Courtesy of TEDxEmory
Last year, TEDxEmory boasted an audience of 650 participants from all over Atlanta. This year’s attendees can expect quality talks from prominent speakers such as the technical manager of the Google’s Project Glass and the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia.

What are some ideas worth spreading? How about TED: Technology, Entertainment, Design. You’ve probably read about, heard about and even seen TED talks shared online and over social media. The ideas and speakers in TED talks might not seem very close to home, but these big ideas are closer to Emory than you might think.

TEDxEmory is a student organization that brings prominent guest speakers to campus, and its biggest event is coming to Emory tomorrow. Established in 1984, TED is a nonprofit organization dedicated to sharing powerful ideas with the world. It invites a wide range of guest speakers, from science to business to global issues, allowing each of them a maximum time of 18 minutes to share their ideas.

But there seems to be a question on everyone’s mind: what’s the x in TEDx?

“The x means an independently organized TED group under the license from TED,” College senior Nikhil Raghuveera, current TEDx president, said. “So, TEDxEmory is an independent TED group at Emory with the license.”

Raghuveera was one of the founding members of TEDxEmory when it came to campus in 2011.

TEDxEmory is run by students from the College, Goizueta Business School and some graduate schools at Emory. While the first event, hosted in 2011, had about 300 attendees, about 650 people came last year. As more and more people became interested in TED, other Georgia schools, such as Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia began organizing their own TEDx events.

Because TEDx operates under the TED guidelines, TEDx speakers are unpaid.

However, as the brand name for TED and TEDx grows, TEDxEmory is increasingly able to get speakers who usually charge up to tens of thousands of dollars for paid events, Raghuveera said.

Raghuveera also explained how TEDx speakers interacted and connected with the audience in between the sessions.

“It is about interaction with the speakers,” he said. “A lot of speakers, they leave after they give a talk, and people go ‘oh great’ and applause, but that is it. At TEDx, it is different.”

Raghuveera said that Michael Luckovich, a political cartoonist, drew cartoons for his audience after his talk.

“He sketched our former president Ishaan Jalan and then allowed the audience to come up and request drawings,” Raghuveera said. “People were talking to him and interacting with each other, and it is something we try to create every year.”

Since 2011, TEDxEmory has brought speakers with powerful ideas who otherwise would not have visited Emory. Last year, the organization invited Carlos Moreno, a state Supreme Court justice of California, as a guest speaker.

Moreno, the sole dissenting justice on Proposition 8, spoke about his views on marriage equality during his talk.

TEDxEmory has also been able to bring in speakers from places such as Vancouver, British Columbia, New Orleans and Kansas.

For example, they have had David Wolpe – ‘The World’s Most Influential Rabbi,’ according to Newsweek Magazine – and magician Jamie D. Grant.

However, TEDxEmory does not rely solely on outside speakers. Many of their talks come from Atlanta and Emory, including students.

“One of the most exciting and rewarding parts of our conference is the Student Speaker Competition,” Raghuveera said. “One or two students are chosen to give their talk at the main conference in front of hundreds of people, and the student speakers are traditionally some of the most well-received.”

According to Raghuveera, TEDxEmory prefers topics that are accessible and interesting to everyone. The organization works carefully to coordinate speakers so that the talks are on a variety of topics. This year, TEDxEmory speakers will address the reduction of child sex trafficking in Atlanta, the intersection of music and math and the social determinants of health.

On April 12, TEDxEmory will host its main TEDx event with 13 speakers at the Woodruff Health Sciences Administration Building. A technical manager of Google’s Project Glass and a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia are among the invited speakers. Any Emory student who wants listen to these talks can register for a free seat on TedxEmory’s website.

Raghuveera said that he hopes the event will bring fresh ideas to Emory’s campus.

“Through TEDxEmory, we hope we are able to promote ideas worth spreading at Emory and the Atlanta community and showcase Emory speakers to the worldwide TED community.”

– By Jun Jeon