TED X Cincinnati, My Reflections on an Awesome Speaking Conference

When I heard that there was a TED X conference in Cincinnati,  I signed up right away. I was so excited. I first became familiar with TED when I was researching alternative ways to create interesting presentations. I wanted to learn to be more creative with Power Point and Keynote, if I had to use them at all, and to see how speakers from all over the world shared their talents. I found Presentation Zen and that led me to TED.com, the site where you can hear speakers present on almost any topic you can imagine.

There is a national TED conference every year in Long Beach, California, which always sells out. The price to get in is $6,000.  People like Bill Clinton, Steve Jobs, and other famous names are the speakers.

TED X is an offshoot of this conference, except with less well-known names, more local and at a much more affordable price. TED X Cincinnati was $55.00 and I jumped at it without disappointment.

The conference was held at the Aronoff Theater all day on Thursday, October 7, 2010. It was open seating and I sat right up in front.  The conference is all about networking in between listening to the speakers. This event was full of interesting people –both the presenters,  the audience, and the topics were as varied as the people.

David Kuehler was the Emcee. David is a Harvard Business School trained brand builder and business innovator. He is the founder and director of the Clay Street Project at Proctor & Gamble. When he came out on stage he reminded me of a country singer or longhaired movie star. He had a quiet presence that kept the show going and engaged each speaker for a brief set of questions after each presentation.

The Speaking Sessions were divided into four themes.


Dr. Victor Garcia spoke in between his duties as a pediatric surgeon from Children’s Hospital. Dr. Garcia was passionate about healing Cincinnati of its worsening trends in violence using effective power of systems thinking and appreciative inquiry. He left you with the key word IMAGINE. He was not just about healing children, but also about healing neighborhoods. It was neat to hear a physician with such global energy and passion.

Claire Thompson is a clothes designer and artist from the DAAP program at the University of Cincinnati. What was amazing about Clair was that she almost lost her eyesight. She recovered from extensive surgery and then went on to live in France and continues to draw and journal through her painting. She was willing to take risks and said, “taking risk is contagious.”

Adrian Parr, an associate professor of women’s studies in the DAAP program at UC, spoke about climate change and sustainability. She shared photos of creative ways to make the earth and communities more livable and green. I loved the idea of not only eating organic but wearing organic clothes.

Carlton Farmer is a young man who is passionate about history, especially the roots of American and African American History. He is the assistant curator to an exhibit called “America I AM” which is now at the Cincinnati Museum Center and next will be in Washington DC.

Brad King was one of my favorites. He is a seasoned speaker and assistant professor at Ball State University where he teaches journalism. His topic was about the importance of telling stories and how technology is changing rapidly. His power point used one to a few words to move his ideas along. The bottom line is that stories will continue to be told on paper in books and traditional media, but we can’t ignore the opportunity to share our stories through Twitter and social media online. His energy was fun. He wore a beret and I remember him wearing orange. It matched his spirit, smile, and savvy style.

Jeff Edmondson was all about supporting children through innovative ways to use sophisticated data collection tools. He shared the idea of a “child dashboard” to track their education and personal lives. This information would be used to create a plan of success and support the child through the process of education and life. He is the executive director of Strive Together, a non-profit philanthropic initiative to increase educational achievement throughout the region. He reads Hermann Hesse. I like that.

Margy Waller, a non-practicing lawyer, and photographer is all about serendipity. She surprised us with dancers in the audience and then went on to share photos of “serendipitous art” which included graffiti and organized street painting projects.

It left you thinking that art is all around us and to appreciate that.

Mary Pierce Brosmer has been one of my teachers in life. Mary started Women Writing for a Change, a writing school for women that fosters inner healing and spiritual connection with the self and others. Mary has broadened her work to included organizational consulting and she shared how our stories help to balance us at home and at work.  In typical Mary style, she read a poem about her mother.

Mary is so non-pretentious and natural. She did well with her power point even though this is not so natural for her. Mary was a guest on my 1999 radio show and will be a guest of my Blog Talk Radio show in November.


