fact, Formby said, “They gave me the simulcast for free, as long as I agreed to show it for free. Their motto is ‘Ideas worth spreading.’ They want people to hear these ideas.” 

Thus, TEDxTellurideLive was born. While Formby and her husband Bill originally envisioned holding the event at their beloved Nugget Theater, they soon realized that the larger Michael D. Palm Theater with its deluxe screen and sound system was the better venue.  About 450 people signed up for last year’s event, and “maybe 300 came,” Formby said. “This year I’m expecting more people to sign up and more to stay. The word has gotten out this is a great day.”

She is actively reaching out to local and regional school districts, urging teachers to bring their students in, as well.  

What should first-time TED-ers expect when they attend?  “Prepare to be blown away!” Formby said. “The speakers will knock your socks off.”

The title for this year's TED conference is "The Young. The Wise. The Undiscovered." TED organizers conducted a global search for the world's most exciting unheard voices. The resulting lineup features the largest number of speakers in TED's history – more than 70 – who will be giving short, fast-paced talks covering an incredible variety of topics and probing some of the most challenging issues of our time. 

A few of the speakers to be featured during the TEDxTellurideLive simulcast include 17-year-old nuclear scientist Taylor Wilson, 15-year-old bow designer Dong Woo-Jang and 15-year-old cancer-detector inventor Jack Andraka. Along the way, attendees will meet many other inspiring characters, both young and old, who are setting the world on fire with ideas of their own in such diverse fields as cybersecurity, biotechnology, renegade gardening, dolphin research, and yo-yo performance.

TED archives all of its talks on its website, TED.com. But, Formby said, there is nothing like the thrill of attending a TED event, even a one-day simulcast like TEDxTellurideLive. 

“I think the genius of the whole TED conference is that nobody speaks longer than 18 minutes,” she said, “the theory being that is about as long as you can interest someone in anything.”

TED emcees are very strict about the time limit – to the point of firmly ushering speakers off the stage mid-sentence once their time is up. 

A typical TED day is clustered into four segments, each lasting one hour and 45 minutes, featuring talks by six to eight speakers who are grouped according to very generalized themes. 

In between each segment, participants enjoy a 40-minute break. These breaks are an important part of the program, Formby explained, because they give participants a chance to process what they have just seen and heard, as well as to bounce their own ideas and reactions off one another. 

Then, it’s back into the theater for another session. The upcoming TEDxTellurideLive event includes four sessions in all: Disrupt! (9:30-11:15 a.m), Dream! (noon-1:45 p.m.), Create! (3:15-5 p.m.) and Sustain! (6-7:45 p.m.).

Preregistration is required. It’s easy to do at the website www.tedxtelluridelive.com

While “full immersion” is the best way to experience TEDxTellurideLive, this year organizers have made it easier for pre-registered participants to “cherry-pick” which sessions they attend by providing a speaker list organized by sessions, with photos and brief bios of each presenter. Participants can get an idea at a glance of what to expect for each upcoming session.

“We thought it might help everyone to study the sessions and speakers, so people who cannot come for an entire day can choose a session or two to attend,” Formby said. “I know last year we made a strong effort to have people come for the entire day or not at all, but this year we are encouraging people to choose their sessions if an entire day isn't possible.”

Slipping in and out of a particular session once it is underway is still not permitted, however, Formby stressed. Door monitors will be on hand to enforce this rule. 

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design – three broad subject areas that are, collectively, shaping our future. Former journalist and publisher Chris Anderson is the curator of the TED Conferences. Since 2002 he has been developing them as a platform for identifying and disseminating ideas worth spreading. 

Speaking of TED’s core values, Anderson has said: “Truth, curiosity, diversity, no selling, no corporate bullshit, no bandwagoning, no platforms. Just the pursuit of interest, wherever it lies, across all the disciplines that are represented here.”

Listening to TED talks is an invigorating experience – even a life-changing one. “You can be a pessimist walking in, but you see these people living their passion, and it gives you hope for the whole world,” Formby said. “TED has changed and expanded my life. I think more globally. Now, when an idea drops into my head, I don’t just push it aside. I have more courage to go with it. I realize now that even my ideas can make the world better.” 

swright@watchnewspapers.com or Tweet @iamsamwright


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