Speakers with big ideas needed for TEDx

Jan. 02, 2014 @ 10:39 AM

A few years ago, Dan Goss and Alan Jackson came back to Hickory from Charlotte with an idea and a plan, hoping to bring an event to the area that would spur thought and spread ideas.

That event was a TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talk, a daylong amalgamation of speakers, devoted to “ideas worth spreading.”

Today Goss and Jackson are preparing for the third TEDxHickory, to be held May 10 at the SALT Block auditorium in Hickory, an all-day event featuring different speakers and events.

TED began in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from the worlds of technology, entertainment and design, and has since grown into a broader effort, sharing ideas to change the world. TED hosts two annual conferences each year, with previous talks featuring speakers like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson.

But the organization also has spurred a multitude of similar, independent events, delineated by the “x,” such as TEDxHickory. The TED Conference licenses these regional events and provides general guidance for them, but they are organized locally.

Goss said the Hickory event is organized by the Media and Tech Guild of the Catawba Valley, a network of professionals sharing experiences, knowledge and connections in technology, innovation, multimedia and graphic design. Jackson, owner of The Jackson Group, a business consulting firm, and Goss, owner of Dirt Road Data, an IT company, are members of the guild. They brought the idea of having a TEDx event after attending one in Charlotte.

Speaker selection won’t begin until February, Goss said, but the group has already begun taking applications.

In February and March, coaches will help the speakers prepare for the event. Last year, Jackson said, the group received about 30 applications, from which 12 were chosen.

“I love meeting the speakers,” Jackson said. “Some of them I still stay in close contact with.” The speakers are Jackson’s favorite aspect of the whole event, he said, getting to know fascinating people and hear their stories.

This year, 10 to 15 speakers will present their ideas to 100 audience members, who will also be hand-selected to ensure diversity and community representation at the event.

“That’s TED’s deal,” Goss said. “We’re only allowed to have 100 attendees, and we want to make sure it’s 100 good attendees.”

Anything from mathematics to environmental protection can be featured at a TED talk. Goss said his favorite from past Hickory events was Bill Carson, owner of The Orchard at Altapass in McDowell County. Before Carson bought the orchard, he worked at IBM, developing new technologies, including GPS, before retiring to the Appalachians and immersing himself in local culture and folklore. Today, the orchard offers educational programs, storytelling, hayrides and nature walks.

Carson had a cool story of how he bought the orchard, and an even better one about why he bought it, Goss said.

The speakers make the event, Jackson said, adding that he gets as much from the event as the audience, and still keeps in close contact with speakers from previous events, finding their stories fascinating. For this year’s event, the group is trying to find that local niche of doers, thinkers and makers in the area that people in the community don’t know about, Jackson said.

“So many amazing things are happening right here in our region that maybe the rest of the world knows about that people here in the county don’t know about,” Jackson said.