It was while attending a TEDSummit conference in Banff, Canada that psychology senior Cameron Wiese recognized the potential TEDx could have at Cal Poly.
TED is a nonprofit organization aimed at spreading ideas primarily through short talks (18 minutes or less). TEDSummit is a conference that brings together the most engaged and passionate members of the global TED community to discuss the future of TED as an organization.
TEDx differs from traditional TED talks. The ‘x’ in TEDx represents an independently organized event under a separate license from TED.
“While I was at the summit I realized that [the TED] community is unbelievably supportive,” Wiese said. “Everyone was there to spread ideas and help make the world a better place. I saw this and thought, ‘We can do this at Cal Poly.’”
Now, it’s three months later and Wiese’s vision has become a reality. On Oct. 21 at 4 p.m., Cal Poly will host its first TEDx conference in the Performing Arts Center (PAC).
However, this was not a novel idea.
Cal Poly alumnus Michael Fadaie first thought of bringing TEDx to Cal Poly last spring when he and his team envisioned a small scale event with 100 attendees. However, the time to plan ran out before the school year ended and Wiese took Fadaie’s role as organizer once Fadaie graduated.
Wiese knew that he wanted to increase the scale of the event, so he began fundraising money to attend the TEDSummit conference in Banff, where he received the license upgrade required to hold a talk with an audience of more than 100 members.
Though his team originally settled on Spanos Theatre as the venue, Wiese had bigger dreams. After conferring with TEDxCalPoly Executive Producer and economics senior Eli Burch, the pair decided to check the availability of the PAC, which seats 1,300 people.
“This thing was just meant to happen,” Wiese said. “It went from ‘Let’s have a hundred people from Cal Poly in a room, sharing ideas,’ to ‘Let’s bring our entire community together, get people sparking conversations and building relationships.’”
TEDxCalPoly received support and funding from several Cal Poly colleges and local companies, including Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Orfalea College of Business, the College of Liberal Arts, Cuesta College, MINDBODY and Softec.
However, the event is entirely student-run and volunteer-based. Wiese’s core executive planning team consists of ten students, while Burch has been working with a team of eight to manage preparations for the day of the event.
Burch has also recruited a variety of Cal Poly students to help with smaller tasks. Architecture students built pieces for set design, while recreation, parks and tourism administration students helped create the vision for attendee experience.
Both Wiese and Burch want to construct a meaningful and thought-provoking experience for their audience — something they think has not been done at the PAC before.
“This is going to be big,” Burch said. “Nothing this big has ever happened on Cal Poly’s campus.”
The theme of the night and the speakers’ stories this year is “plot twist.”
“All of us as college students experience moments of dramatic change. For us, it’s graduating, or deciding to change our major … we all experience turbulence in our lives and it’s those moments that shape who we are and define us,” Wiese said.
The TEDxCalPoly lineup includes a diverse range of speakers, including psychology professor Don Ryujin and kinesiology senior Nicole Huffman, Head of Awareness and Education for Current Solutions, an online startup that gives a voice to sexual assault survivors.
Environmental management and protection senior Jordan Miller will be one of three student presenters at the conference. Miller is also the producer and host of the student-run comedy show “The Nightcap with Jordan Miller.”
“This is going to be a night you’re not going to want to miss. You’re going to hear about it Monday morning and be disappointed that you didn’t go,” he said.
Both Burch and Wiese hope for the legacy of TEDxCalPoly to live on as an annual event. Their goal is to allow the conference to continue as a place where Cal Poly students, faculty, parents, alumni and community members can unite under one roof.
With TEDxCalPoly quickly approaching, Burch said that though he feels a range of emotions, he is mostly excited.
“Whenever I feel nervous or anxious or beat down or deprived of sleep, I just remember how big of an impact this could potentially make — and that’s even better than coffee,” Burch said.
Tickets are available at tedxcalpoly.com and start at $26 for students, though the event is open to the public.