Dr. Herman Mays, an evolutionary biologist, pulled out two test tubes of DNA from his shirt pocket. We learned a little bit more about the structure of the cell and DNA. His topic was the amazing work of the Human Genome Project that continues to progress and evolve; making it more and more likely that “personalized medicine” will become part of the medical model. By having analyzing your DNA you can find out almost anything about your medical history and that of your ancestors, making it easier to diagnose and treat disease in a very personalized manner based on your own genome. He made DNA very exciting and easy to understand.

Willie Carden, the CEO of the Cincinnati Parks Foundation invited us to celebrate color beyond black and white. He used the colors Yellow, Blue and Green as symbols of joyful feelings and emotions as the result of experiencing the global value of green space. I, for one, am a big fan of our parks and how the colors and changing seasonal experiences support joy.

Grant McCracken is a cultural anthropologist who writes and speaks about the importance culture plays in corporate boardrooms and organizations. He suggested that every company needs a Chief Culture Officer with the credentials of understanding productivity and business. It is the culture of the organization that drives its success.

Dr. Benjamin Passty is an economist; one of those guys we think can explain the mess we are in. Actually Dr. Passty does do research on the impact income has on health, education, and marriage. He is a research assistant professor at UC. I do remember him talking about value investing and referring to the best selling book Freakonomics.

Ben Nicholson is an expert in motion design and definitely a creative type. He spoke on media and love and I suspect he has a way of loving life. He feels that love is the answer to healing conflict in the world and that “those producing, designing and creating our visual world respect us and walk in love.” What I remember about Ben is Love.


John Eckberg, a one-time journalist for the Cincinnati Enquirer surprised me with his shift to the medical world and shared his passion for innovative medical devices, specifically the antimicrobial catheter. The talk was a bit of a shift from the other presentations and I wondered about the impact on this audience. For me, being a nurse, and familiar with how urinary catheters cause infection, I could understand and relate to his topic. He was an example of choosing speakers based on passion.

Shasta Bray brought the Cincinnati Zoo experience to us on stage. She is the interpretive media manager at the zoo and shared her experience of connecting emotionally with animals and nature. Referring to Willie Carden’s emphasis on Yellow, Blue and Green, she brought us back to Black and White by having one of the baby penguins from the Zoo brought on stage. An inspiring talk using nature.

Joe Rigotti had a dual role at the conference. He performed a yoga like routine as “Mirror Man” dressed in a metallic body suit made of tiny mirrors. He then was one of our last speakers sharing that Life is a Party, appropriate since he is an event planner. His message was that we need to relax and enjoy life by appreciating everything we have.

Patricia Van Skaik who manages the Genealogy and Local History Collection for the Cincinnati Public Library shared early photos of Cincinnati. The technique is called Daguerreotype, a new word for me. Her presentation was different and interesting.

She was a very professional presenter and showed another form of audiovisual-the photograph.


Peter Chamberlain, another professor in the DAAP program at UC used his presentation to call to action progress on the new streetcar and transit system for our city. Peter has lived in Japan and is a big supporter of Tranzizorum and sees Transportation as important as religion. I guess you could say he has a desire named Streetcar.

Dave Knox is a “Social Media Superstar” using Facebook and Twitter for both communicating ideas and marketing. He moves us to ideate and create. He reminded us of the great marketing done in Cincinnati based on P&G and products like Jergens and Summerdelight and super retailers like Kroger and Macy’s, who both are headquartered in our city. He feels we are a great place for start-ups to succeed and said if you have an idea, run with it and get there first.

Mark Jeffreys, another P&G brand manager is passionate about Cincinnati becoming one of the healthiest cities in America in 2020. We have a long way to go but his goVibrant program about health and fitness may help energize other organizations to be a driving force for change.

Dhani Jones, Bengal football player and founder of Bow Ties For a Cause came on stage with a huge smile and one of his signature bow ties. He claimed he never wore a bow tie and now that’s all he wears. His organization is a non-profit endeavor to support charities around the globe. He expresses the need for collaboration. He also talked about energy and motivation using the term VMG-Velocity Made Good. Most of all Dhani reminded us to take the path of resistance instead of the path of least resistance. Resistance fosters growth and learning. He was a great ending to a very inspiring day.

If you were there, I would love to hear your takeaways. If you weren’t, I hope you go next year. I know they are planning to have another TED X Cincinnati next year.

Who knows! Maybe I will apply to speak.

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