Click the links below for more information about the most common questions we receive.
TEDxDirigo was co-founded in 2010 by Michael Gilroy and Dean Merrill as a world-class platform to celebrate innovation and creativity in Maine. In the same spirit of the state motto, TEDxDirigo leads the way with ideas from Maine’s brightest innovators and changemakers. Our goal is for TEDxDirigo to be a catalyst for positive change in the state and world, where new ideas are supported for the greater good of all. Through the popular and effective TED Talk format, we have inspired hundreds of live audience members and hundreds of thousands online across the globe.
In 2010 we brought “ideas worth spreading” to Maine and broadened our Frontier of what’s possible with our inaugural event. In 2011, we gave our presenters and guests the freedom to explore the world and their passions with Latitudes. Now in 2012 we have brought even more world-class events to Maine, including our first ever speaker tryouts, a special spring Engage event, and our signature fall event, Villages.
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. (Subject to certain rules and regulations.)
TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Started as a four-day conference in California 25 years ago, TED has grown to support those world-changing ideas with multiple initiatives. The annual TED Conference invites the world’s leading thinkers and doers to speak for 18 minutes. Their talks are then made available, free, at TED.com. TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Al Gore, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Nandan Nilekani, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Isabel Allende and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The annual TED Conference takes place each spring in Long Beach, California, along with the TEDActive simulcast in Palm Springs; the annual TEDGlobal conference is held each summer in Edinburgh, Scotland.
TED’s media initiatives include TED.com, where new TEDTalks are posted daily, the recently launched TED-Ed platform for students and educators, the Open Translation Project, which provides subtitles and interactive transcripts as well as the ability for any TEDTalk to be translated by volunteers worldwide, and TEDBooks, short e-books by speakers that elaborate on a single idea originally presented on TED’s stage. TED has established the annual TED Prize, where exceptional individuals with a wish to change the world are given the opportunity to put their wishes into action; TEDx, which offers individuals or groups a way to host local, self-organized events around the world, and the TED Fellows program, helping world-changing innovators from around the globe to become part of the TED community and, with its help, amplify the impact of their remarkable projects and activities.
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A Maine Idea Worth Spreading has a significant connection to Maine, provides an innovative contribution to a field, or enhances the quality of life in our state and beyond. It’s the kind of idea that promotes integrity, celebrates humanity, and expresses human beauty.
It’s the kind of idea that gets you thinking and keeps you talking.
TEDxDirigo operates under the fiscal agency of the The Humanity Institute and is covered by their 501(c)(3) status.
No. While we operate under a license from TED and are intimately involved with the ecosystem that is TED, including with TEDx organizers around the world, TEDxDirigo is a volunteer-based initiative.
Yes, everyone on the organizing team is a volunteer and has been since TEDxDirigo was launched three years ago—from the people that produce our events, design our advertisements, coach our speakers, send our emails, and maintain our website. Starting in June 2012, a foundation grant has provided Adam Burk, the Executive Director, with part-time support to continue his work in organizational development and capacity building.
Part of our intention with our TEDxDirigo conferences is to recreate the TED conference experience at the local level, so we’ve adopted some of their practices—like the practice of requesting an invitation. This creates a common threshold for everyone entering the event and helps to ensure that our limited seats go to people who are committed to being there.
When you request an invitation, you also have a chance to tell us what you are hoping to get out of the event—the kinds of conversations you are interested in having and the kinds of questions you have been thinking about lately. This gives us a sense of who will be in the room, and helps us—and you—to create a fast track to more meaningful conversations throughout the day of the event.
We want to create an intentional, diverse community of people who are reflective, active, and engaged—a community that will extend beyond the day of the event. Requesting an invitation to attend is the first step in making that happen.
Okay, I think I might be interested in attending. What’s involved in the process of “requesting an invitation”?
We hope that the process of requesting an invitation will provide a good opportunity for self-reflection—we want to learn about you, what you have been working on and thinking about, and what you hope to gain from a TEDxDirigo experience. If you are open, curious, actively engaged in trying to improve your life and the lives of those around you, or on the cusp of an idea, innovation, or realization, then please take a moment and tell us about what you’ve been up to. Please do start the process early, though, because each TEDxDirigo event to date has sold out. We look forward to hearing from you.
When we refer to “curating” an event, we are basically referencing the same values that are inherent in the process of requesting an invitation to attend the event—being thoughtful and intentional about the experience. We ask you to be intentional about why you want to come and what you hope to get out of the day; likewise, we are intentional about every aspect of the day—from the tangible elements of the day like the physical space of the event and the food to the thematic elements of the day like speaker selection and the cross-section of ideas that they represent. The funny thing about the way we curate our events, though, is that what we are actually aiming for with all of our specificity and intentionality is randomness—the kinds of random collisions of people, ideas, and conversations that make you wonder if there isn’t really a little bit of magic in the world after all.
Anyone can nominate himself or herself (or anyone else) at any time, and we look at every nomination that comes in. For Engage and for our upcoming Villages event, we also held live tryouts. Tryouts are run on a first come, first served basis, with potential speakers signing up to give a TED-like talk in three minutes or less. The audience selects one person from the tryouts to be featured on stage at the next event.
At any point we’re working from a list of more than 150 potential presenters, and we use that list to generate shortlists that are reviewed by the internal team (specifically by Adam Burk, Janice O’Rourke, Michael Gilroy, and Alex Petroff), as well as by a cross section of experts across the state.
We look for speakers who deserve a bigger audience—the outliers and the relatively unknown. We also look for people who are well established in their field, but maybe have a new take on a familiar idea that’s especially timely. We look for speakers and ideas that have a significant connection to Maine, but we don’t want to become overly insular, so we’re considering the idea of inviting a few speakers from outside the state, too. Really, though, what we look for is that visceral reaction that gets you in the gut and leaves you saying, “Wow. That’s an incredible idea.”
TEDxDirigo operates as a nonprofit. All of the proceeds from each event go back into producing the event itself—and if there is money left over, it goes into producing the next event. The actual cost of a ticket is upwards of $700, but we work to bring down the ticket cost through our volunteer team and event sponsors.
Besides the day of the event itself, our intention is also to connect you to the larger TEDxDirgo community through contact sharing, post-event lunches, potlucks, and coffee chats, and early bird registration opportunities for upcoming TEDxDirigo events.
A day at a TEDxDirigo event is meant to be exceptional. We put on a world-class event with a high production value because we want to tell the stories of Maine in the best way possible. We believe in the value of what we offer at our events—right down to the last crumb of our locally sourced and unusually good lunches.
Yes, we do. So far, we have never had to deny any attendee a scholarship. We are committed to providing scholarships for those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend.