Salem experienced its first TEDx in 2013, when organizers Carlee Wright and Brian Hart launched the event with 14 talks, 100 participants and a whole lot of faith.
“It was a first for us, and it was a first for all of them as well. They didn’t necessarily know what to expect, and they came ready to experience it,” Wright said.
For her, that day was a blur of running around and answering questions. Hart handled the flow backstage, and he could hear laughter from the auidence and feel the crowd’s energy during the speakers and recess when audience members became active participants in the exchange of ideas.
“You can feel it when stuff is really going well, and it’s kind of a magical day,” he said.
“We were like, ‘This is exactly what we wanted.’”
It wasn’t until Wright saw the photos and videos from the event that she appreciated the scope of what they had accomplished. She hoped that people would step out of their bubble and experience something new. The photos showed people engaging with one another and once strangers chatting away.
In its second year, TEDxSalem grew to 300 participants and included extras such as a special message recorded by AJ Jacobs, known for the TED Talk “The world’s largest family reunion,” just for the Salem audience.
Now the team behind TEDxSalem is ramping up for its third event Saturday, Oct. 3, this time at the Salem Convention Center with 13 speakers and possibly 500 or more participants.
The first two events helped lay the foundation, and now organizers have turned their focus to making it better and better. This year, they are partnering with Enlightened Theatrics, a Salem theater company, to offer a unique, hybrid performance as a little something extra. Hart was mum on the details because he didn’t want to ruin the surprise.
Looking ahead, both Hart and Wright would love to bring more high-profile speakers to Salem. Wright said she wouldn’t mind hearing from author Neil Gaiman or filmaker Tim Burton if they happen to be reading. Hart wants the big game-changers in a particular field, such as the ones leading developments in brain science or technology.
At the same time, it’s essential to keep spots for local speakers, too, he said. They also want to develop new ways to experience TEDx and share those ideas with other communities.
The end goal? World domination, of course.
“Our goal is not just to be one of the premiere events in Oregon,” Hart said, “but the world.”
Give it another three years. There is no telling where TEDxSalem might lead.
Don’t miss the early bird ticket price for this year’s TEDxSalem:
Get $10 off the ticket price if you order before June 18th at https://tedxsalem2015.eventbrite.com. After that tickets are available for $50 for general admission and $40 for students. One ticket includes a full day of talks, entertainment, recess activities, swag, snacks, lunch and an after-party.