23 Nov 2015

From TED App to TEDx Attendee

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By Kari Strickland on November 23, 2015

I was fortunate enough to attend the TEDxSMU event this fall in the Dallas City Performing Hall. For years I’ve dreamed of attending a TEDx event, and was thrilled to fulfill that dream through a scholarship opportunity.

My interest in TEDx began by listening to recorded talks on the TED app while serving in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica. The town I was stationed in had no Internet access, but once a week I took the bus into town and downloaded as many talks as I could. I listed to these talks throughout the week and on long bus rides to the capital. They served as a way to keep me connected to what was going on in the US as well as a way to inspire me to action in my own work.

What I hadn’t anticipated when I arrived at TEDxSMU was the energy that came from watching the talks live. When I watched videos I was compelled by the speakers’ arguments, but at the event I got swept up in the passion, not only of the speaker, but of the hundreds of people around me who were motivated by a similar passion.

One of the great things about going to a TEDx conference in Dallas was the ability to learn about the amazing work being done in the community. One of the most entertaining speeches of the day was by Alice Laussade who talked about the inspiration behind Meat Fight. This is a huge event that raised $100,000 dollars last year for MS research and has hosted some of the finest chefs in the state as judges (as well as Nick Offerman), but I never knew about it until I heard her talk. Coming from a non-profit background, hearing her speak about the importance of making volunteering fun was something I identified with. She was full of amazing ideas about how to enhance the impact of non-profit fundraising by making it approachable to people, something which I can share with my co-workers who are still in this space.

The other speech that stood out to me that day was by Seth Fairchild. Seth, a member of the Choctaw Nation, spoke on the importance of preserving cultural memories by preserving the stories of the tribe’s elders. He led with a powerful message, “every time an elder dies, a library burns with them”. Passing on history, therefore, is about looking forward. It’s not simply about preserving things that have passed, but giving back to the future by educating kids about their cultural heritage. This talk hit home with me as I thought about my own grandfather working to preserve his story in a book that he recently wrote for our family.

Overall, the experience was incredibly moving and provided lots of inspiration for things I want to learn more about, as well as changes I can make in my daily life. Hearing from these speakers, getting the chance to meet them as well as other participants through the daylong event was an experience that I’ll remember positively for years to come.

16 Nov 2015

How to Give a TEDx Talk

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By Nicole Gatmaitan on November 16, 2015

Before TEDxSMU, I’ve only heard about the TED talks and seen a few of them on YouTube. I never really understood what they were. I just knew that they were talks given by inspiring people hoping to inspire others with their innovative ideas or design. I applied on a whim so I didn’t really know what to expect going into the conference. But I’m really glad I was given the opportunity to attend.

I went with one of my friends who is also a fellow SMU student so I didn’t feel too uncomfortable going by myself. It was my first time at the Dallas City Performance Hall and I was really impressed by the venue. There were a lot of windows so there was a lot of natural light coming into the building so everything seemed bright and exciting. What really impressed me was the giant white poster board cubes with different questions written on them and markers on the floor so people could answer them. Some of the questions were “Who Inspires you,” “If you could ask a TEDx speaker anything, what would it be,” and “Who was your favorite TEDx speaker?” Some of the answers were really clever but the questions made me really think about what I would say. For the “If you could ask a TEDx speaker anything, what would it be” I wrote two questions: “How do you find the courage to give a TED talk?” and “How do you decide what to talk about?”

In regards to speakers, the ones about family were the most impactful for me. I guess it’s because I’m growing up, my parents are getting older and in a few years down the road, I would start my own family. Candy Peterson’s talk about her daughter was diagnosed with melanoma and then she got diagnosed with breast cancer. When she teared up during her talk, I teared up. As the description on the YouTube page says, Mrs. Peterson’s talk was “equal parts witty and equal parts emotional.” I also enjoyed Jessica Shortfall’s talk about paid maternity leave. I knew paid maternity leave was an issue in America, but I never knew how big of an issue it was and Mrs. Shortall’s talk made me aware of that.

