Jess Stangeland and her team of volunteers set out to share “ideas worth spreading” with the Tri-City community.
And they did just that, putting on the area’s first-ever TEDx conference — an event that earned raves for its content, for the connections it fostered and for the excitement it generated around making a difference.
“It was a rare experience to have so many people in the same space being all in and wanting to make our community better and each other better,” said Kimberly Kessler, one of the TEDxRichland speakers. “It was a really great atmosphere.”
TEDxRichland was Sept. 17 at the Uptown Theatre.
Stangeland, lead organizer and executive producer, said she’s happy with how it turned out.
“I wanted to spark conversation — to bring together different pockets of the community, people who have the same goals, and get them to talk about ideas,” she said. “I think that was the most important thing we could have done (with the event), and we did it.”
TED is a nonprofit perhaps best known for TED Talks, which are succinct, innovative lectures on a wide variety of topics, from science to education to the arts.
Many of the talks take place during the annual TED conference in Vancouver and are then posted online, attracting millions of views.
TEDx conferences — like the one in Richland — are local, self-organized events “that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.”
TED stands for “Technology, Entertainment, Design.”
TEDx rules meant only 100 people could be in the audience during TEDxRichland. Nearly double that number applied, with audience members chosen through a lottery.
Admission was free.
Thousands of people watched the event from their homes and sites around the community via a free livestream.
TEDxRichland included 11 live talks, plus three pre-recorded TED videos, a performance by The Rude Mechanicals theater company, an art exhibition and more.
“It was absolutely amazing for a first-year event,” said Justin Jones, another one of the speakers. “The level of professionalism they were able to bring was great.”
Jones’ talk centered on working remotely, or teleworking. Other live talks ranged from local to global and even existential topics.
Adam Brault’s fell into the local category. His talk, “The Suburbs Are Broken: Let’s Upgrade the OS,” included the idea that people are responsible for creating the community they want.
After he was done, attendees wrote ideas on a “We Should Do That” wall, from a half-marathon meet-up group to a Humans of Tri-Cities project.
Brault said he was blown away by the experience.
“I’ve done a lot of events, organization-wise. It’s extremely hard to nail a first-time event, but they hit it out of the park,” he said.
Nick Thompson, event manager and co-organizer, said Brault, Kessler, Jones and the other speakers put in hours of work, writing drafts and meeting weekly to refine and perfect their talks.
Members of Tri-Cities Toastmasters lent their expertise throughout the process.
All the talks related to the event’s theme of “Invisible Adversity.”
Like Stangeland, Thompson said he was happy with how the Tri-Cities’ first TEDx unfolded.
“It was for the community, and I hope (attendees) got to meet people they didn’t know and make new connections,” he said.
“It goes back to Adam’s talk — he said we have to weave these ‘weird webs’” and connect across the community, Thompson said.
For Stangeland and her team, organizing the conference meant a great deal of work. But Stangeland said she relishes the relationships formed and all that was accomplished.
“I’m really proud and excited — proud of all the hard work of the team, of our speakers and sponsors,” she said. “We created an environment where people felt like they were with their people. That was a really good thing to come out of it. That’s what I wanted.”
Videos of the TEDxRichland speakers will be posted online soon. Watch the TEDxRichland Facebook page, facebook.com/tedxrichland, for updates.