Caroline Caldwell-Richmond wasn’t familiar with TEDx — until she was nominated by a board member of her nonprofit New Mind Health Care to present a talk in Greenville because of her passion for helping people transition from incarceration back into society.
She started watching TED videos and was hooked.
“I spent days and days and days listening to talks,” she said. When she was informed she was one of the dozen picked for the 2014 TEDxGreenville, she was floored. After she spoke, she became part of TEDxGreenville’s program team and later curated two of the annual conferences.
“It’s been an incredible ride because everybody was a critical thinker,” she said.
TED got its start in 1984 as a conference about technology, entertainment, and design. The first TED included a demo of the compact disc. It has expanded in both topics and locations. TEDx events are smaller, independently organized conferences. The first in Greenville was held in 2010.
TEDxGreenville will hold its 10th conference on March 29 at the Greenville ONE Center. Among the speakers are Tanglewood Middle School principal Edward Anderson, Beer and Napkins founder Phillip McCreight, and Upstate historian Rhondda Robinson Thomas.
The famous and the unknown
TEDxGreenville license holder and organizer Russell Stall said he wasn’t worried about running out of Greenville residents with interesting ideas to take the stage. So far, 227 people have presented at TEDxGreenville events, including monthly salons, he said.
“Greenville is not short of great ideas,” Stall said.
This year, more than 275 people were nominated and 15 chosen. Caldwell-Richmond said not all ideas are worth spreading. Some nominees see TEDx as a means to get something, and those are easy to weed out. So are the ones whose idea is already out there. What’s left are whittled down by determining whether it’s new, innovative, and relevant to Greenville and generations of Greenvillians, and whether it is inspirational enough to facilitate change, she said.
“As a presenter, it gives you an opportunity to put an issue on the map before it has become an issue,” Caldwell said.
Heather Marshall, a Greenville author and teacher, had a talk on letting go of expectations that centered on her search for her biological parents. Her talk is one of TEDxGreenville’s most popular with nearly 225,000 views.
“I think certain TED talks resonate with people because they offer a response to questions people have on their minds at that time. People are intrigued by adoption reunion stories,” she said.
“My talk was about being able to be present in the moment. I think people are looking at finding balance in our incredibly fast lifestyles.”
Emily Reach White, who spoke about her father’s battle with the invisible illness of Lyme disease, said Greenville needs the platform TEDx provides.
“It’s a nice addition to what’s available in Greenville,” she said. “It feels progressive and a little edgier than the rest of what we have to do.”
Many of the participants are household names in Greenville or beyond — such as Mayor Knox White, former First Baptist Greenville pastor Baxter Wynn, and former Clemson star wide receiver Perry Tuttle. But most are not.
“The marketing side of me would like all famous people, but that’s not what it’s all about. The conference is about us collectively, not one speaker or one idea,” Stall said. “We’ve had speakers who started new nonprofits, changed careers, and achieved amazing things, and TEDx was a launchpad.”