TED’s Idea-Spreading Comes to Richmond 

click to enlarge Andy Stefanovich
  • Andy Stefanovich

Do schools kill creativity?

How does it feel to have a stroke?

Why aren't we happy?

Those questions fuel some of the most-watched TED Talks — intense, polished, insightful lectures in which speakers are challenged to give "the talk of their lives" —exploring thought-provoking ideas in 18 minutes or less.

The talking comes to Richmond in the spring.

Since its California birth as a conference in 1984, TED — which stands for technology, entertainment and design — has become a cultural crossroads of disciplines and thinking, with lectures taking on extra life online. There's the late Apple founder Steve Jobs ("How to Live Before You Die"), author Daniel H. Pink ("The Surprising Science of Motivation") and Arthur Benjamin performing feats of "mathemagic."

Who's speaking here? It could be you.

Andy Stefanovich, who serves as chief curator and provocateur of the Richmond office of Prophet, a brand and marketing consulting firm, has given several TEDx talks and attended many of the events. He's long wanted to bring TEDx to town — a self-organized conference by locals under the TED umbrella.

Stefanovich's motivation grew after conversations with Tom Silvestri, president and publisher of The Richmond Times-Dispatch. After months of work, TEDxRVA comes to the power plant building along the James River flood wall March 22. It's planned as a fast-paced mix of national and local speakers, artists and performers focusing on the theme "create."

But first: A free kickoff party at the Hippodrome Theater Jan. 31 offers a taste of what's to come. Expect live music, DJs and networking. But at its heart will be 60-90 minutes of an open-mic night — "sort of like idea karaoke," says one of the organizers, Katie Benson, a jewelry designer who also works in the biotechnology industry. "You've got two minutes on the stage — tell us your best story."

No stand-up comedy, please, or investor pitches. Think about creation, whether it's music, a new drug or something more intangible: how it happens, how it's improved, how you can look at it from an unexpected angle.

"We want people that are adding to the storyline of Richmond," says another volunteer, Brad Dey, who runs an operational consulting firm. One goal is to find two speakers to join the lineup at the March 22 day-long conference — though people can also apply to be speakers separately. Those who want to take a stab at the stage are asked to visit tedxrva.com, or email openmic@tedxrva.com.

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