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Life Behind the Scenes at TEDxKC

5 Questions With VML's Grace Gabel and Jamie Beard Before Friday's Main Event

Two girls sit down in front of a TEDxKC sign indoors. Community Outreach liaison, Grace Gabel, left, and Social Media Coordinator, Jamie Beard, work side-by-side in preparation for Friday’s TEDxKC event at the Kauffman Center. (Photo: Daniel Boothe | Flatland)
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It was more than three decades ago that Richard Saul Wurman, an American architect and graphic designer, envisioned a conference that explored the convergence of technology, entertainment and design.

Debuting in 1984, the first TED Conference was a financial flop. Yet the concept eventually took off and has exploded into a global nonprofit organization with headquarters in New York City and Vancouver, British Columbia.

The first conferences were invitation-only affairs in Monterey, California. Yet several years in, the organizers broadened the scope to include local affairs — affixed with an “x” to indicate they are independently organized.

And Friday evening marks the eighth installment of TEDxKC, which will bring a diverse set of presenters to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. The event sold out in minutes, but for the first time in its history, TEDxKC is providing real-time streaming from this site.

TED’s mission of “ideas worth spreading” remains as straightforward as ever, and just as the organization has evolved over the years, the means to carry out that mission have expanded into areas that were the making of science fiction back when Wurman first hatched his idea.

To get an idea of how some of these newfangled positions fit into the overall picture, Flatland sat down with Jamie Beard, social media coordinator, and Grace Gabel, who is responsible for community outreach.

As the social media coordinator, Jamie can you give me an overview of what your job entails?

I act as the mediator between the planning team and the public. Ensuring that the public is up to date with speaker information, timing, and ticket availability… We want the audience to engage with the event before, during and after.

Grace, your official title is community engagement, however, that really doesn’t encompass your responsibilities. Can you tell me about your position and how closely you work alongside Jamie?

I will be at the Kauffman in the morning helping set up, but in the evening, before the doors open, is when I will start fully engaging with the audience, speakers and planning team. I expect to be at the Kauffman Center until well past the Act III after party. There are several experiences that we will be covering during the event, and I’ll need to be in several places at once, so I’ll have an assistant the night of to ensure that we capture everything. There will be many surprises. One of the most unique is for those in the simulcast theater, [who] will not only experience a live stream of the speakers, but will also have exclusive performances that no one else will.

The Tedx mission, according to the website, comes down to one thing: “How can we best spread great ideas?” Jamie, can you expound on the avenues and tactics you use on social media to achieve that purpose? I assume it is more than just tweeting a great quote from a speaker, however I am sure that is done as well.

We want to spread the TEDx mission statement through all social avenues, whether that is a speaker quote or reflecting on this year’s TEDxKC talks. We want those who engage with our page to further share and engage with their friends to spread the message of sharing great ideas. We hope to create a chain reaction conversation, especially this year with our theme, “Question Everything.” We always try to surprise and delight our attendees, so we are constantly coming up with unique experiences and talks for them to explore.

Of course, the politically correct response is “all of them,” but is there a speaker that you both are looking forward to most?

Jamie: This is a very long journey for all of the speakers, and our theme may challenge them to think about their topic of expertise differently, or they may be presenting new work exclusively for our audience. I’m most excited about Stephanie Shonekan. She will be exploring privilege, which is an incredibly interesting and timely topic, and she’s a professor at my alma mater. MIZ!

GRACE: Rupi Kaur is the speaker that I’m most looking forward to. She’s been extremely inspirational to me since I first discovered her in 2014. She’s an artist who uses her gift of words to inspire others to be strong and empowered like her.

TedxKC live and simulcast tickets are sold-out, however there are still watch party tickets available here.

— Daniel Boothe is a reporter for Kansas City PBS. To reach Boothe, email him at dboothe@kcpt.org.

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