published Sunday, July 6th, 2014

TED is coming to UTC: Renowned 'Now what?' conference makes its way to Chattanooga this fall

Founders Hall stands at the front entrance of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Founders Hall stands at the front entrance of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

IF YOU GO

* What: TEDxUTChattanooga - Forward Looking Ideas from Chattanooga, TN

* When: Oct. 25. A finalized schedule has not been announced.

* Where: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, final location to be announced

* Admission: $45, general admission; $25, UTC students; must complete a mandatory online registration and be selected by the organizing committee to attend

* Phone: 425-5922

* Website: www.tedxutchattanooga.com

WANT TO SPEAK?

Presenters on the topic of "Now what?" at the inaugural TEDxUTChattanooga must be nominated -- or nominate themselves -- by completing a form at TEDxUTChattanooga.com on or before July 25.

A TED TUTORIAL

Want to know more about the format of TED talks and the format of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga event this fall? You can browse a catalog of 1,700 discussions at TED.com or via the official YouTube channel.

What's next?

It's a simple question with big implications, and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga hopes to inspire a spirited discussion on the topic this fall with an event based on the globally renowned TED -- Technology, Entertainment, Design -- conferences.

The inaugural TEDxUTChattanooga, an independently organized but officially licensed off-shoot of the international organization, will take place Oct. 25 on campus. The selected speakers will offer presentations interpreting the topic: Now what?

"The idea is that we'll have a conversation, and people will tell their own story, their own unique response to that question," said Linda Frost, dean of the UTC Honors College and one of the event's co-organizers. "It's very 'TED.' TED is all about 'What's the next thing?'"

Since its foundation in 1984, TED conferences have taken place around the world with the goal of "spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (of) 18 minutes or less." TED organizers invite multidisciplinary guests to speak about an overarching topic, usually resulting in presentations that greatly expand the scope of discussion beyond the central theme.

Past TED discussions have covered such topics as "The surprising science of happiness," "How great leaders inspire action" and "Try something new for 30 days." Speakers have ranged from Bono to Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking to J.J. Abrams.

When she left her position as director of the honors program at Eastern Kentucky University in 2013 to move to Chattanooga, Frost said she was inspired by "the possibilities of collaboration" between the city and UTC. The wide-open discussions engendered by a TED conference, she said, make for an ideal forum to explore the possibilities of that partnership.

"TEDx is the perfect place to make that conversation very public and timely," she said. "It seems like there's a new spark in the city. ... It's just the right time for this. We hope it gets bigger and better every year."

Because of the rules imposed on independent TED events by the parent organization, however, the first TEDxUTChattanooga will be necessarily limited to an audience of 100 participants plus a few hundred watching via online streaming.

Frost said she hopes to send a member of the university's organizing committee to an official TED conference within the next year, which will authorize the university to expand attendance at future iterations to 500 people.

The speakers at TEDxUTChattanooga will be culled from students, faculty members and community leaders, all of whom must be nominated -- or nominate themselves -- via a form that will be active on the event's website through July 25.

The speakers aren't the only ones who must make the cut. In a holdover from the official TED conferences, a student-led committee will selectively invite audience members to TEDxUTChattanooga from a pool of online registrants.

Since going live last month, the university's website has received 400 responses from those interested in sponsoring, attending, speaking or volunteering. Invitations to those who have been selected will be sent out starting in August, Frost said.

"[TED conferences] are really very conscientiously putting together audiences that they hope will connect and create their own energy," she said. "We want to do the same thing; you don't just pay for your ticket and come on in."

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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