TEDx Bellingham organizer is turning a global event local | Q&A

More than one billion people on the Web have watched a TED Talk, the popular offerings of the TED organization that invites speakers to its annual global conferences to share new ideas and perspectives melding technology, entertainment and design.

Now, local marketing executive David Wiggs wants to take TED’s famous tagline—“ideas worth spreading”—and give it a Bellingham flavor.

Wiggs is the organizer behind TEDx Bellingham, a small-scale version of the worldwide conference that will take place in the Pickford Film Center on Nov. 12.

As independent offshoots of the main TED conference, TEDx organizers have held more than 5,000 such events in more than 130 countries.

With nearly five months to go before lighting up the stage at TEDx Bellingham, Wiggs is still seeking locals interested in speaking, attending or volunteering. More information can be found at www.tedxbellingham.com, or by emailing Wiggs at info@tedxbellingham.com.

BBJ: For someone who has never experienced a TEDx event, how will this work? 

Wiggs: TEDx Bellingham will include a full day of interaction and engagement held live for 100 audience participants, an on-site viewing party for another 75 attendees, and we’ll be streaming the event free online for anyone to watch.

Our goal is for it to be an experience from the time you walk through the door until the after party wrap-up.

There will be 18 to 25 talks and performances ranging from three to 18 minutes in length with ideas to challenge the audience to more broadly consider their world, inspire action and create connection and community.

BBJ: What inspired you to bring this event to Bellingham? 

Wiggs: I read a WIRED magazine article last year about how individuals could apply to host a local independent TEDx event, and the thought of TEDxBellingham literally kept me up all night.

I’ve always trusted my gut and something told me that Bellingham needed a TEDx event.

This community is such a unique place. Bellingham is an ecosystem of thinkers, doers, innovators, visionaries, artists, musicians and philanthropists, and I want more of us to hear from more of them.

BBJ: The event’s theme is “Here By Choice.” Can you explain that? 

Wiggs: An organizer from a different TEDx event said to leave room for the undiscovered, so I want to be sure that all the speakers don’t feel compelled to tie everything so tightly to the theme. “Here” can be anywhere.

Yes, it can be place, and based on the kinds of speaker applications we’re getting, the theme of this place will come through loud and clear. But the theme is broad enough so speakers and performers can get to it from any angle.

“Here” is where I am in my life, the choices I’ve made and the reasons I’ve made them. The lessons learned, and not learned.

It’s very broad intentionally.

BBJ: When you hear an idea like the ones shared at TED conferences, how do you judge its value?

Wiggs: I think good ideas should make an emotional connection with the audience and inspire them to act. Good ideas have no life if they don’t inspire action, but that action can be a lot of things.

Some elements include concepts that make you a little uncomfortable, challenge your thinking, connect emotionally, make you mad, laugh or cry and best of all, tell a story.

I think people are fed on stories.

Everyday genius inspires me, and I think will inspire others. Thankfully for TEDxBellingham, it’s not just me deciding about speakers and content. We have a curation committee.

BBJ: Has there been a TED Talk you’ve found particularly inspiring or interesting? 

Wiggs: I’ve seen a lot and like many for different reasons. I would challenge folks to find the TED talks that inspire them. The talks are as diverse as are the people presenting them.

If you talk to fans of TED, the topic of favorite talks inevitably comes up.

Some of my favorites have been shared by others, like Simon Sinek’s talk on how leaders inspire action—the gist being that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. As a marketer, that inspired me.

Also, Jojo Mayer’s talk on at TEDxZurich about the distance between zero and one. His talk speaks to the real place human music is made—and that’s the spaces in between the beats, improvisation and instinct in music.

BBJ: What are some of the major challenges to organizing an event like this? 

Wiggs: We’ve been very much embraced and supported by the community already just in the early announcements. There’s a lot of excitement and dialogue happening.

A lot of people have stepped up to volunteer their time and skills, which just reinforces my belief of what a special place Bellingham is. This is, after all a 100 percent volunteer effort.

TEDx Bellingham is all about the content, which has to be stellar and has to be developed and presented well. That’s a lot of pressure.

So, although we’ve had great speaker applications come in, several that I am personally very excited to see presented, we need more to deliver 18-20 of them that hit all the right buttons and deliver on that promise.

We’re also looking for partners to help make TEDxBellingham a reality, but through in-kind and monetary sponsorships. We’ve had some community-minded businesses ask how they could get involved, but there are still deficits.

My vision is for TEDxBellingham to grow every year. I want to fill the Mount Baker Theater in 2014 and I believe we can do it.

But for now our energy and focus is on 11/12/13.

Evan Marczynski, staff reporter for The Bellingham Business Journal, can be reached at 360-647-8805, Ext. 5052, or evan@bbjtoday.com

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