TEDxCincinnati: building toward a true meeting of the minds

Allison Tummon-Kamphuis

Allison Tummon-Kamphuis

Saturday, June 17, Memorial Hall, Over-the-Rhine

TEDx is about making connections – of ideas and of people.

And, as TEDxCincinnati reconnects with the newly renovated Memorial Hall on June 17, this meeting of the minds will offer attendees more ways to come together as speakers share big ideas around the theme “Connected.”

In addition to hearing presentations, attendees this year will have the opportunity to meet and interact with presenters, as well as each other.

An offshoot of the internationally known TED talks, TEDxCincinnati arrived in the Queen City in 2011, with the help of director Jami Edelheit, then fresh off a stint with the TEDx Semester at Sea program for college students.

Like TED, a nonprofit that began in California nearly three decades ago, TEDxCincinnati is dedicated to “ideas worth spreading.” But TEDx sessions are independently organized.

Each year, Edelheit and a small team of volunteers put together an evening of short presentations from a variety of thinkers and doers. Some are local,  chosen after an evening of auditions.

Others are handpicked by Edelheit, who says she doesn’t have set criteria for presenters, but just tries to collect a variety of people and thoughts.

“Everybody has an idea worth sharing,” Edelheit said. “It’s about putting together the right people to make the night interesting.”

Nick Jackson

Nick Jackson

Among this year’s speakers are Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, who will discuss the impact of the heroin and opioid epidemic on children, and Tanmay Bakshi, a 13-year-old developer of artificial intelligence for IBM. The lineup also includes a military special operations officer and an expert on empathic connections in the workplace.

“I always come away from these events inspired and energized, and I always meet the most interesting people – people I might never cross paths with otherwise,” wrote Michelle Spelman on TEDxCincinnati’s Facebook page. There or at TEDxCincinnati’s website, you can see past speakers.

TEDxCincinnati has no keynote speaker. Each presenter has a short amount of time – three to nine minutes – to share his or her big idea. At the end of the evening, attendees will have listened to eight people they might never have heard of, but who are doing something brilliant.

“TEDx is a puzzle. It’s a mix of all different kinds of ideas to share. It’s to open people’s eyes to new ideas and perspectives,” Edelheit said. “It’s about the experience. It’s not about one speaker or performer.”

Having that experience on a Saturday night is something attendees have clamored for since TEDxCincinnati began, Edelheit said. While the location has moved around over the years, the conference always has been midweek.

As it moves to a Saturday, TEDxCincinnati also is expanding. The speakers will present during two sessions, one at 5 p.m., another at 8:30 p.m. In between, a cocktail hour – complete with food trucks and entertainment – will give people a chance to meet the speakers and each other.

Tajci Cameron

Tajci Cameron

“It’s like a brain spa,” Edelheit said. “You come in for the experience, and you be open, and you hear new things, new ideas.”

TEDxCincinnati last visited Memorial Hall in 2014, and organizers are excited to return to the renovated historic building. It seems fitting, Edelheit said, to have an evening of creativity, innovation and inspiration in the middle of Over-the-Rhine, a neighborhood that is home to the the city’s start-up community and many of its arts organizations.

“This is really what people kept telling us they wanted,” Edelheit said. “And we’re really hoping to have support from Cincinnati for this expansion.”

Previous TEDxCincinnati sessions all have sold out. But Memorial Hall can seat 500 people, and the expanded schedule doubles the number of seats available. Tickets are $75 and can be purchased online.


– By Hillary Copsey

(All photos from 2014 TEDxCincinnati at Memorial Hall, courtesy Nicholas Viltrakis)

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