TEDx will be arriving in Memphis this weekend, and it's all thanks to a high school senior.
Patton Orr, a senior at Memphis University School, has been interested in TED Talks — which stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design — since he was a freshman. And now Orr is the brain behind launching a Memphis version, which will feature multiple monologues of 18-minutes or less on one particular topic, on Saturday, August 29th.
The one-day TEDx event will feature entrepreneur Kimbal Musk, hip-hop artist Marco Pavé, Memphis Grizzlies President of Business Operations Jason Wexler, Church Health Center CEO Dr. Scott Morris, New Ballet Ensemble founder Katie Smythe and 12 others, ranging from backgrounds of education and art to business and nonprofit. TEDxMemphis is sold out, but the event will be available to watch online around September 7th.
Orr's sister, who attends the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, attended a TED conference and eventually went on to work in their TEDx program, which helps independent organizers create a TED-like speaker event in their own cities.
Orr became curious about the organization and its events. He found himself looking at a map of TEDx offerings and saw a hole.
"To me, it looked like Memphis was really the largest market in the United States still remaining without a TEDx event," he said. "So instead of waiting around for someone to organize that, I decided to do it myself."
After Orr got into the process, he realized he couldn't do TEDx justice if he continued alone.
"I'm only 18 years old," he said. "I soon realized if I tried to control this conference myself or be the sole person trying to organize it, it was just not going to be the kind of large event that could really impact the city the way I wanted it to."
Ownership over the event wasn't important to him, Orr said. Anna Mullins, the director of marketing and communications from the New Memphis Institute, attended the early committee meetings and stepped in at the request of Orr. The New Memphis Institute focuses on attracting and retaining local talent.
TEDx events usually have an overarching theme. TEDxMemphis' theme this year is "What's Next?"
"The ideas are typically thought-provoking, innovative, provocative in some way," Mullins said. "They've become very diverse in their topics. There are really popular talks that are three minutes long that talk about tying your shoes, and there are talks that are 18 minutes long that talk about food scarcity globally."
"We really see this as an opportunity for ideas to converge and challenge one another," Mullins said. "Hopefully, it'll spark discussion."
"So many people, and teenagers especially, are always saying, 'Get me out of Memphis,'" Orr said. "It just makes me sad. I love to see when people take pride in our city, when people share ideas with each other, when people showcase the positives in Memphis, because there are so many. There are so many great things happening here, especially within the last couple of years."