Hundreds ready to be inspired by TEDxLSU this weekend

Thursday, March 7, 2013 - 10:33pm

Baton Rouge has talked for a long time about change, but there are many ways to go about it.

Twenty five of those ways will be on display Saturday, when LSU hosts a TEDx conference.

The motto of the TED organization is "ideas worth spreading." It is so popular that dozens of independently-organized versions, known as TEDx, take place every week around the world.

TEDxLSU will feature 25 of the best minds in the south, nearly all from Baton Rouge, sharing their ideas about where we are headed.

And a lot of people want the answers; tickets sold old quickly.

"I think there's just a lot of excitement around the idea of getting passionate people together in a single space to give the talk of their life in 18 minutes or less," said Joey Watson, an LSU professor and TEDxLSU curator.

The theme of Saturday talks is "evolve." Presentations will cover lots of topics, including education, entrepreneurship, coastal restoration, bicycle safety, and outer space. TEDxLSU did very little advertising, but it generated a strong, positive response on campus.

"The students, I think, are probably the most exuberant group," Watson said, "but a lot of faculty show TED talks in the classrooms, so for us to be able to do one on campus is really special."

There was so much interest in TEDxLSU, Watson did not want to limit the audience to just the Reilly Theater. The whole event will be simulcast at the Shaver Theater across campus, and more than 300 people are expected to watch. Not just LSU students, either.

"We have a tremendous amount of high school students that are thrilled about TED," Watson stated. "I never would've expected that."

TEDxLSU is open to the public. While tickets to see it inside the Reilly Theater cost $100, watching the simulcast is free.

Watson said he is happy that the future leaders of Baton Rouge show so much interest in this idea. The TED movement is about challenging the status quo on issues big and small, and getting people to think about making a better future.

"And I think that we have no idea yet how (TEDxLSU is) going to change us," Watson said, "and that's exciting and titillating."

Some people compare TED events to sitting through a long class. But there's a slight difference that makes them so popular.

"A little bit more magical. There's something in that secret sauce about these kinds of events where you walk out, and you're just inspired."

And inspiration could help people decide to tackle some of problems we face, both large and small.

"To put forth our best and brightest innovators who are passionate about creating change for us... I think we need this kind of thing once a year," Watson said.

He added that LSU has already applied to host another TED conference in 2014. And with the positive response to this year's event, he thinks future editions will be even bigger.

But there is no telling how many people will be reached by the inaugural TEDxLSU conference.

"The presentations that we have here are going to be professionally recorded and then uploaded to a TEDxLSU YouTube channel," Watson said. "But they also go off to TED proper, so they could go viral, global, from the TED website, so it's kinda exciting."  

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