Reframing Radical

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TedX promises to change your thinking for good

by Liza Long

On April 2, 2016, 14 Boiseans with big ideas will take to the Egyptian Theatre stage to share their passion with the Boise community—and possibly, the world. One is an off-the-grid homestead wife. Another is a high school senior who started a girls-only coding workshop. From the executive director of the Boise Urban Garden School to a refugee advocate who speaks from personal experience to a feminist whose positive body image video went viral, the second annual TEDx Boise speakers promise to “Reframe Radical.”

TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, is committed to providing a space where thought leaders can share their ideas with others in 18 minutes or less. TEDx events are independently organized in communities around the world. TEDx Boise started with a small group of Boise high school graduates who wanted to make a difference. Laura Hampikian and Thomas Lansing applied for a TEDx license and with the help of numerous volunteers, they hosted the first Boise TEDx event in 2015. “We set the date, booked a venue, and hoped for the best,” Hampikian told me when we met at Hyde Perks to discuss this year’s event.

The first event was a success—one of the speakers, Kate Simonds, went viral with her talk about why we need to pay attention to 17-year-olds like her. Hampikian and Lansing decided to expand this year, scheduling a full-day conference in three two-hour sessions with breaks for the conversations that the speakers are sure to spark.

The speakers, chosen from hundreds of applications by an independent committee, may have little or no background in public speaking, which is why coaching is an integral part of the TED experience. Boise’s speakers are lucky to work with one of the best, former English professor and professional speaking coach Nancy Buffington, who is the official coach for TEDx Boise.

“You get chosen to give a TEDx talk because you have a great idea, but that doesn’t always mean you have lots of speaking experience,” Buffington told me when we spoke about how coaching takes speakers from good to great.

Buffington notes that the process can be especially stressful because speakers are usually busy people with high standards who want to succeed. “Working one-on-one with each speaker for several months means I can support them through every stage of their talk: content, structure, design and delivery. I get to watch each of their stories evolve into their final talk,” Buffington explained. “It’s such fun to watch them on the big stage, knowing the thinking and decisions and hours of work behind every word, gesture and image.”

When I asked Hampikian why TEDx Boise chose the theme, “Reframing Radical,” she smiled. “It came from a conversation Thomas and I had about Martin Luther King,” she said. “In ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail,’ he basically answers his critics [who called him an extremist] by turning their criticism into praise, saying that “Jesus was an extremist for love.’ We thought about the word ‘radical,’ and how often it is attached to ideas like feminism or politics in a negative way. And we wanted to reframe that, like Dr. King did. Radical is a powerful word. And all our speakers are radical in some way—they have radical ideas that will change our way of thinking.”

For more information about this year’s event, volunteering, or applying to become a TEDx Boise speaker, visit tedxboise.org