TEDxColumbus Reflects on Ten Years of Storytelling

Suzanne Goldsmith
Local TEDx founders Ruth Milligan, left, and Nancy Kramer at the Idea Foundry

At its founding 25 years ago, TED was an elite brand focused on talks about technology, entertainment and design given at a weeklong annual conference on the West Coast. Originally in Monterey, it was moved to Vancouver in 2014. In the beginning, to attend the exclusive event, you had to have an invitation and pony up a lot of money. Although an invitation is no longer required, those interested in attending the event in 2018 had to submit an application, and, if you were accepted, the ticket price was $10,000.

Eventually, TED began to release videos of the talks. The format is familiar: a single person, microphone hooked over one ear, standing in a red circle on a stage and describing an “idea worth spreading.” The talk is short—18 minutes or less—and the idea is compelling. A TED talk can be raw, born of painful, real-life events, as when neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor described in 2008 the experience of having a massive stroke. It can be illuminating, as when MoveOn.org’s Eli Pariser showed Americans in 2011 how Facebook algorithms were limiting their exposure to ideas different from their own. Some talks have celebrity appeal, as when Bill Gates gave a talk in 2011 entitled, “How State Budgets are Breaking our Schools.”

And sometimes, a TED talk can be local. In 2008, organizers decided to license others to create their own TED events. Or, rather, TEDx events—the brand they established for independently organized conferences. Milligan was one of the first to apply for a license, and one of the earliest TEDx events was held in Columbus later that year.

In Nov., TEDxColumbus held its 10th annual event at the Riffe Center. Read more at ColumbusMonthly.com about TEDx Columbus' impact after 10 years.