Saturday, August 29, 2009

    TEDx Asheville

    --by Jason Sandford in the Mountain Xpress.

    Call it a circus for your brain. Call it an idea explosion with a rock-and-roll vibe. Call it a variety show for nerds, by nerds.
    No matter how organizer Jennifer Saylor describes it, the TEDx Asheville event set for Aug. 30 at the Orange Peel will do one thing — spotlight the ideas and talents of Asheville's big thinkers and creative minds. The event is the culmination of several months of planning after a local group of fans of the annual California-based conference known as TED (which stands for technology, entertainment and design) got together and decided to stage an Asheville version of the event.

    "Our presenter lineup is the result of around 90 speaker nominees and months of volunteer labor, watching videos, reading bios, discussing our options, listening to talks and ideas," Saylor says. "We think our lineup is completely in the TED spirit of humor, mastery, changing society and having vision for the future. It's made up out of the coolest and most interesting people we could find in a citywide search several months long."

    The line-up of speakers includes David McConville, co-founder of The Elumenati, an Asheville design and engineering company that creates custom immersive environments such as domes; Drew Jones, a specialist in systems dynamics and climate-change modeling who is program director for the Vermont-based Sustainability Institute; Dee Eggers, an environmental studies professor at UNC Asheville; Robert Zimmerman, whose Web development company has created sites for illustrators and art directors; and Caroline Yongue, a home-funeral educator who talks about end-of-life transitions.

    There's plenty of entertainment mixed in the four-hour event, with acts including poet Glenis Redmond and Chris Tanfield and Dave Hamilton. Saylor promises a couple of "big surprises" as well.

    Seating is limited to 400 people and the show is free, so Saylor is encouraging people to arrive early to be sure they get a seat. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. The party starts at 7 p.m. Saylor says she doesn't have a feel for whether the event will fill up, but adds that interest has been high.

    Asheville resident Rick Fornoff, who coaches public speakers and is a TEDx Asheville organizer, has been coaching four of the event speakers. The TED requirement is that each speaker be limited to 18 minutes.

    "Part of the power of the talks is that it's great information that's condensed. You don't have long to get it out there," Fornoff says. "So it's a matter of pruning and getting to the point."

    Both Saylor and Fornoff note that local organizers have a real passion for TED, which is built around the idea of offering a global forum for ideas worth spreading. They hope that their excitement shows in the production.

    "We're all fans of TED, and in Asheville we're all proud of the fertility of the community here," Fornoff says. "This is a chance for us to show off our intellectual capital."

    The goal is to hold the event again next summer, with planning for that starting in October. Saylor urges anyone interested in getting involved to send an e-mail to

    For more information, visit

    Source | live simulcast of this Sunday’s TEDx event