TEDxSMU - What a day!

Gail Davis, 05 December 2011

The AT&T Performing Arts Center includes the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, and Annette Strauss Square. TEDxSMU was held at the Wyly.

The 10-level building features a groundbreaking design with an unprecedented "stacked," vertically organized facility that completely rethinks the traditional form of theatre. The building can be configured in many different ways depending on the purpose.

It was very intimate for the day of speakers. One of the most fun and desirable seating locations was right in front of the stage. Sponsored by Fatboy http://www.fatboyusa.com/, those arriving early enough could lounge on large oversized bean bags. Sarah and I managed this for the last session of the day. What a concept!

I have been in and around the speaking business for more than thirty years. It’s rare to go to an event where there are so many “unknown” speakers. Out of the 19 speakers, artists and entertainers presenting, I only knew three. But I can assure you I want to get to know many of the speakers I previewed on Saturday.

I’ll start with the ones I knew in advance: Juan Enrique, Peter Thum, and Homaro Cantu.

We have booked Juan Enriquez before and he did a great job for our client. Enriquez opened with a history of the Universe. It gave perspective to the small piece of the overall history we are. Then he shifted to the future. The potential of how lives can be transformed using science and technology presents some startling concepts. For example, deaf persons with cochlear implants may be able to hear better than you and I.

We have also booked Peter Thum for our clients. Thum is the Founder of Ethos™ Water . While in South Africa, Peter observed the effect of that county's water crisis on everyday people. He turned his idea of getting clean water to children into a successful social venture that has changed an industry, generated millions of dollars and changed lives. More recently, he co-founded and is the CEO of Fonderie 47, an organization that is taking AK-47s from war zones in Africa, turning them into jewelry, watches and accessories with the proceeds going to charities that help those affected by the conflicts.

Peter inspires audiences with his remarkable story of seeing wrongs in the world and using his drive and business acumen to right them. His theme – you can invest in ideas that change the world.

We have not booked Homaro Cantu, but I have been following him. And now that I have seen him speak, I will be recommending him to clients, especially those who want something experiential. Cantu is the executive chef at Chicago's Moto restaurant, http://www.motorestaurant.com/, where he creates postmodern cuisine and futuristic food delivery systems.

His presentation was highly interactive, taking the audience on an experiment in molecular gastronomy. Each person had a small box with a lemon, chocolate, a packing peanut, and miracle berry powder. We did an experiment to see how the use of the powder could change the way food tastes.

The two speakers I was most delighted to discover for myself were Kate Canales and Jeff Fulgham.

Kate Canales is a Creative Director at frog design. Her background is in product design, design research, and design strategy. Her work focuses on strategy and creative infrastructure design.

She received a tremendous response as she led the audience through a series of photos showing creativity and design. It was a unique and fun way to look at innovation. She has built internal innovation teams for Fortune 500 companies, studied patient needs in hospital systems in the US and the UK, and created new board games for tweens. A systems thinker, Kate leads initiatives for clients looking to refine strategy or increase innovation across any industry.

Jeff Fulgham is a great speaker in the sustainability space. His focus at TEDxSMU was on water. It offered a great perspective on all the convenience in our life and the amount of water used to provide each. Fulgham had a very interesting discussion on the types of water and the use of proper water.

During the day we were also entertained by Grammy-nominated singer songwriter Lisa Loeb, Jawon Ahn and a modern dance choreographed by Bruce Wood. Outside was a wonderful display by Shane Pennington http://www.shanepennington.com/2011/09/tedx-installation-the-dallas-arts-district/

It was an incredible day of inspired creativity. One that made me proud to be a part of the vibrant Dallas community.