After listening to the rest of the talks I already knew the answer to the questions that I had written on the board earlier. To be able to give a TED talk, you find something you’re passionate about or something that you want people to become aware about and more knowledgeable about. If you’re super passionate about it, then you’re able to find the courage to give a TED talk about it.

09 Nov 2015

My Unexpected Transition: From Passive Observer to Active Attendee

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By Tania Doblado Speck on November 9, 2015

When I was younger, my father would spend hours watching TED talks. I never understood why he loved it so much until this past summer. In my free time, I found myself eagerly looking up as many TED talk videos as I could, getting inspired by what other people had accomplished. After becoming a loyal fan of the talks, I knew that one day I had to be in the audience of this innovative event. However, I never expected to physically contemplate and listen to more than 20 TED talks in Dallas for free that same year.

Starting at the reception, all the volunteers were very helpful and polite, and throughout the event breakfast, lunch, and snacks were included! In the lobby, I was captivated by the thoughtful questions seen on the big white boards; which encouraged us to write our opinions and ideas, setting a creative atmosphere in the room.

Inside the auditorium, being amidst the speakers was breathtaking. To hear all those amazing humans share their stories, their passions, and their inventions was an experience I’ll never forget. All of them had something unique to share, something unexpected. However, they were all driven by an idea, a thought that had turned into a lifestyle, a project, a challenge, and a change. Some had incredible opportunities, others saw injustice or experienced tragic events, yet all of them had decided to raise their voices and take action. It was inspiring and motivational. I can just imagine the power of having that microphone in hand; your words, what you say, they become solid and they ring through the auditorium. I hope to one day hold that microphone and relay my experiences to a crowd of students to inspire them to change the world, just as I had felt sitting in the audience.

TEDxSMU was a surreal experience for me. I was starstruck to be in the presence of such world changers, something that I hope to do in the future. I’m immensely thankful for this opportunity, and I would highly recommend that every person should experience a TEDxSMU event.

02 Nov 2015

The real return from TEDxSMU

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By Kassidy Jacqueline Greiner on November 2, 2015

Going into the TEDxSMU conference, I had the expectation to hear some great speakers, learn some new things, and overall, leave inspired. TEDxSMU did all that, and more. Interestingly enough, the speakers were not the highlight of the day. There was a range of expertise from more amateur student-presenters, to emotional personal life-stories, to more scholarly researchers and skilled policy advocates. Certainly, there were some standout speakers who presented strong research-based arguments AND engaging appeals. In all, the speakers were inspiring—if not to jump on board with their individual platforms, but at the least to promote examination and awareness of our life-shaping choices.  The real takeaways were not the speakers’ content, but the unexpected ease of engagement facilitated by the conference, the eye-opening diversity of perspectives, and the underlying charge to participants to wonder.

Over 20 speakers spoke on an array of topics. One of my favorites was Jessica Shortall’s impassioned, well-developed argument for the necessity of paid leave for new parents. Her statistics, coupled with emotional narrative examples, were hard hitting. Additionally, her highlighting the paradoxical image of “working mothers” via stock images versus reality was acute. Another favorite was Jake Minton, a kindergarten teacher/ advocate against gender gap and gender roles. His metaphor to open the doors of “all the important rooms” to his daughter was resonating. Minton also presented strong research to back his poignant and humorous appeal. From a more emotional-method, a standout presenter was Joaquin Zihuatanejo, whose poetry addressing the migrant crisis brought tears to my eyes.

The feats the student presenters had achieved were inspirational in their own right. How awesome to see young people doing such cool things, and moreover- getting up in front of a huge audience and confidently sharing those achievements! From the students who designed a living roof for their school or founded the Catalyst Art Movement, to the charismatic creativity-advocator/ musician Trevor Douglas, to the university student-duo who’s impressive research on aqua-culture will have really important effects: all the student presenters blew me away with their accomplishments, maturity, and courage.

