"TED talks"

Just hearing that conjures up big names (think Sheryl Sandberg extolling women to lean in or Bill Gates releasing mosquitoes into the crowd), and big ideas (robots, exoskeletons, big data, vulnerability). 

Many of us have heard of TED talks, and it's likely that we're some of the millions that have watched TED talks - especially those that have gone viral on social media. The statistics are staggering. As of 11/13/13, TED talks have been watched one billion times worldwide

I've been a superfan of TED ever since the conference talks started to be released online back in 2006, and harbor a not-so-secret desire to attend the annual Long Beach conference. 

Here's a little background: TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is an annual conference in Long Beach, California, curated by Chris Anderson. Just like TED's mission of "ideas worth spreading" the TED brand has spread as well to encompass additional conferences including TEDGlobal, TED.com, TEDWomen, TEDMED, the TED Prize, TED Fellows, and the independently organized TEDx events. 

The TEDx events are "designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level" and follow the same structure of talks up to 18 minutes on a variety of topics, presented in engaging and innovative ways. 

We're incredibly lucky in Maine that we have a TEDx event in our own backyard! TEDxDirigo started up in 2010 to "celebrate innovation and creativity in Maine and to be a catalyst for positive change." 

I was thrilled this year to be invited to attend the fourth iteration of TEDxDirigo on November 3rd in Brunswick.   


Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I'm no longer a "TED virgin" (yes, that phrase actually does exist). 

This year's TED event was held at the Cabot Mill in Brunswick in a space that was part art gallery, part restaurant (Frontier - yum!). The program went from approximately 9 to 5 and was staggered in three groups of around 6 speakers.  Yes, that's a lot of speakers and a lot of topics...and it was a lot to take in on a Sunday! If you attend a TED conference, be prepared to say "my brain is completely full" by the end of it. 

The theme was "Generate" and everything from the speakers' themes to the application process was along the lines of: "What do you generate and bring into the world/to life?"

Reminders of the Generate theme were abundant

Some of my favorite talks included: 

  • Alicia Eggert who creates amazing kinetic art that makes you ponder the existence of time, your place in the world, and makes you ponder how she engineers her artwork.
  • Yona Belfort, a product designer and founder of Vital Innovation, who asked us to think hard about the value of everyday items and shed interesting light on the differences between hoarders and minimalists.
  • John Coleman, the founder of The VIA Agency, who shared his vision for a more positive world...and steps as to how we can all get there.
  • Voot Yin, a geneticist at Mount Desert Island Biological Lab, whose talk on organ regeneration had attendees exclaiming aloud "how cool" and "imagine the implications." The video that accompanied his talk needs to be seen to be believed! (see below for Livestream link)
  • Rafael Grossmann, a medical doctor whose specific interests lie at the intersection of technology and healthcare.  He's was among the first Google Glass Explorers, and the first doctor to ever use Google Glass during live surgery.  Yes, Dr. Grossmann was wearing Glass during his talk, and yes, his talk was amazingly cool and had us all buzzing about the future of medicine. 
There were many more fantastic speakers, artists, and even aerial dancers!

But I want to focus on my very favorite talk of the day came from Mohammed Nur, a high school student (!), a Seeds of Peace ambassador (officially called Seeds) and a NAACP King Fellow. Mohammed's talk about being made to feel "different" and "foreign" in the state where he was born, how to generating change, and how to generate peace had everyone on their feet. Someone give this kid a national stage...and soon.

In between the talks were networking breaks and a delicious (vegetarian!) lunch, and with an attendee roster of community leaders, influencers and change-makers, the networking opportunities were fantastic! 

My contribution to the "I generate..." chalk wall

I left the event energized, exhausted, and inspired...and yes, with a new custom TEDxDirigo SeaBag in tow. 

My badge, and the very cool custom SeaBag created for TEDxDirigo 

I definitely hope to get an invite next year, and yes, my aspirations include speaking at TED as well as attending some of the other TED conferences around the country. Good stuff, brain expanding stuff, inspiring stuff!

Interested? All talks from TEDxDirigo: Generate were live streamed and the archived stream can be found here