Inspire and infuse

The inaugural TedXDayton at Victoria Theatre

 By Kevin J. Gray 

Photo:  The TEDx planning group will present ideas that “inspire and infuse” on Friday, Nov. 15 at Victoria Theatre

What’s a TED?

In 1984, a group of visionaries from the worlds of technology, entertainment and design came together for the world’s first TED conference, an event designed to sow “Ideas Worth Spreading,” the conference’s official motto. Since that time, hundreds of individuals at TED conferences have given brief lectures on a wide variety of engaging topics. Speakers have spanned the spectrum from Frank Gehry to Jane Goodall, from Larry Page to Bono, and have included both the known and the relatively unknown. The talks are not limiTED to technology, entertainment or design, however, but range from awe-inspiring improv solos by piano prodigies to very personal accounts of life-changing events.

Today, nearly three decades later, the conference has become an annual event, held each spring in Vancouver, Canada, with a parallel TEDActive in Whistler, British Columbia. Across the pond, the TEDGlobal Conference takes place each summer in Edinburgh, Scotland. Each weekday throughout the year, the TED website posts a TED Talk – an online archive of some of the best of the TED speakers – translaTED into more than 100 languages.

True to their motto, the organizers of TED have continued to find innovative ways to spread ideas. By 2009, the TED talks had become so popular that the organizers began opening up franchise licenses. These new events, dubbed TEDX events, are independent, locally organized events that follow the TED format. TEDX events draw on speakers from within the host city’s community. The idea behind TEDX is similar to that of TED – to share Ideas Worth Spreading throughout the region. To date, more than 5,000 TEDX events have taken place, with many of the speakers’ programs released as TED Talks. This year, Dayton is exciTED to host its first such event, TEDXDayton, which takes place Friday, Nov. 15 at the Victoria Theatre.

TED comes to Dayton

The genesis for the Dayton event can be traced back to Larry and Marilyn Klaben, two Miami Valley residents very involved in our community. Mr. Klaben is the CEO of Morris Home Furnishing and the chair of the Board of Trustees for Wright State University; Mrs. Klaben serves as the education director for the Human Race Theatre Company and is on the board for the Miami Valley School. Their son Jeremy was involved in organizing TEDX events at the University of Michigan. The Klabens inviTED the students from U of M who were planning the event to come to Dayton for a working session. They also inviTED local community members who might be interesTED in organizing a TEDX event in Dayton. The idea stuck, and not long after that, TEDXDayton Co-chair Sean Creighton applied for a license to host an event here in the Miami Valley.

To produce the event – Creighton, who by day works as the executive director of the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education (SOCHE) – teamed up with Co-chair Kristy Rochon, senior director, strategy and communications at the Downtown Development Coalition. The two worked with countless other volunteers to create committees to run the event, including groups that focus on marketing, speakers, sponsors and the attendee experience. While TED does not mandate this particular structure, the highly committee-reliant approach works for the Dayton iteration of the event. Through the spring and summer, the representatives from the various committees met every two weeks, updating the larger group on their committee’s actions and brainstorming how to address the myriad challenges associaTED with pulling off an event like this. Finally, this month, the hard work will be rewarded.

What to expect from TEDXDayton

The theme of this year’s event is Inspire & Infuse. Nearly 30 speakers and performers will be covering topics ranging from slavery to neuroscience, with dance, music and spoken word performances interspersed. Rochon previewed the event: “A TEDX experience is the perfect opportunity to expose yourself to new ideas and to hear some stories of amazing things happening in our community. I think we collectively become better when we open ourselves up to concepts that challenge our ideas, giving us a different perspective. But the really powerful part about the TED and TEDX brands is that those ideas and concepts should spread out into community. It can be a catalyst for disruptive change.”

Although the speakers are what the TEDX events are most known for, those who have attended TED and TEDX events also tell of an additional component – the fellowship formed with other audience members. Creighton noTED that these events are “really [a] powerful experience for an attendee.“ He elaboraTED further: “It varies from your typical experience of going to the show, where you sit isolaTED in your seat, where you have this personal experience with what’s [happening] on stage. [Instead,] it creates a community-building environment. Everyone there is a friend immediately and is charged up around these ideas, interesTED in continuing those conversations, maybe mobilizing around these ideas.”

This communal experience is not accidental. Rather, as much attention is given to the attendee’s experience as is to the speaker list. Creighton explained: “There is a committee focusing on the attendee experience, from when you park your car to when you pick it up; from when you first walk into the Victoria, all day long. Even idle time is organized idle time. At lunch, you’ll have an opportunity to talk with speakers. When the event is over, you’ll be direcTED to after locations where there will be different speakers and you’ll have the opportunity to connect with them.”

The Speakers

Those speaking and performing at the TEDXDayton event represent a vast diversity of talent and thought leadership in the Miami Valley. As Creighton explained, “TEDX events ensure they bring together leading thinkers from their field. This combination of speakers will showcase thought leaders in our region.” Below is a brief list of the speakers and performers expecTED at TEDXDayton, as of the writing of this article.


Dr. Todd Dewett (professional speaker, author, coach) will discuss “getting over yourself,” or how true leaders get out of their own ways to build meaningful relationships and great teams.

Chris Wire (entrepreneur) will discuss how, despite technologies that have revolutionized how we communicate and discuss business, the art of creativity lies still with our ability to wonder, to ask “why?”