I had anticipated the high caliber of speakers, but one return that I hadn’t expected was the opportunity to not just listen to presentations, but to engage with other attendees. Going alone, I was forced to stop hiding behind my iPhone and address my discomfort with small talk.  I found the push to interact, plus the tool of the presentations as a discussion topic, made conversations easy and enjoyable. Not only did I have good and genuine conversations with other participants, but also I found my confidence boosted from the experience. I was not alone in this development. I was super impressed when a solo high school student confidently approached me, shook my hand and introduced herself. TEDxSMU really facilitated this.

A key feature of TEDx talks was summed up by a passing comment of a man I sat next to at lunch. “TED talks are like traveling,” he said. That comparison is so: the TEDx event illuminates different perspectives, cultures, and positions than you encounter in your personal routine. It is like travelling to a whole bunch of places and meeting a whole bunch of new people, in just a day.

The real take-away was not an elevated knowledge from the expert presentations, but rather an inspiring reminder to be awake: to think about things outside your normal routine, to examine norms we accept as truths, to stimulate innovation and creativity, to explore ideas, to wonder!

06 Nov 2014

Inside View of TEDxSMU

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By Erin Suddleson on October 28, 2014

Most people’s first experience with TED is simply watching a talk online.  I am thrilled to say that mine was as a teen host at TEDxKids@SMU 2012. Before this, I had heard of TEDTalks, but I had no idea that there was a TEDx community just a few minutes away.  When a friend told me about TEDxSMU, I immediately did my research and applied to be a teen host. Being a host was such a phenomenal experience. Not only did I get to see TEDx Talks first hand, I had the opportunity to discuss these new ideas with children in the community. In my brief time volunteering I realized how important the TEDx program is for youth, not just for them, but for adults as well. I was so impressed with my group’s creativity and the way they engaged in all of the interactive exhibits. These kids come up with some of the craziest ideas, which is what TED is all about. The sooner they realize that their wildest ideas can become a reality, the sooner they can make their contribution to change the world. I immediately fell in love with this organization and was extremely moved by the talks I heard that day.

This past summer I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to intern with TEDxSMU. I gained first hand experience in public relations and learned the different aspects that are involved in planning a TEDxSMU conference. Most of us just check the website, purchase our ticket, and show up the day of the conference ready to be inspired. But when you attend the conference on November 1st, I want you to take a look around the Dallas City Performance Hall and consider all of the hard work that went on behind the scenes to make this mind-altering experience possible.  The TEDxSMU Team puts so much thought into every decision from the conference’s theme to what speakers appear on that stage. (I would add the social media aspect to reiterate your PR experience.)

From my experience as a host and summer intern, the conference is that much more exciting for me as I realized all of the little pieces that need to come together for a successful conference.

This experience not only gave me a greater appreciation for the TEDx speakers, but for the entire TED community. I am motivated by all of the TEDsters, who are so profound in their field, and come together to generate ideas on how to make the world a better place.

I know that no matter where my career takes me, I will always be a part of the TED family.

I hope to see you all on November 1st!



27 Aug 2014

A Summer Unlike Any Other

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By Sarah Renee Garner on August 25, 2014

This summer was unlike any other summer. This summer I was able to embark on the most amazing journey that has ever taken place in my life, and that journey was interning at TEDxSMU for 10 weeks. Interning at TEDxSMU has truthfully been one of the greatest experiences that I have ever had. Instead of wasting two and half months of my life away, I was doing something resourceful for such an amazing organization, and having fun while doing it.

Not only was I apart of TEDxSMU, I also was a part of the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering- which is amazing because I am strongly considering majoring in biomedical engineering. During the time in the engineering school, Erin (the other amazing intern) and I helped make sure that all of the Lyle Engineering Summer Camps were running smoothly. We made name tags, we served lunch, we took pictures, and we basically made sure that everything behind the scenes was running smoothly so that Heather and Christie didn’t have as much stuff to worry about.

