2011 TEDxAustin Reflections

in Public Relations

***UPDATE: The TEDxAustin talks have been added to YouTube. Watch them here.

Last month, if you followed my contributions to social media (@dmw911), you likely caught one of the many snippets from my experience at TEDxAustin. On Saturday, February 19th, 2011 Austin, Texas played host to an all day, locally organized TED event. (Yes, sadly I’m just now getting to blogging about it). The core theme of the event was Right Now. This was the second year of TEDxAustin and I was thrilled to be a part.

TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading.” In its beginning (25 years ago), it was a four-day conference in California. Today, TED has grown to support world-changing ideas with multiple initiatives. The annual TED Conference invites the world’s leading thinkers and doers to speak for 18 minutes. In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, “TEDx” is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. (Subject to certain rules and regulations.) (Source: Tedx Austin about page).

Unlike traditional conferences, TED events are invitation only and attendees must complete a progressive application and be selected. In a city with many great thinkers and doers, I was honored to be one of the 500 plus attendees live at the Austin Music Hall for the event. The following is a snapshot of what I took away from the day from some of the artists, videos, and speakers. You can read a summation in the Austin American Statesman as well here.

Mother Falcon (Music) – The day started with power as the curtain pulled back to reveal a dozen teens and young 20 something band kids that make up the unbelievable group Mother Falcon. They turned on the energy for the event and I found myself downloading their album to my iPhone. You can learn more about them here.

Sunny Vanderbeck – Managing Partner at Satori Capitol, Mr. Vanderbeck started the day of speakers with a thought provoking talk about conscious capitalism and a thesis that only companies aspiring to be conscious capitalists will be sustainable. He emphasized 6 stakeholders:

  1. Government
  2. Employees
  3. Customers
  4. Environment/community
  5. Investors
  6. Vendors

Today’s companies are led with short-term views and built to flip, but sustainable businesses need to be focused on stakeholders, have clear purpose, a long-term strategy, and create lasting value. Wouldn’t you rather work at a company creating lasting value?

David Cameron Prime Minister of U.K. (Video) In this video, Cameron makes a very thoughtful case for a conservative view of government. His speech is well worth the viewing. Watch the video here.

Robyn O’Brien – described as the Erin Brockavich of food, she shared a thought provoking view of the U.S. food supply. I’ve been on a food journey for several years now and in the spirit of books like Fast Food Nation and movies like Food, Inc, Ms. O’Brien reminded us of the critical need to understand the state of our food and to be an activist for change against those that are producing something other than healthy. One thing that struck me was that the United States takes a stance that, until proven harmful, anything goes versus other countries that require food companies to prove it’s not harmful first.  Learn more here.

Sylvia Acevedo – Ms. Acevedo follows population shifts and described the rapid growth occurring in California, Texas, and Florida at unprecedented rates. The data was compelling. Her statement that the Hispanic population in the Americas is bigger than all the people in China and a huge market opportunity shouldn’t have been surprising, but it really made me stop and think. She made me want to learn more. Her company Communicard is also very interesting and I like how she brings people together by bridging the barrier of language. Learn more here.

Gregory Kallenberg – A documentary filmmaker who created “Hainesville” about a small town in Louisiana that had a massive natural gas discovery that could change the balance of our energy need. The film focuses on telling the story through three people, but also includes discussion by researchers and leaders about our energy situation. One thing he said that I really liked was needing to draw from multiple views and find “The Rationale Middle.” Learn about the film here.

Intergalactic Nemesis – It’s a live action graphic novel. Part comic book visual art and live radio show like performance. Really no way to describe it and do it justice, so I recommend you check out the trailer here.

Joaquin Zihuatanejo – A spoken word poet and teacher, Mr. Zihuatanejo had us captured in his words. One of my favorite lines was “Don’t measure me by my tax bracket, because I make poets, dammit!” and “They write hard with a pencil to impress the paper where they thought they would not impress.” See his great work here where he shares Haiku poems from his deaf student Jon here.

Gary Thompson – co-founder of CLOUD, Inc is a friend and fellow daycare dad. His daughter, who was in my daughter’s class, is famous for her soccer skills and always showing up for games in the Texas summer heat wearing a red velvet dress. Gary’s wife has battled cancer and won more than once. They have firsthand experience with health care and electronic health records, which led him to rethink how our data is connected and how we should be the tag that brings it together. His talk was very intriguing. Learn more here.

Peter Hall – A designer, writer, and lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin, Mr. Hall is writing a fascinating book about Maps. I loved how he described how they told stories or served a purpose. He reminded me a lot of Edward Tuffte’s work and what I’ve learned about data display. You can learn more about Mr. Hall here.

Dr. Lionel Tiger – An anthropologist from Rutgers University, Dr. Tiger is credited with coining the term “mail bonding” and studies the decline of males. His speaking presence was very much like you would expect from a professor with spectacles resting on his head. Some of his comments about how we raise boys in the modern age made me think a lot about my son. I’m curious to learn more about his work. You can learn about him here.

Brene Brown – (Video TEDxHouston). Dr. Brown is a social worker that studied Vulnerability. Her talk was very good and she shared one saying from the social work profession that I liked, “Lean into the discomfort of the work.” You can learn more about her work and see the video here.

Dustin Hailser – The former assistant city manager of Manor, Texas made this little Austin suburb famous by engaging the community through the Internet to solve problems. I really liked his idea that you can engage stakeholders and empower them to participate; reminds me a little of what Corey Booker is doing in Newark, NJ on a much larger scale. Learn more about him here.

TEDxAustin was a great event and very well organized. I enjoyed being a part of the community and got to meet some wonderful people and fellow Austinites. I long to be part of it again next year. The TEDxAustin talks have been added to YouTube. Watch them here. also, you can enjoy the hundreds of fantastic videos from TED and TEDx events around the world here.