London Coe (abolitionist) will discuss how you begin to love and participate in your neighborhood, city and in your life and how Coe worked to change the conversation of modern-day slavery.

Justin Bayer (social entrepreneur) will propose a shift in the college search that asks students to look for meaning, accomplishment, relationships and vitality in their postsecondary education.

April Kline (intuitive bodyworker) will discuss our resonant frequencies and how we tune in, find our voices, speak the truth and share this power with others.

Keith Klein (part of the downtown Dayton renaissance) will tell a true story about how the Internet has changed the way children are adopTED in America and how social media relates to families.

Norm Vallone (marketing and messaging pro) will explain how organizations and leaders achieve professional and personal goals through strategic marketing planning, coaching and consulting.

Rodney Veal (dancing with technology) will showcase an original work for TEDXDayton that combines traditional dance with digital technology.

Dr. Michael Weisend (neuroscientist) will discuss how the most advanced techniques in neuroscience have been used to enhance both learning and concentration with non-invasive brain stimulation.

Justin Howard (improv actor and teacher) will show how improv may just seem like fun, but in reality, it may be one of the most life-changing endeavors one can undertake.

Sharon Rab (Dayton Literary Peace Prize Founder) will share stories of writers and readers who have been changed by writing and reading literature that advances peace.

Liz Cambron (filmmaker) will discuss her personal journey, in which she “beat the odds” to becoming a working female filmmaker in Ohio.

Judith Ezekiel (women’s studies expert with a unique perspective on race) hopes to increase antiracist empathy and consciousness by helping attendees understand that race is not static and that “whiteness” is relative.

Marta Wojcik (building community by creating a distinct sense of place) will explore how we can contribute to creative placemaking in our communities to save them and ourselves from mediocrity.

Herbert Woodward Martin (master poet; also known for performing the work of Paul Laurence Dunbar) will perform and discuss poetry.

David B. Shuster, M.D. (building a better EMG) seeks to change perceptions of the EMG (electromyography) by putting himself in the patient’s place, on stage.

Furaha Henry-Jones (poet and teacher) will share the story of preparing for her first trip to Africa and grappling with the philosophy Ubuntu to return home with a clearer sense of self and a re-dedication to everything that is most important.

Dr. Shu Schiller (making data beautiful) uses stunning visualizations to tell stories about our daily lives and talks about how this can make data beautiful.

Staff Sergeant Deondra Parks (aerospace medical technician and hate crime survivor) will share stories of her continuing recovery from a hate crime shooting that took place while she was on active duty.

Michael Lieberman (counsel for the Anti-Defamation League) will discuss how, while we cannot outlaw hate, we can change attitudes and behaviors by working together –making a positive difference in our families and communities.

Mark Roosevelt (President of Antioch College) will talk about Abraham Lincoln, sharing his passion for Lincoln, which affects his way of thinking and living.

Steffin Johnson (classical pianist and student) will speak about his experiences in his musical career and in breaking stereotypes, in regard to himself – because of his race – and the music he plays – classical, not jazz.

Brad Doudican (Founding President of the Dayton Service Engineering Collaborative) will explain that attendees, as engaged leaders, should look beyond “doing good” in their own community and seek ways to knit together diverse communities in ways that enlighten their respective efforts.

Nathan Klingbeil (Dean of Wright State University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science) hopes to inspire attendees by getting them to think differently about the potential of America’s high school graduate.

Jay Martinez (spoken word artist, host and youth advocate) will perform works that aim for community uplift and awareness through poetry.

Dillon “Stoney D” Stoneburner (hip hop dancer) will perform a dance routine he choreographed for TEDXDayton.

In addition, there will be musical performances from Puzzle of Light, Good English and Todd the Fox.

Community reaction

The TEDXDayton event is truly grassroots, drawing upon energy from Miami Valley residents. And so far, the community reaction has been overwhelming. There have been so many folks willing to volunteer that the committee chairs were faced with an unusual problem: how to utilize the help they were offered. Additionally, sponsorship has been excellent, with the group fully meeting their fundraising goals – the event is a non-profit, paid for through sponsors and ticket sales. And within the first 48 hours of ticket sales, nearly 25 percent of the tickets sold. This before the full speaker list was even posTED. Not bad for an inaugural event.

What’s next?

Spreading ideas and transforming the community takes more than a one-day event. How does Dayton capitalize on the energy generaTED from the conference? First, reach out to and stay in touch with the individual contributors at the event. As noTED above, there will be opportunities to meet and speak with many of the speakers.

Additionally, there are some other opportunities for folks to become involved. Creighton’s organization, SOCHE, is working with college students to live-stream select TED conferences, such as the Thursday, Dec. 5 TED Women’s conference. These live-stream events, hosTED at Wright State University, will include specific calls to action.

Go back and watch your favorite speakers again. All speakers and performers will be recorded and the videos will be available on the TEDXDayton website ( after the event. And watch the site to see if any of the TEDXDayton speakers ends up as a daily TED Talk.

Finally, stay involved with TED and TEDXDayton. Planning for the next TEDXDayton event is likely to start as soon as this conference is over. If you enjoyed the event, don’t miss an opportunity to become a part of the next one.


TEDXDayton takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 15 at the Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St. For tickets and more information, go to

 Reach DCP freelance writer Kevin J. Gray at


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