Saturday, 12 April 2014 20:38  /  Industry

TED X Portland

Last weekend I was one of thousands that excitedly filled Keller Auditorium for the inspirational TEDx Portland conference. According to TEDx Portland organizers, Saturday's attendance was just under 3,000 - triple last year's turnout. Fourteen speakers and three performers took center stage from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a Happy Hour opening up onto Keller Fountain Park afterward.

Between a first-class set — complete with a 3D honeycomb display — consistently top-trending Twitter hashtags, and a popular rumor TEDx'ers temporarily brought down Instagram, Saturday's event was one for the books. Here are some of my biggest takeaways from TEDx Portland 2014.


First and foremost - it's NOT ALL TALK. TEDx Portland was one of the most inspirational, mind-blowing conferences I've ever been to.

TED might be known for its lectures, but that's only one facet of what makes the event special. TED itself stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, and Saturday's entertainment more than held up its end of the bargain. By the end of the day, my brain was completely melted with all of the new information, and as I was walking home, I almost felt drunk. More on that later, but true story.

Portland is a Creative Mecca

The people of Portland, the city many of the day's speakers call home, are talented. There's Aaron Draplin, the Detroit-raised designer with a full laugh and even bustier portfolio. Or probably the most courageous story of the entire day was that of Nong Poonsukwattana, owner of "Nong's Khao Man Ghai." A Thai immigrant who moved to America 11 years ago with only $17 to her name, Poonsukwattana's story is one of dedication and persistance. (Plus, her food is pretty unbelievable too, I didn't know it at the time, but it was actually one of the first food carts I ever ate at when I first moved to Portland).


Jackson Gariety

The skilled 17-year-old Portland native who started a coding class at Grant High School before dropping out to focus on his love for computer programming. Gariety, who said Saturday he had aspired to be the next Mark Zuckerberg up until recently, now refers to programming as an art form. To him, "the world of programming can be beautiful," and he wants others to know it too. Honestly, his early insight and entrepreneurial spirit was sort of jaw-dropping - I didn't have a clue as to what the hell I was doing when I was 17.


Frank Moore

Moore deserves a category of his own, and he was probably the most unique speaker of the day. The 91-year-old WWII veteran strode onto the stage proudly wearing his Army uniform, his heart of gold shining right through the fabric. Moore, an Army sergeant who was on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, shared moments of personal tragedy — the passing of his daughter — and stories of the horrors of war, but spoke with a gentle spirit about the love of his life, Jeanne. Frank and Jeanne wed in 1943 and hope to celebrate 75 years of marriage together in "3 or 4 years," according to Frank. Moore also passed on years of wisdom, telling a captivated audience: "there is no impossible dream," "you must work hard at the art of living," and "don't be afraid of receiving love." Moore's time ended with his wife joining him on stage to a standing ovation. The pair lovingly embraced, waving goodbye as they left. To me, above all else, the biggest takeaway from Moore's story was that love conquers all, and without it, the rest really doesn't matter. In a room full of tech visionaries, CEOs, teenage entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, design innovators, creatives and very, very smart people - he confidently said that marrying his best friend was by far his biggest accomplishment.


Al James and the Oregon Ballet Theatre

The smooth sounds of Al James, a singer-songwriter born and raised in Oregon, melded perfectly with the tone of the day. He took the topic of 'Perfect' and applied it to music and his artistic career and basically said that there is no such thing as a perfect song or musician. But, he has come to realize that some of the greatest musicians throughout history all had small yet real imperfections, and so did their music. That reality, and being able to accept it, is what separates the greatest from the greats.


And on top of that, a performance from the Oregon Ballet Theatre came next, with principal dancer Allison Roper and former OBT principal dancer Artur Sultanov sweeping across the floor to Nicolo Fonte's critically acclaimed "Bolero." For me, that was very impressive as I have never seen a performance from the Oregon Ballet Theatre, and Allison Roper came out of an early retirement to perform one last time with Artur Sultanov, so that encore made this performance that much better.


TEDx has grown significantly in the last 4 years, and that will continue.

Early on in the day, TEDx curator and executive producer David Rae polled the audience, asking how many people were at their first TEDx Portland. Hands shot up immediately, reflecting the rapid growth of TEDx in Portland and around the world. TED has been around for 30 years, but TEDx — licensed through TED but organized solely through local channels — is still brand new, launching in 2009. Portland got in on the game early, hosting its first in 2011. Since then, TEDx has exploded in popularity, with more than 9,000 licensed events since its creation, according to Rae. That's an average of eight TEDx events a day worldwide.


Support. Support. Support.

Given this is the fourth go-around for TEDx Portland, it may seem like the event's now a well-oiled machine. But, as Rae said throughout the day Saturday, it wouldn't be possible without the support of the community. TEDx 2014 partnered with dozens of Portland-based agencies, businesses and brands, which was made evident by the endless supply of swag and gift bag-like items handed out to each TEDx attendee.


Absorb. Reflect. Come back down to earth. Do it again next year.

Like I said earlier, at the end of the day, I almost felt drunk with information consumption. So, naturally, enjoying a Whiskey flight at Southland with my lovely lady seemed like an obvious choice to help come down from a full day of inspirational and mind-blowing stories from some of the smartest people on the planet.




Welcome to the MODE 3 blog. Posts include everything from digital and marketing news, trends, ideas and campaigns to thoughts on the industry, client projects and announcements. And occasionally, there are even some funny, random thoughts here and there. Enjoy.

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