TEDx is coming to Tacoma tomorrow. But some local business people are still wondering, “Who is this Ted? And what is he doing in Tacoma?”

First things first: TED is not a person. It’s a nonprofit whose initials stand for technology, education and design.

TED has grown up since it began in 1984 and its events attract big-name speakers from all disciplines. The speeches often go viral and have helped raise TED’s profile around the world.

“I’ve seen a lot of TED videos and always have been really impressed by the positive words they bring out — and the thinking outside of the box,” said Susan Russell Hall, a local artist and TEDx Tacoma speaker. “Bringing people together with voices and insight on how to make our community and world a better place I think is really exciting.”

TED hosts two annual international conferences, but to make TED more accessible to the general public, the nonprofit created a local version of conventions called TEDx.

“I love everything it stands for,” said Josh Dunn, owner of Premier Media Group. “We realize Tacoma has never had something like this.”

TED was officially established in 1996 by Chris Anderson, who at the time was a magazine publishing entrepreneur. So it only makes sense that a South Sound magazine publisher, like Dunn, would bring TEDx to Tacoma.

TEDx Tacoma has been a year in the making and opens its doors from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 17 at the Museum of Glass.

“Out of this you are looking for inspiration and passion,” Dunn said. “As a local business guy, I want to be inspired and I want to come out with a great idea.”
TEDx Tacoma’s organizers donated their time and the event is funded through sponsorships and ticket sales.

However, Dunn said no one makes money — and even the sponsors don’t get to use the event as an advertising tool.

“The whole point of TED is to get ideas spreading,” he said. “There’s no political agenda. No one wins out of it. Everyone comes out of it encouraged, but nothing is plugged and there’s not an agenda.”

Unique lineup

Since TEDx events are about “sharing and inspiring others to change,” Dunn and the rest of the organizing committee were tasked with putting together a diverse lineup of speakers.

“There is certainly a local flare to this TED talk,” said Brian Nelson, a major with the Washington National Guard and a TEDx Tacoma speaker. “I think what people will leave with is an optimistic feeling of their community and the possible future of the greater Puget Sound. We are showcasing people with some pretty innovative thoughts.”

TEDx events have a structured format and each 90-minute session has six speakers. One of the objectives of TEDx Tacoma is to have the speeches posted online.

Speakers are allotted specific amounts of time — from four to 18 minutes — to make their points. The sessions were compiled so that speakers within a particular session represent different backgrounds.

One session could have someone discussing a new health care breakthrough, while another could have someone explaining an innovative community foods program.

Nelson, for example, will be discussing his goal setting approach called “One pound stronger.” The idea stems from an exercise routine he created.

“It’s an approach I think is much more possible,” he said. “And I think will actually get much more traction than the unrealistic claims we are inundated with every day.”

Russell Hall, whose work has been on exhibit throughout Washington and beyond, and whose medical and scientific artwork can be seen in a variety of publications, said that she is not going to tell the audience how to do something like paint — but will explain why she paints.

“The wonderful thing about TEDx is you need to be yourself and talk about what are your passions,” she said. “Everybody hopes there is some message of inspiration that someone will take home with them.”

However, the presenters are not professional speakers. And because this is a TED event, some like Nelson are feeling a little pressure to make their performances come across well.

“I have a little butterflies,” said Nelson, who is also the co-founder of Kindred Souls Foundation.

Russell Hall said that having less-experienced speakers is actually one of the most impressive things about the conference because it allows some of the area’s less vocal leaders to step to the microphone.

“It’s not just one motivational guy and that’s what they do all the time. You will have some very heartfelt talks — and that’s a different thing than people that give talks all the time,” she said. “These are people that are talking about what they do and why they do it because it’s what drives their lives. That’s really huge that people are taking this chunk of time out of their busy schedules to share their hopes and dreams.”

Writer Breanne Coats can be reached at bcoats@BusinessExaminer.com.