Anyone who’s heard of the TEDxBoulder symposium may consider it much the same way co-host Andrew Hyde describes it: a group of nerds coming together to try and save the world.
TEDx events are conferences that boast an impressive line-up of successful speakers from different professions, giving talks about “Ideas Worth Spreading,” the TEDx tagline. Hosted in Macky Auditorium on Saturday night, the 2012 TEDx Boulder line-up included a world-class rock climber, a best-selling novelist and the entrepreneur behind booming Boulder company Sparkfun Electronics.
Erika Napoletano talks about the power of truth and unpopularity and their abilities to weed out the unimportant and unhelpful people. In this slide she demonstrates why her target audience is not the high school valedictorian. (CU Independent/Jacob Spetzler)
Coming into the event with such high expectations, even one poor speaker would feel like a disappointment—more than one would feel like a waste of time. Let’s just say there were better ways I would have liked to spend my Saturday evening.
I shouldn’t have been surprised at the tone of many of the speeches. Rather than focusing on their successes in Technology, Entertainment or Design (the themes that make up the acronym TED), many of the speakers opted to spend their allotted ten minutes giving self-help seminars.
But the crowd ate it up. One such speaker, Erika Napoletano, received a standing ovation for her sermon on “UNPOPULAR,” a word that would flash on the screen about as many times as she would curse in her time slot (spoiler: both happened a lot). It wasn’t until I had begun researching after the event that I even knew she was a well-renowned business-strategy blogger. Her expertise on the topic never came into play in her speech.
Before Napoletano took the stage in the second half of the event, another disappointing blow came in the form of the musical entertainment. Originally the line-up had included Kimya Dawson, a Grammy Award-winning musician who also performed for the 2011 event. For reasons not discussed by the event organizers, she was dropped from the roster. Instead, a 13-year-old singer-songwriter named Bella Hudson performed. Even at such a young age, Hudson’s accomplishments abound, having played the main stage at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival for the past two years. She failed to showcase this talent though by choosing to play an original song titled, “Pink Pickup Truck,” which is about as bad as it sounds.
Though the event full of “motivational” speeches might have been seen by some as a complete failure, there were a few brilliant speakers who were easily ignored in the grand scheme of the symposium. One such speaker was Alena Grabowski, an Integrative Physiology professor at CU who was on the research team for Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius. Pistorius is a paraplegic missing his legs from the knee down, who ran the 400-meter event during the 2012 Olympics. Before the 2012 Olympics, Pistorius was excluded from the 2008 Olympics because of his prosthetic legs, which were thought to give him an unfair advantage in his event. Grabowski blended her success in the field of physiology with a final, driving point to re-think the word “disability.” It was a speech that had the entire audience enthralled and was perhaps the best example of TEDx’s motto: “Ideas Worth Sharing.”
Overall, if you missed the TEDxBoulder 2012 talk, you didn’t miss much—a couple entrepreneurs and most importantly, a free burrito from Evol Foods. Here’s hoping the 2013 event will live up to the hype surrounding this supposedly “have-to-go” event.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Sarah Elsea at Sarah.firstname.lastname@example.org
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