The third annual TEDx Napa Valley kicks off on March 30 in the Napa Valley College Performing Arts Center. For anyone unfamiliar with the TEDx phenomenon, these are grassroots gatherings for intellectual conversation and emotional inspiration delivered by both noted speakers and local thought leaders.
For the first time in its history, TEDx Napa Valley is selling tickets in group blocks. The 2014 lineup of speakers includes: Seval Oz, senior new business development manager at Google; Garrett Fisher, founder of the Institute for Economic Innovation; and this year’s musical guest, funk artist Cliff Beach.
Every TEDx event includes a selection of short talks and performances on a wide range of subjects to foster learning, inspiration and wonder. There’s always a minimum of two pre-recorded presentations from the TEDTalks video series. And all programming is bias-free without any commercial, religious or political agendas.
We asked spokesperson Tia Butts a few questions about the Napa event and its takeaways.
Prevue: How would you describe a TEDx event to someone who has never participated?
Tia Butts: TEDx was created by the nonprofit organization TED, which began more than 25 years ago to bring together people from three worlds: technology, entertainment and design. Since then, its scope has become ever broader with a mission of sharing “Ideas Worth Spreading.”
TEDx events are fully planned and coordinated independently, on a community-by-community basis. These events generally have a theme, but it must be broad enough to encompass many different disciplines, specialties and branches of knowledge. Our event this year will feature 14 live speakers.
Prevue: Why was this year’s theme chosen, “Going Against the Grain—Embracing the Unconventional”?
Tia Butts: Our board took a full day to reconvene early last year and brainstorm for 2014. Everyone agreed that we wanted a theme that would push boundaries and get attendees thinking in new ways.
There are many ways we are rewarded in society for following the rules and the paths set before us, right? Being unconventional, however, can be much more risky. But it’s often the rebels and mavericks in our world who look at things differently, stand up for change or invent a new way of doing things, that show breaking with convention can reap rewards greater than we could imagine. And I think these rewards often benefit both the individual and the world.
Prevue: What do you expect the biggest takeaways to be after the event, based on that theme?
Tia Butts: Our speakers are still preparing their presentations, but we’re excited at the diversity and expertise they offer in technology, science, art and humanity. We expect attendees will be entertained, educated, enthralled, moved, challenged, intimidated, humbled and most of all inspired. Ultimately we hope that each person will walk away, apply what they have learned, and improve.
Prevue: Can you provide an example of a particularly impactful session last year?
Tia Butts: In 2013 we held our very first Student Speak Off where high school students from four schools in the area competed for an opportunity for one student to be a speaker at our event. We were blown away by the power and the eloquence of our young community. Ultimately, our winner gave a moving talk about how music and her love of the violin created a special bond between her and her grandfather. It was a powerful message about connecting across generations that left us all in tears.
Prevue: How does Napa itself influence the overall vibe of the TEDx programming?
Tia Butts: There are many ways our beautiful valley impacts our event. Each of our events has featured at least one or more local speakers. And, of course, we are thrilled to have a selection of amazing wine and food purveyors participating each year.
Many TEDx events feature little or no food and beverage. Attendees at TEDx Napa Valley, however, get tastes of the world-class food and wine that Napa Valley is famous for producing at no extra cost; as well as one-on-one access to many of the winemakers behind the valley’s most acclaimed fine wines. Foodies love it!