TEDxDayton free virtual talks begin this week

The 4-day virtual event starting Nov. 10 will feature 16 speakers, plus entertainers

There’s exciting news for Daytonians who’ve had good intentions of getting to TEDxDayton but haven’t had a chance to attend the event in the past. It’s also welcome news for those who’ve become regulars at the annual sold-out community get-together.

This month you’ll be able to watch a variety of excellent presentations from the comfort of your family room. As a result of the pandemic, organizers have decided to program the event — typically held on one day at the Victoria Theatre in downtown Dayton — over four evenings and to present it virtually.

Topics range from ethics in college athletics to the dangers of hazing and from housing advocacy to overcoming family shame. You’ll hear how a family bonded together to help one of its members recover from a terrible brain injury after being hit by a drunken driver. You’ll hear how — through genealogy — a local educator has been able to connect to ancestors who were slaves.

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“It was very important to us to keep TEDxDayton going this year,” explains Bridget S. Hutt, signature event co-chair. “So many events have been canceled or postponed; knowing how important the ideas and stories of TEDxDayton are to our audience, we wanted to present TEDxDayton 2020 as our gift to the community during this challenging year.”

TEDxDayton 2020 will take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 10; Thursday, Nov. 12; Tuesday, Nov. 17 and Thursday, Nov. 19. The events will be live-streamed at 7 p.m. each evening on YouTube and at TEDxDayton.com.

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How it works

The tagline for TEDx is “Ideas Worth Spreading.” It’s well-known for its successful format: a variety of educational and inspirational topics, each presented in about 12 minutes' time. For Dayton’s TEDx, the speakers have a personal connection to the Miami Valley.

“People enjoy the opportunity to listen to somebody who is a passionate, articulate spokesperson or expert in their field,” says co-chair Ron Rollins. “They talk about a big idea that resonates into society.”

Topics range from science and the arts to education and social problems. Rollins says it’s a great way for busy people to get a thoughtful and intelligent take on the subjects at hand in just a few minutes.

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Adapting to the pandemic

This year, because of the pandemic, everything has been pre-recorded. Thanks to Wright State University and Joe Deer, chair of the Department of Theatre, Dance, and Motion Pictures, the 16 major presentations were recorded free of charge at the school’s Festival Playhouse. Introductions by the hosts were captured in the Robert and Elaine Stein Galleries.

Hosts this year are Lisa Wagner, executive director for the Levitt Pavilion; Josh Stucky, a founding member of the RubiGirls and one of the owners of Square One Salons; Dr. Karen Townsend, founder of “About My Sisters” and author of “It All Started When I stopped Using Lotion: One Woman’s Journey From Chaos to Calm,” and Neal Gittleman, conductor of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, a former TEDx speaker whose subject was “The Power of Silence.”

In addition to the presentations, you’ll see performances by Dayton guitarist Jim McCutcheon and hammered dulcimer player Ted Yoder. Local choreographer Rodney Veal will showcase a new dance featuring Dayton Contemporary Dance Company member Brianna Rhodes, with music by Josh Strange.

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How TEDx came to Dayton

Daytonians Marilyn and Larry Klaben are the official conveners of TEDxDayton, credited with “spreading” the idea to the Miami Valley. When their youngest son, Jeremy, was attending the University of Michigan and began talking incessantly about an organization in which he’d become involved, his parents decided to drive to Ann Arbor on event day to check it out.

“We were totally transformed by the experience!” says Marilyn now. “Our curiosity had been aroused, our intellect had been stimulated and a spark had been ignited in us to bring the TED experience to Dayton.”

Because Dayton has always been a home for innovation and new ideas, the couple was convinced Daytonians would benefit and be enriched from the TED experience. They invited friends who were community leaders to join them in Ann Arbor the following year, then later gathered a wide variety of 20 community folks for an informational session in Dayton.

“Most of the volunteers we attracted that first year to lead the charge have continued to give TEDxDayton a huge chunk of their volunteer time, because, in short, we all love being part of this organization,” Marilyn says.

In the past eight years, she says the organization has attracted many young and energetic people who have shared their creative and intuitive talents. “These volunteers have embraced TEDxDayton and dedicate hundreds of hours making sure that the ‘ideas worth spreading’ in each TED Talk at each TED event are professional, inspirational and mind-expanding.”

Marilyn Klaben has been involved with the Speaker’s Committee each year, serving as a mentor to a group of the presenters. The committee rates and ranks about 200 people each year who audition, then narrows the number down to between 16 and 18. “The journey we take together to craft and prepare the ‘best talk of their lives’ is challenging, ever-evolving and ultimately very rewarding!” she says.

Since its inception, the organization has grown to include TEDxYouth for high school students, a TEDXWomen international video event, and several TED Salons: Innovation Salon, Education Salon, and Salon Women. A Salon After Dark is being planned for 2021.

The Klabens believe the possibilities for the future are endless. Says Marilyn: “We look forward to brainstorming with the forward-thinking members of our TED team to continue to create meaningful, enlightening, relevant and inspiring events for the Dayton community.”


The events will be live-streamed on YouTube and at TEDxDayton.com. Go to the homepage and follow the links to the specific talk.

Tuesday, Nov. 10, 7 p.m., with host Lisa Wagner

• Daj’za Demmings, discussing intergenerational mentorship.

• Anne Marie Romer and Conor Crippen, discussing Conor’s traumatic brain injury and giving up the burden of trauma.

• Subhashini Ganapathy, sharing how industrial systems engineering is actually fun and improves our world.

• Timothy Nevius, discussing views of the exploitation of college athletes.

• Performance by Ted Yoder. The evening will include a Q&A session between host Wagner and Demmings about her talk.

Thursday, Nov. 12, 7 p.m., with host Joshua Stucky

• Dr. Ronald Fletcher, former health director for the state of Ohio, on how the AIDS crisis taught us lessons about the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Kathleen Wiant, discussing the dangers of hazing and bullying, and how it affected her family.

• Ann Puckett, sharing how DIY isn’t about doing it yourself and actually builds community.

• Amy Riegel, discussing affordable housing and how our zip codes define our opportunities.

• Performance by Rodney Veal and Brianna Rhodes. The evening will include a Q&A session between host Stucky and Fletcher about his talk.

Tuesday, Nov. 17, 7 p.m., with host Karen Townsend

• Jacquelyn Wright Palmer, discussing genealogy and her family’s history of enslavement.

• Shomari Payne, discussing the inheritance of poverty.

• Christopher Wyatt, discussing how opioids, overdoses and breathing are connected.

• TEDxYouth@Dayton speakers Dana Clark and Ryann Mescher talk about the non-profit they created to address “period poverty.”

• The evening will include a Q&A session between host Townsend and Palmer to discuss her talk.

Thursday, Nov. 19, 7 p.m., with host Neal Gittleman

• Jodie Mader, talking about how it feels to be a Luddite in a high-tech world.

• Elijah Muhammad, sharing his personal experience with labor trafficking.

• Joshua Montgomery, discussing how building “Star Wars” droids made him a better teacher.

• Charlie Campbell, sharing his personal experience with downsizing and saying goodbye.

• Performance by Jim McCutcheon. The evening will include a Q&A session between host Gittleman and Mader about her talk.

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