As TED began to grow on a global scale, however, an unusual thing began to happen. The 18-minute presentations that came out of the TED events became increasingly popular (they’re available to watch for free at www.ted.com), and some viewers were interested in what would come out of their own community if there were a hyper-local version of TED. It was from this that TEDx (the “x” denoting an independently organized event) was born.
“It’s kind of TED’s way of bringing the talks more local, and focusing on community,” said Mark Dewey, executive producer of TEDxAFC — America’s Finest City version of the event. “The model is a community TED-like experience, and it can be as small or as big as you want.”
TEDxAFC, taking place July 14 at the La Jolla Playhouse, will bring together community leaders, with everyone from Stone Brewing’s Greg Koch to local yoga instructor Katie Brauer to professional storytellers, to entrepreneurs, healers, filmmakers, artists and even a “space architect” presenting their ideas. The theme, Dewey said, is something along the lines of a renaissance.
“Our theme last year was ‘Get Your Fix,’ because we felt like San Diego needed help fixing certain things around the community,” he said. “This year, we feel like we’ve gained some momentum, so we’re looking at going forward, trying to see what our rebirth can be, how we can reinvent current ideas.”
So what exactly is a TED event?
“That’s the hardest question to answer,” Dewey said. “I always just tell people, if you haven’t been to one, go. The model of presentations is unlike anything I’ve ever been to. The type of people who are drawn to it tend to be forward-thinking, creative people who are out there to make change happen. To describe it is very tough.”
The events appeal to such a wide range of people, Dewey said, it’s difficult to pin down the target audience. But that’s the attraction.
“What’s nice about this platform is that it speaks to anyone from a high school senior to the CEO of a large company,” he said. “The way the ideas are presented is such that they’re detailed enough to understand, but not so much that you get lost in the explanation. It’s funny to look out in the audience — you see high schoolers sitting next to San Diego’s leaders.”
With the presentations kept at no more than 18 minutes, speakers, Dewey said, have a daunting challenge.
“Trying to summarize their lifetime of experience into 15 minutes is really difficult, and they’ve been working really hard for the last four or five months. They’re aiming to give the best talk of their life,” he said. “Some [critics] think it’s going to be simplified or dumbed down, but I couldn’t disagree more. It’s really a challenge to get their point across and look to future in that amount of time. You almost get more quality out of that than an hour-long keynote address.”
The third annual TEDxAFC takes place at La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla Village Drive, on Saturday,
July 14 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tickets are going quickly, Dewey said, so advance reservations are a must. Tickets can be purchased at www.tedxamericasfinestcity.com.