Regional TEDx events might be months away, but the brainstorming has already begun. On Saturday, January 10, a group of TEDx event planners for TEDx Fargo; Grand Forks; Brookings, SD; Manitoba, Canada; Minot; Bismarck; Gull Lake; Hennepin Ave; Fridley Public Schools; University of Mary; and TED Headquarters NY came together to discuss the planning process for 2015.

TEDx 2015

The TEDx events are styled after TED talks, with the same mission of sharing “ideas worth spreading.” They are designed as a way for independent organizers to host TED-like events in their own community.

This past year signified a big leap forward for TEDx events in the Midwest; Grand Forks, Brookings and Hennepin Ave. joined the ranks for the first time. Fargo held a third TEDx event, featuring over 20 speakers from across the country and 800 attendees. Gull Lake and University of Mary are now planning their first events this year.

TED HQ has taken notice of the growing amount of events in the Midwest, and sent TEDx Applications Coordinator Rachel Saunders to the first TEDx Regional Summit — a meet-up that she finds to be very valuable when it comes to growing TEDx.

“Organizing a TEDx event is unlike any other event,” she said. “There are unique goals, like crafting 18 minute idea-driven talks, finding ideas worth spreading, gathering a community interested in discussing ideas — all through volunteer effort. These meet-ups…help organizers see how their work is having a broader impact, beyond how their own efforts have helped their own cities — how their collective efforts are re-shaping conversation in the region.”

On top of that, getting experienced TEDx planners under one room allows for a lot passionate brainstorming, Emerging Prairie event planner Annika Nynas said. She found it refreshing to discuss some of the details that go unnoticed to the untrained eye — from overly clanky name tags to unique ways of providing entertainment.

“We all geek out on the little event planning details together,” she said. “What’s fun is that we’re not just event planners, we’re TEDx event planners. So we can help each other out as we go through similar planning processes. I left this meet-up feeling so supported.”

Becca Grandstrand, who co-organized TEDx Grand Forks last year with her husband, said that the planning committees from notably Fargo and Minot were a source of encouragement as they planned the first event.

“It was helpful to share ideas and inspirations around the unique structure of TEDx events,” she said. “They are not easy events to plan and execute, by any means – however, the results have a powerful impact on our region.”

Being able to collaborate creates lasting bonds that are important when it comes to planning an event like TEDx year after year, Saunders said. For her, the most important thing achieved at this meet-up was the sharing of successes and failures, and the regional connections that were formed between teams from Winnipeg to Nebraska. These connections not only allow for more collaboration, but also for a realization of how individual communities stand apart.

“While meet-ups like this build regional connections and identity, it also helped teams find their own voices and identities within the region,” she said. “What is unique about my community? What can Fargo offer that the others cannot?”

For those at TED HQ, seeing the sweep of TEDx events hit smaller cities throughout the Midwest has been both “exciting and humbling,” Saunders said.

“Each community brings us interesting research we never had access to, unique projects that could be replicated elsewhere, and helps us answer questions we never thought to ask,” she said. “It’s expanding the scope of community conversation in a way we could have only dreamed.”

She went on to say that meet-ups like this one remind her of why TEDx does what it does. It’s a way for the people who love their community to share that love through a stellar event.

“TEDx events are a channel for organizers to express their enthusiasm and love for their community,” she said “and by highlighting the best of their community, attendees have a chance to fall in love, too.”

TEDx 2015 funny

Stay tuned as plans for TEDxFargo are under way, and will be announced in the upcoming months!

Sign up now for TEDxGrand Forks on February 221, 2015, here!

Read more about last year’s TEDxFargo event, here!

 Photo courtesy of Annika Nynas.

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Marisa Jackels