PHOENIXVILLE — TEDx Phoenixville wants to throw the idea of the boring conference with droning speakers out the window.
That effort isn’t just carried out through the theme for the Sept. 27 event — “Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll” — but also through its format.
Speakers at TEDx Phoenixville are held to 18 minutes or less of speaking time, and organizers often push them to shorten their talks.
“We’re always tweaking to find the right length of time for what the talk is,” said conference organizer Kirsten Van Vlandren, who is also assistant director of the Colonial Theatre.
“It creates an energy and enthusiasm and spirit that’s really great,” she said of the truncated length, and means listeners don’t have to sit through a long talk they might not be particularly interested in.
The idea behind TEDx Phoenixville is to entertain, inform and inspire, just as the annual TED conferences on the West Coast do. According to TED.com, “TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks [18 minutes or less].”
TEDx talks employ the same format as the annual TED conferences, which began in 1984 and originally focused on technology, entertainment and design, and aims to showcase important and emerging ideas in every discipline.
Unlike the main TED conferences, TEDx conferences are held over fewer days, cost less to attend and are independently organized.
TEDx Phoenixville began in 2009, when members of The Colonial Theatre began searching for a way to present a speakers series.
“It was an area of programming that had been neglected and we thought it would be really interesting for the community,” said Van Vlandren.
Serendipitously, a theater board member introduced Van Vlandren and Executive Director Mary Foote to TED’s content director, Kelly Stoetzel, who lives in Chester Springs. Stoetzel informed Van Vlandren and theater Executive Director Mary Foote about the TEDx conference format, which had just been rolled out. As Van Vlandren put it, TEDx is like a “speaker program in a box,” offering a format, rules, guidelines and suggestions. It is up to the organizers to select a theme, solicit and select speakers (who are unpaid) and gain sponsorships.
Van Vlandren said attendees should keep in mind this year’s conference tagline, “It’s not what you think,” indicating the perspectives are unique takes on the theme.
“One of the speakers on the rock and roll session is a rock climber,” she explained.
The speaker lineup was announced Friday and includes local and national speakers from Erin Riley of the Rock & Roll After School program in Collegeville to Andy Tyson, a specialist in remote summit expeditions from Victor, Idaho.
The names of each speakers’ talk won’t be released until the conference approaches, but there will be three sessions, each focusing on one of the items in the theme “Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll.”
“It certainly doesn’t feel like an academic conference or industry conference ... it feels entertaining, informative and inspiring all at the same time,” said Van Vlandren of the event.
To help achieve that feel, questions are not taken at the end of the talks. Instead, conference goers are encouraged to ask questions of the speakers during breaks in the conference or at the before and after parties.
Tickets, which went on sale Friday, range in price from $20 to $50 and only 300 will be sold. The pre-party, which will be held at West Warehouse, the overflow building housing the art collection of SEI Investments, is an extra cost to the conference ticket price, while the after party that Saturday night is free and open to everyone, said Van Vlandren.
A buffet lunch is served to all participants and included in the ticket price.
For more information on tickets, visit The Colonial Theatre’s website at thecolonialtheatre.com.
To find out how you can start a TEDx conference in your community, visit www.ted.com/attend/tedx-events.