TEDxJacksonville is More Than Talk

July 24, 2014 0 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

The TEDxJacksonville team believes that the value of their organization lives in the inspired actions of the Jacksonville community. Cari Holland explains how TEDxJacksonville is becoming a platform for change.

After last year's TEDxJacksonville conference we were stunned at the ideas shared and the energy present in the event.

We knew what we were doing had meaning, but when we read Tia Levings' op-ed from Folio Weekly the week after, we really got a sense of the fire that was started with hundreds of active minds put in one room together and subjected to ten impassioned presenters. After inspiration should come action and from several attendees we heard, “What now? What can I do?” We weren’t sure we had an answer.

Our team of around 20 volunteers had worked tirelessly to put on this conference, and ensure it was a TED-quality event. And, based on the feedback we received we felt confident that we’d succeeded. But we were plagued with the notion that there is a lot of talking in our city-- complaining without working to fix, idealizing without acting on it. We didn't want to be just another moving mouth, but in the same breath we didn’t really have an answer for those who asked what they could do with all this inspiration they gathered that day.

The week after the conference, we added a page to our website that could connect people to organizations or movements related to the talk topics from our conference. It was our immediate solution in helping to link inspiration into action.

TED’s mission is “Ideas Worth Spreading” and TEDx organizations are licensed to extend it. At the top, TED does provoke action – in one way, through the thousands of TEDx organizations they license who then act on a local level to bring TED’s format to their city. But trickling down, should it be our mission at the x level to not only spread ideas but encourage action?

We had a tough time answering that. All of us know that our city needs not only thinkers, but doers. But is that our role as an organization? And if action is what our city needs, but it is not necessarily our role, is TEDxJacksonville providing value?

It was over burritos and beers in the heart of Gainesville while a few of us attended TEDxUF that the idea of "curation" was discussed as a solution. It was a simple answer that at first seemed like an easy answer, but once we pondered it, it made total sense. If the right Talks are given and the right people are in the audience (either during the event or later), the action will happen.

Although curation seems to be a buzzword lately with content as king, curation truly is a pillar of what TEDx is all about.

If you attended our event last year, you were selected to be there. You filled out an application that asked you questions labout your accomplishments, your vision for Jax, and your favorite TED Talk. We ask these questions so we can curate our audience. To fill the seats with people who want to engage with others. People who don’t only listen to ideas, but have ideas of their own. People who are lively and active, but also thoughtful and insightful.

Matt Rutherford's Talk

The most immediate action item that could have come from Connecting Currents is the disuse of plastic coffee stirrers, prompted by Matt Rutherford’s talk about garbage in the ocean. I can’t speak for the other 300ish attendees, but I know I have not touched one of those one-time use swizzle sticks since that day. Although every talk's prompt may not always be as immediately identifiable, our team works hard to make sure the Talks we’re putting on stage are relevant and meaningful. Curating the right presenters for the conference begins with drafting a well formulated speaker application. Once applications are in, we review and select speakers thoughtfully and scrupulously.

The speaker selection process and audience curation process are the two most major milestones that our organization works through in preparation for our annual conference. If the Talks aren’t relevant and the people hearing them don’t care, what good have we done?

TEDxJacksonville Energy Reserves

With all of this in mind, on a whiteboard one day in early 2014, fueled by cupcakes and coffee, the TEDxJacksonville team crafted our mission. We found it to be our goal, “To open minds with inspiring ideas.” Its simple, but after much contemplation, we truly feel that our task at hand is to give people something worth thinking about. It is our role to plant a seed, but up to the audience to nurture its growth. There are so many influential organizations in this city taking the charge at change and we want to put our weight behind them where we can, rather than splintering momentum. We want to give the stage to ideas worth sharing, and let our audience make what they want out of them and act on them as they wish.

But we haven’t lost the fact that engaging in an idea is what many of our attendees want to get out of our experiences. This is why we’ve revised the format of our Salons so that attendees can participate in active discussion groups with local leaders in the field of topic. This year we’re planning several action-oriented explorations or adventures around our annual conference so that attendees can connect on a higher level and participate in a topic that’s being presented.

We’re taking the action page of our site a step further and making sure that this type of information is readily available to conference attendees on the day of. We’re asking that our speakers share with us their suggested connections for attendees looking to dive a bit deeper and we’re working with Chamblin’s Uptown to curate a suggested reading list for this year’s conference. And more, we would welcome any suggestion with other ways to serve our mission and add value to this city we love so much.

TEDxJacksonville exists to open minds with inspired ideas. Learn more about TEDxJacksonville at www.TEDxJacksonville.com, on Twitter www.twitter.com/TEDxJax and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/TEDxJacksonville.

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Cari Holland has lived on the First Coast for more than 20 years. She bears witness to and enjoys participating in the extraordinary efforts that continuously polish the jewel that is Jacksonville. Cari is an Account Executive at Dalton Agency downtown and a cum laude graduate of Flagler College in St. Augustine. She is active with One Spark, is a member of Hands On Jacksonville’s 2012 Blueprint for Leadership cohort and has served as an Intern on the Board of Directors at Daniel Kids. She has walked on hot coals, loves visiting new places, watches TED talks while she cooks and stops to smell the roses.