Overall, when I first started TEDxSMU, I came in as a 15 year old girl who didn’t know the first thing about putting on a huge conference or camp. I didn’t know that it was appropriate to provide speakers with some sort of gift to thank them for participating. I also didn’t know that as soon as one conference is over, it was time to start planning for the next one. I also didn’t know that getting feedback from camps was important, and I also didn’t know that you counted inventory before and after. Those are all physical things that I have learned. However, I wasn’t mentally prepared for not automatically knowing how to do something, and having to research it. I wasn’t mentally prepared for doing something wrong. The amount of “I’m sorry’s” that I gave Heather and Christie probably made them want to pull their hair out. All in all I just wasn’t prepared to fail. However, I learned from the wise words of Greg Needel, that “this may not work”, but that’s ok! There is always room for growth and improvement.

Therefore, I have learned saying “I’m sorry” or being upset about a problem doesn’t fix the problem.  Actually fixing the problem, fixes the problem.

Side-note: I would just like to thank Heather Hankamer, and Christie Pearson, for giving me such a wonderful opportunity. I will always remember it, and I will carry it with me throughout my entire life. Y’all are truly the best bosses that anyone could ever ask for.


24 Jul 2014

The Rookie

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By Blayke Drury on July 21, 2014

My involvement in TEDxKids@SMU Auditions 2013 started out as a fleeting idea, a suggestion from my Academic Decathlon teachers to take a topic I’d prepared for competition and put it out there for people to hear. I was both shocked and honored to receive an invitation to present my topic, and anxiously counted down the days until the conference.

Sitting like a giddy child in the Green Room, I allowed the sound of bustling presenters and casual conversation to wash over me, as I finally felt the significance in being a part of the convention. There was an energy in that room like no other, as we all prepared to share our ideas and passions with the audience. Walking into the auditorium, I felt my face flush, my heart racing as I took in the room, seeing for the first time all of the people who had come to hear us. “What if I bore them?”, I thought. “What if I forget my intro. or trip onstage?” My nerves were quickly forgotten as I listened to the presenters that preceded me. I became enamored with their stories, sitting not as a presenter, but as an inspired audience member. When it was my turn to go onstage, I held on to that awe I’d felt listening to the others, and set out to inspire that in someone else. I jumped into my talk, a look at the physical and emotional side affects that lying can have on an individual, and what this means for the future. Before I knew it, my presentation was over, my last slide gone. I stood there for a moment, holding my breath and desperately hoping for applause. The audience’s clapping muffled my audible sigh of relief, and I quickly returned to my place offstage, happy to once again be on the other side of the exchange. Being a rookie presenter and audience member, I was both astounded to hear the other presenters’ messages, their stories and ideas, and honored to be in a room full of young people looking to be enlightened and inspired. That experience was like nothing else.

For anyone hoping to submit a video for this years TEDxKids@SMU Auditions 2014, I encourage you to be yourself! Don’t be afraid to have a silly attention getter, or a relatable topic. You’re talking to kids just like you, so don’t try to give a stuffy dissertation full of words that you’d never actually say. Make it a conversation, keep it comfortable, and above all, choose an idea that you yourself are entertained or inspired by, one that you can’t wait to share with an audience!

22 Jul 2014

TEDxSMU on McCuistion TV

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The TEDxSMU team was thrilled to be invited to talk TED and TEDx with Dennis McCuistion on McCuistion TV. Joining the discussion in front of a live audience are:

Jim Young: TEDxSMU Steering Committee. We first heard of TED Talks from Jim Young, a seasoned TEDSTER. Jim is passionate about TED and the stories and ideas it inspires. He gives us the inside story of how TED , Technology, Education and Design started in 1984 as a fantasy dinner party centered on these 3 areas, with some friends talking and some listening. It grew from a simple, local concept to a global, complex one. From its initial start, 6 years later attendees paid $475 to attend. Today TED attendees eagerly pay 20 times that amount.

