TEDxRVA to showcase Richmond’s storytellers

Members of TEDxVCU will speak at the second-annual TEDxRVA conference on March 28. This year’s theme for the conference is “Re_,” which leaves the rest of the phrase for speakers to complete.

Alex Falls
Contributing Writer

TEDxRVA, an event where local professionals and students gather to engage a crowd through storytelling, is returning to Richmond on March 28 with the theme “Re_.”

TEDxRVA is an independent offshoot of TED, a nonprofit organization dedicated to spreading a diverse range of ideas from prominent speakers through the semi-annual TED Conference.

Tommy McPhail, a junior public relations major who is interning for TEDxRVA, said TEDx organizations exist throughout the country and each one is designed to showcase a city’s culture and community in the style of a TED Conference. This is the second time TEDxRVA has organized an event of this kind after last year’s theme “CREATE.” McPhail said this year’s eclectic line-up will provide a show much different than the first.

“I think it’s going to be more thoughtful and more deliberate,” McPhail said. “And definitely more rooted in this idea of who we are, and the Richmond identity.”

The title of the event poses a question: What does “re_” mean exactly? McPhail said the theme is meant to be open-ended in order to promote a theme of collaboration within the Richmond community.

“So it’s, ‘What will you re …underscore, question mark,’ or you could leave it blank as in ‘What will you re_,” McPhail said. “In terms of implying that you put that prefix in for the rest of the word, such as, ‘what will you reread,’ or ‘what will you rewrite?’”

The speakers TEDxRVA has gathered this year come from a diverse range of backgrounds, from local industry professionals to undergraduate VCU students. TEDxRVA has made room for more unconventional topics by opening the floor to poets, a tattoo artist and a mixologist.

VCU sophomore Carmen Jones said she will speak about a topic that has affected her greatly in life.

“I’m going to talk about self-esteem,” Jones said. “Improving our self-esteem as women, and just not being afraid of rejection.”

Jones went on to say the format in which she will deliver her topic will deviate greatly from the traditional TED-style lecture.

“I want to do a free-verse poem,” Jones said. “I didn’t want the typical TED lecture, I wanted to do a different spin on it. It’s not going to be as strict.”

McPhail helped select the event speakers and provided coaching to those who have little-to-no stage experience. He said selecting speakers proved difficult because many local people submitted interesting ideas to share, but the selections were based on this year’s themes of collaboration and engagement.

“Some people had really great stories, but they just weren’t the right fit,” McPhail said. “For others it was like, ‘Wow!’ The community will take value from this. The community needs to hear about this.”

TEDxRVA: Re_ will take place March 28 at the November Theatre in the Virginia Rep Center, at 114 W. Broad St. Tickets are on sale on the TEDxRVA website.

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