Olympia will host its own TEDx talk

Speaker, coach and emcee Paul Currington gives advice to speaker Stacy Flynn.
Speaker, coach and emcee Paul Currington gives advice to speaker Stacy Flynn. Courtesy

The slogan of TED — an organization best known for its series of thought-provoking online videos — is “Ideas Worth Spreading.” Spreading ideas is exactly what TEDxOlympia organizer Meg O’Leary wants to do.

Olympia’s first TEDx event, happening Saturday, features 11 speakers, ranging from feather artist Chris Maynard to high school senior Madeline Poultridge. There will be live entertainment and TED videos as well.

“I’ve always been fascinated by opportunities where a lot of different people come together and talk about ideas,” O’Leary, of Olympia, said. “I’m just fascinated by the connections that emerge.”

And she’s a fan of TED talks, which are all over the Internet.

“TED talks have helped me learn and grow and ask different questions in my own life,” she said. “They make me feel like life is wide open.”

TED began in 1984 with a conference focused on Technology, Entertainment and Design. These days, the talks cover just about everything.

Seriously. The acronym could stand for telescopes, empathy and dance, for example. Or tsunamis, evil and the Dalai Lama.

TEDxOlympia will attempt the same kind of breadth. Talks, none longer than 10 minutes, will cover urban planning, homelessness, right livelihood and how to deal with Dad — that’s Poultridge’s subject — among other topics.

“I’ll talk about how becoming legally blind at 35 turned out to be one of the greatest things that ever happened to me,” said Keith Edgerton, sustainability coordinator at St. Peter’s Hospital, in a news release from the event.

The theme, “Point of No Return,” is designed to tie all the content together without limiting it.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about those points in life when you discover something or experience something or see something in a different way, and you can’t go back to how you were before,” O’Leary said. “Everybody experiences those moments in life.”

The talks will span seven hours, with an optional reception at the end, but there is not need to worry about spending too many hours stuck in a theater seat. Sessions are about an hour and a half long, and will mix speakers with videos of TED talks and live entertainment. There’ll be a two-hour lunch break and an afternoon break.

Paul Currington host and producer of Seattle’s open-mic story event Fresh Ground Stories, will be the master of ceremonies. He also coached the speakers.

“He spent countless hours with them,” O’Leary said. “All of these folks have a compelling idea to share, but the format of a TED talk is very specific and it’s very challenging. They have to focus immediately on their idea and deliver it in a way that gets people to think and sit up in their seats.”

Putting on a TEDx conference (the “x” designates an independently produced event) is no small undertaking.

O’Leary, who works at the Washington State Recreation and Conservation office,spent the past year and a half working on the event in her spare time.

She’s put together a team of volunteers — curators, stage and set designers, etc. — but it’s been no small undertaking securing a license from TED, starting a nonprofit organization, selecting speakers, renting the Washington Center for the Performing Arts, arranging to have the whole thing filmed and raising money to pay for it all.

She wants this will be an annual event, and has is pursuing 501(c)3 status.

“It’s a dream job for me,” she said.


What: Olympia gets its first TEDx event, an independently produced daylong forum featuring speakers with big ideas plus live entertainment and videos.

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, with a reception from 5-6:30 p.m.

Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia.

Tickets: $40, $36 for seniors, $20 for youth, $60 for tickets that include admission to the reception; $15 rush tickets available for students and kids.

Information: tedxolympia.org, washingtoncenter.org or 360-753-8586.

Also: Reception tickets were nearly sold out at press time. Call the box office at 360-753-8586 for details.


▪ Max Brown of Olympia, a member of the Olympia Planning Commission.

▪ Daniel Cherniske of Olympia, who designs and teaches about aquaponic food systems, which combine traditional aquaculture with hydroponics to form a symbiotic system.

▪ Keith Edgerton of Olympia, the sustainability coordinator at St. Peter’s Hospital, who’ll talk about living with being legally blind.

▪ Stacy Flynn of Seattle, a textile and apparel specialist who’ll talk about the environmental impact of clothing.

▪ Russell Kolts of Spokane, a psychology professor at Eastern Washington University, who’ll speak about anger and compassion.

▪ Debbie Lacy of Seattle, a life coach who’ll talk about how to make decisions about what you want in life.

▪ Michael B. Maine of Seattle, a photographer who cultivates connections with and among his subjects.

▪ Meg Martin of Olympia, program director of the Interfaith Works Emergency Shelter.

▪ Chris Maynard of Olympia, an artist who creates shadowboxes from intricately cut feathers.

▪ Maggie Neatherlin and her One-Man Orchestra (Vince Brown), both of Olympia, playing old-time music. Neatherlin, 15, is a sophomore at Olympia High School.

▪ Madeline Poultridge, 17, of Olympia, a senior at Avanti High School, talking about how to use mediation skills in everyday life.

▪ Sara Sparrow of Olympia, performing an excerpt from her solo circus show “Wee Small.”

▪ Diane Whalen of Olympia, a Roman Catholic woman priest.