Betty Dollinger had no idea she would be speaking in front of over a hundred people this morning. She came to watch TEDxFargo’s first ever Open Mic event, where people from all over had signed up to pitch their own ideas worth spreading. Twenty-eight people came and left the stage, before the emcees – Greg Tehven and Dr. Sue Mathison – announced there was time for two impromptu speakers.

“If you have an idea and want to present it, now is your chance,” they said.

Dollinger looked down, and raised her hand. Amid loud cheers from the audience, she took the stage, and shared her idea.

TEDxFargo Open Mic

“I’m a welder,” she told the audience. “All the time, I get told ‘You don’t look like a welder.’ And I say, ‘why, because I don’t have a mustache?'”

She challenged the audience to support a “Work like a girl” mentality, in the same vein as Always’ “Like A Girl” campaign launched during the Super Bowl. Her pitch was met with wild applause.

Ideas Worth Sharing

Dollinger was just one of thirty other pitches at the TEDxFargo Open Mic event. She was also followed by Dante Battocchi, who was inspired to take the stage as well (“hard but exciting!” he tweeted, afterwards.) Presenters came from a variety of places, with some presenting via video from San Francisco, Las Vegas, and elsewhere.

The ideas posed in each pitch hit a wide scale of topics. We heard about the necessity for teachers to be tech-savvy. We heard about the rejuvenation of quitting junk food, the transformative nature of traveling abroad, and why life doesn’t have to suck after college. We heard about a proposed new office position: the CMO, Chief Meditation Officer. About how selfishness can be transformed to selflessness. How a dandelion can be seen not as a weed, but a flower.

TEDxFargo Open Mic

And that’s just a handful. Each presenter got a Tweet posted onto TEDxFargo’s Twitter account, and the audience was actively favoriting and re-tweeting their favorite ideas. The Tweet with the most combined total of likes and re-tweets was named the winner.

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TEDxFargo’s First Open Mic Event

As the first-of-its-kind event in Fargo, the success of the event was a big relief to the TEDxFargo planning committee.

“We weren’t sure how it would go, we were just hoping people would show up,” said Annika Nynas, lead event planner for TEDxFargo. “But we found there were far more people than we anticipated with really great ideas worth sharing. I was really pleased with all the creative energy.TEDxFargo Open Mic

Nynas said she first heard of the idea for an Open Mic event from the planners of TEDxGrandForks, who shared the idea at a meet-up for TEDxplanners (they all need to hang out for moral support.) She added she was especially thankful for the talented TEDxFargo planning team.

“The whole event went snazzily,” she said.

As for Dollinger, she used her newly made Twitter account – @BettyTheWelder – and wrote: “What an eye-opening experience! Today was so inspiring.”

Voting for the event ended at 5 PM. The winner will be announced tonight at the TEDxFargo launch party. More details about the winner will be released in an upcoming article. Stay tuned!

Photos courtesy of Marisa Jackels and Annika Nynas.

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Marisa Jackels