Heather Hankamer: Director of TEDxSMU and TEDxSMU Kids and

Jeremy Gregg: Chief Development Officer, Prison Entrepreneurship Program.Jeremy’s 2012,  thought provoking TEDxSMU (Southern Methodist University) raised the interest in the more than 7 million people incarcerated in our jails. He stated that a child who has a parent in prison increases their own odds of going to prison by 70%. Financially the burden costs us $74 billion in corrections. It got participants  attention.

Heather talks about TEDxSMU and the TEDx phenomenon,”a radical opening up of the TED format to local, independently organized events”.

On any given day there are 7-8 TEDx events somewhere in the world. Heather is particularly passionate about TEDx Kids which is gaining in popularity. Kids get to hear from adult TED speakers who value the audience and do not dumb down the content.

We hope you will enjoy watching and join the discussion!

16 Jul 2014

My TEDxSMU Triple Crown

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By Amit Banerjee on July 16, 2014

It all started with a field trip to the TEDxKids@SMU conference in 2011 with my English class. We were enjoying listening to the speakers while relaxing on giant bean bags. Suddenly, I hear this “If any audience members would like to introduce a speaker, please come backstage during the break for an audition.” An opportunity to be on a TEDx stage was not to be missed, so I rushed backstage where I got to meet the then TEDxSMU director Sharon Lyle and the hosts Kelly Stoetzel and Rives. The next thing I knew, I was on the stage introducing Tali Marx. I was exhilarated, couldn’t believe it was happening to me. The lights were on me!
My 2012 TEDxSMU experience was even more incredible. In recognition of my efforts to inspire philanthropy among youth through my magazine “Philanthropy Kids”, I was invited as a speaker to share my ideas that kids can be philanthropists too and that you don’t have to be rich to be a philanthropist. On the day of the conference, outwardly, I appeared calm and collected. But 4 minutes before I was to get on stage, my body started shaking, my temperature dropped, I felt like I had amnesia. Lewis Warren played magnificently on the piano and I thought to myself “I have to follow that”. But as soon as I got up on the stage, adrenaline kicked in and I started feeling great. I remembered everything I wanted to say, and I knew that I was going to make a difference in these kids’ lives.
My role has since evolved to one of a Youth Advocate. At the 2013 conference, I helped Public City with their Message in a Bottle project. My job was to encourage every audience member to write a message that would then be put into these bottles and distributed around town. Volunteering was my way of giving back to the organization that brings such wonderful programs to us.

Audience member – check

Presenter – check

Volunteer/Team Member – check
This is what I call the TEDxSMU triple crown.


08 Jul 2014

My First TEDxSMU Experience

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By Heather Hankamer, Director of TEDxSMU & TEDxKids@SMU on July 8, 2014

October 10, 2009 was not a normal Saturday for me. That morning I was making my way to the SMU campus for what I thought was a typical full-day conference. From the first moment I arrived in the Owen Arts Center lobby I knew something was different. As the crowd waited for the theater doors to open there was energy in the conversations going on around me. Even though I only knew a handful of people in the room I felt very much in the company of friends.

That first TEDxSMU produced by Sharon Lyle shaped what I have come to appreciate as the ultimate conference experience. A day, an experience that is for passionate people from all parts of our community whose main goal is to share and spread big ideas.

Since 2009 TEDxSMU has grown and evolved. Not only do we engage our community with year round events like auditions and salons, we have added programs on campus at SMU to engage the next generation of thinkers.

On November 1st in the lobby of the Dallas City Performance Hall you might catch me standing by myself silently observing the conversations and interactions going on around me during a break. I’m reliving that epiphany moment from 2009. That moment when I realized I was lucky to be engaged in a community of passionate thinkers and doers in the city that I love.