The internationally celebrated TEDx series of conferences – known for sharing short presentations from the most brilliant of brilliant – held its first conference in Monmouth County at Brookdale Community College last week.
Founded 30 years ago, nonprofit TED’s mission is to spread and provoke ideas. Each program gives communities and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through a suite of highly curated speakers and topics.
Essentially, innovators are given a platform to share an experience or idea with the goal of inspiring others to enter into deeper conversation, research and connections. Each speaker gives the “talk of their lives” according to the website – a boiled-down topic from four to 18 minutes max.
Each TEDx speaker is produced enough in advance to ensure the audience remains engaged and leaves with relatable, actionable information. Even if you do not (but I hope you do), share a fascination of early Native American life at the Jersey Shore, the presenter discusses life hundreds of years ago with just-enough detail, tales and gossip to keep your attention and leave you wanting more.
TED conferences are nothing like sitting in a university classroom where someone who believes he knows everything downloads 90 minutes of too-much information and you leave dizzy, remembering 10 percent of what you heard. And it is very much not a sales presentation.
TEDx Navesink: The Next Wave featured 24 talks from creators and innovators in education, technology, art, science and sustainability with topics circling around a theme of future of the Jersey Shore.
“From the outset we had three goals in mind for the conference,” said Brian Smiga, lead organizer. “Monmouth County is a micro-urban environment and we wanted to create a meeting ground for innovators. As well, we wanted the conference to be non-fiction theater to engage the audience and finally, prove the shore can be and promote the best of global thinking.”
Captains of industry, like Avi Karnani, a big-time tech entrepreneur shared experiences from Silicon Valley with the hopes of creating a Silicon Shore. Hint: the Garden State has to create a positive financial climate for innovators, like California has done, where landlords are incentivized to offer one-year leases and if an idea fails an entrepreneur is not left financially decimated. Also, as individuals, we need to share with and support creators without looking for a slice of the pie.
Each presenter from our area delivered plus-some. Dr. Bill Rosenblatt detailed surprises about surfing in New Jersey including the strong possibility that surfing as a sport began in Asbury Park. His proof included an image dated 1888 from a James Bradley-published magazine with a woman surfing on the cover. Susan Pellegrini shared a five minute video history of Asbury Park music that included Bon Jovi performing at the Fast Lane, causing the audience respond with a collective “ahhhh.” Roddy Wildeman’s “Composite Memory Artwork” glowed as the stage decoration. The pieces were such a hit attendees took photos next to them.
Then there was Kerri Martin of Second Life Bikes. Martin rocked the crowd as she spoke about “building community with chalk.” With a slide show, she shared the best of the best statements written on the chalkboard sign in front of her Main Street bike shop. Through humor and her beautiful energy, the tech-savvy crowd was reminded that sometimes old-school marketing strategies can still be best-school.
In total, there were 24 talks at the one-day TEDx Navesink – every one meeting its mission of energizing the audience.
Gabriella Levine, an artist and scientist spoke about supporting innovation with open source hardware. Megan Paska shared her experiences as a co-op farmer on estates in Monmouth County. Professor Johnathan Mercantini spoke about the 350 year old history of New Jersey and how we can learn from the past to create the future.
If you like to think, you will love TEDx. Plans are already in the works for next year. I cannot recommend attending any more highly.