Features and Occasionals

Ideas Worth Spreading: TedX in SLC

By Beth Wolfer

Ideas Worth Spreading. This is the tagline of the global phenomenon called TED Talks that is taking the internet by storm. The 18-minutes-or-less presentations in the beginning were within categories of Technology, Entertainment or Design (TED) but now range into social issues, health, music and more. There have been well over a billion views of TED Talks online, with an estimated 17 new page views per minute.

Founded more than 30 years ago, the first TED included a demo of the compact disc, the e-book, and cutting-edge 3D graphics from Lucasfilm, while a mathematician demonstrated how to map coastlines using his developing theory of fractal geometry.

The mission has always been to open minds and spread new ideas by building “a clearinghouse of free knowledge from the world’s most inspired thinkers — and a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other, both online and at TED and TEDx events around the world, all year long.”

A TEDx event is an independently organized and executed TED-esque event operated under a license from TED. There are more than 1,000 TEDx events in the United States each year. The 5th annual TEDxSaltLakeCity will take place Saturday, September 17 at Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah.

Lead organizer Anna Decker has been at the helm of TEDxSaltLakeCity since 2013, and has seen the event grow from 100 attendees to more than 1,000 this year. Anna says, “Salt Lake is bursting with pockets of creativity. Our primary goal with TEDxSaltLakeCity is to offer some fertile ground for that creativity to take root as a key part of our city’s culture. Each year I hope everyone involved—myself, the planning committee, speakers, and attendees—feels stretched and even a little uncomfortable. Discomfort leads to curiosity, and curiosity leads to innovation.”

Assisting Anna in putting together the annual event are 15 committee members with diverse demographic and professional backgrounds. One of the only TEDx events in the country that does not hand-pick all speakers, the committee holds an open curation process in early spring, and received more than 200 applications this year. The top 55 finalists submitted a 90-second video presenting their “idea worth spreading,” and 13 made it through to become the 2016 lineup. “Many TEDx events hand-select their speakers and even fly them in from other states and countries. We keep a local focus because we believe world-class fresh thinking is always sprouting right here in our backyard. I’m impressed by the speaker applications that we receive.”

Each year, TEDxSaltLakeCity speakers are asked to consider a theme. The 2016 theme is Meraki: an ancient Greek word meaning the soul, creativity and passion you put into something, or the essence of yourself put into your work.

The 2016 lineup can be found at www.tedxsaltlakecity.com and includes topics as diverse as gender-creative parenting and the neuroscience of religious experiences. One speaker spent decades in prison and has a surprising opinion about addiction. Each speaker has a distinct message to share, but they all share two things in common: passion about an idea and a commitment to make that idea a reality here in Utah and beyond.

The talks will be interspersed with performing artists including junk drumming, Brazilian Capoeira, modern dance and more. In the spirit of all things local, eight food trucks will offer a variety of choices for lunch on the lawn at Presidents Circle, included with admission.

Even with this year’s larger seating capacity, TEDx has sold out. If you managed to have scored a ticket this year, you’re definitely in for some ideas worth spreading!

Beth Wolfer lives, loves and works in Salt Lake City and beyond.

This article was originally published on September 1, 2016.