Intellectuals gather to discuss ‘ideas worth spreading’ at first TEDx event at Elon University

By Marlena Chertock

MAY 5, 2011

Senior Tyler Reynolds wanted to plan an event on his own because he had never had that experience. On May 3 Reynolds’ planning came through in the first-ever TEDx event at Elon University where several speakers discussed various topics from 4:30 to 7 p.m. in LaRose Digital Theatre.

TED is a non-profit organization focused on “ideas worth spreading.” TED conferences occur all over the United States and world, where the best speakers are brought in front of a large audience and speak on a variety of topics in under 20 minutes, Reynolds said.

SEED at Elon, Student Entrepreneurial Enterprise Development, was the unofficial sponsor of the event, since TED events cannot have an official sponsor, he said.

Reynolds applied for a TEDx license in January and was approved within a week to hold a conference at Elon. The “x” stands for independently held.

“I did a lot of PR, talked to communications and philosophy and business faculty,” he said. “I probably should have done some flyers, but it was a lot to coordinate this.”

Some TED conferences have themes, but Reynolds didn’t want to constrain anyone’s ideas by having one set.

“I want to make this a reoccurring event,” he said. “So I told the speakers they could talk about whatever they wanted to. People talked about everything from sex, to business, to philosophy, to responsibility.”

The speeches ranged in topic, from the philosophy of responsibility, practicing stress-relieving techniques in life and business and thinking in an entrepreneurial way.

Several videos were shown during the speeches:

  • William Kamkwamba, a high school age boy in Malawi dropped out of school because his parents couldn’t afford the $80 school fees. He went to the library and took out books about windmills, wanting to create his own. He practiced entrepreneurial thinking, according to professor of entrepreneurship Gary Palin, to use bicycle wheels and tractor fans to build windmills that would generate electricity for his family.
  • One TED talk on “How to Start a Movement” by Derek Sivers
  • Another TED talk on “A Year of Living Biblically” by AJ Jacobs

Reynolds gave a speech, as well, on business mindfulness. He wants to offer coaching and leadership in this area in the future, he said.

He first became interested in the organization during his freshman year. He watched TED talks on the website every day.

“I love the organization and what they believe and try to cultivate,” he said. “They promote conversations that matter.”

TED’s slogan is enticing, he said.

“Not only are the topics so fascinating but TED demands the best speakers, only invites the best speakers in the world. They could be talking about a subject that’s so boring and can get audience involved, captivated and interesting.”

The most desirable effect of TED is it perpetuates a thought-provoking environment, according to Reynolds.

Reynolds met several of the speakers before the event. He found Shalini Bahl, the founder of iAM Business, on LinkedIn and began e-mailing her. When he was practicing a presentation on business mindfulness in the airport, Rob Kramer, a leadership and consulting coach, overheard him and said he did a lot of what Reynolds was talking about. So they exchanged business cards. Reynolds was in Palin’s and professor of philosophy Steven Bloch-Schulman’s classes.

He expressed disappointment that the attendance was low. There were about 15 attendees. He said he was expecting a bigger turnout.

“It was kind of sad,” he said. “Because it doesn’t directly apply to the curriculum of any one class professors aren’t going to mandate students to go and then students don’t want to.”

Reynolds plans to apply for a reoccurring license from TED so he can plan events anytime.

“I’d like to plan a TEDx event in Denver,” he said.

Graphic by Marlena Chertock.


Professor of philosophy Steven Bloch-Schulman on perceptions of responsibility

Rob Kramer on choosing how to interact

Kramer on changing perceptions


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About Marlena Chertock

Marlena Chertock's first collection of poetry, On that one-way trip to Mars, is available from Bottlecap Press. Her articles have appeared in The Washington Post, Marketplace, and WTOP. Her poems and fiction has appeared in The Deaf Poets Society, Moonsick Magazine, and Paper Darts.

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