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Eleven speakers selected for first TEDxMU event

Friday, March 2, 2012 | 5:54 p.m. CST; updated 7:26 p.m. CST, Friday, March 2, 2012

COLUMBIA — For Tim Miles, the prospect of speaking in a group with an astronaut, a Kenyan philanthropist and a minor celebrity among others is a little intimidating. Miles, author of The Daily Blur, has been working in the communications field for 20 years but was still surprised to see his name among the list of TEDxMU speakers.

Miles is one of 11 people chosen to speak at the first TEDxMU event on April 14.

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He has a son who has autism, a communication disorder, and he plans to speak about how much his son has taught him.

"The great irony of that is that I’m in the communications business, and I’ve learned more from him in the last five or six years than I learned in the first 10 or 12 years in my profession," Miles said.

Like the other speakers, Miles is a fan of TED and is excited for the chance to be involved with TEDx.

TED is a nonprofit organization that aims to promote "ideas worth spreading" and holds two major events each year: the TED conference each spring in Long Beach, Calif., and TEDGlobal each summer in Edinburgh, Scotland. TEDx is a program of independent, locally organized events, such as the one that will be held at MU.

People who want to attend the event must apply online at tedx.missouri.edu, and the audience will be limited to 100 people. Curtis Roller, one of the students organizing the event, said people can also watch the talks at satellite sites. The Shack at the MU Student Center will be one of the alternate viewing venues.

Each speaker has a maximum time of 18 minutes, though most will probably take 10 to 12 minutes, Roller said. 

The speeches will be filmed and put on TED's YouTube channel. The TEDxMU theme is "innovation through collaboration."

About 60 people applied to speak at TEDxMU, and 11 were chosen:

  • Emily Eldridge— CEO at Pure and co-founder of The Agency Post
  • Wade Foster — founder of Zapier.com
  • Linda Godwin — astronaut
  • Wilfred Kiboro — Kenyan media innovator and philanthropist
  • Karl Kochendorfer — doctor, assistant professor of clinical family and community medicine at MU
  • Francesco Marconi — student and innovator
  • Tim Miles — advertising leader, author of The Daily Blur, autism advocate
  • Dan Oshinsky — RJI Fellow at MU, founder of Stry
  • Doug Pitt — founder of Care to Learn and humanitarian
  • Jack Schultz — director of the Bond Life Sciences Center, professor of plant sciences
  • Jim Spencer — founder of Newsy

Oshinsky said when he saw that TEDx was coming to MU, he jumped at the chance to give a little back to a community that has inspired him for so long. He said his speech is "different."

"It will make more sense when people see the talk, but it’s largely about the band U2 and the song 'Elevation', which I’m pretty sure is a TED first," Oshinsky said. "I don’t think they’ve ever had a Bono-themed TED talk."

He is still in the process of putting words to his outline.

"Hopefully when I get up on stage in a month it will also make sense," Oshinsky said. "Hopefully I will bring justice to U2 and their ability to make awesome things." 

During Eldridge's time on the TED stage, she plans to speak about collaboration among different personality types. According to the Myers-Briggs personality test, she is an introverted and very rational person. She said she doesn't get along very well with people who are feelings-oriented or detailed, but in collaboration, it is this mixing of personality types that is especially effective.

"Ultimately, the best results come out of bringing people with different mindsets to the table," Edridge said.

Pitt, who is not only the founder of Care to Learn, but the brother of actor Brad Pitt, will speak about merging business and charity. He said the model at Care to Learn is a good one, and he is happy to share that story.

For Miles, speaking about such a personal issue — his son's autism — will be difficult, but he thinks TEDx is a good environment for it.

"TED seemed like the perfect forum to talk about a subject that matters and how we can all learn to connect more powerfully with one another — how we can all separate the truly important things from what we see as the day to day urgent stuff," Miles said.

Although he knows what his speech is about, he hasn't written it yet. He will be blogging about the experience, from the brainstorming to actual bits of the script, on The Daily Blur.

Miles said he has spoken to as many as 1,500 people on one occasion, and as long as four hours on another occasion, but the prospect of speaking for such a limited amount of time in front of a smaller audience is much more frightening. Every word has to count.


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