Photo by Layna Hendrich of PhotographyLayn

Saturday, October 5, 2013

TEDx Central Wyoming College

I had the most amazing experience speaking at the TEDx event at Central Wyoming College in Riverton this past Wednesday. I had heard about TED Talks briefly before, but didn't really know a lot about them until I was approached about this opportunity. If you would like to know more about the organization, you can visit their website here.

I drove down to Riverton Tuesday night and checked in to my hotel. Dress rehearsal began at 10:00 Wednesday morning. When I arrived, I got to meet the awesome staff that I had been emailing and conference calling in the weeks prior to the event, as well as the other speakers. We ran through our speeches while working on timing, lighting, and other aspects of a stage production. After lunch I went to the public library (my all-time favorite place to hang out when I'm away from home), put my feet up in a comfy chair, and read for a few hours before we had to be back to get ready for the evening.

The night in Riverton was an independent ("x") event hosted by the CWC Workforce Development & Training office, and the theme was "Innovation: Bringing Ideas to Life." Ted Talks are different than other speaking events; they encourage an informal setting, with speakers addressing the audience like they were talking to a group of friends. Presenters come up on to the stage from seats in the audience, and they are encouraged to mingle and visit with attendees before the event, during intermission, and after the event. There were several speakers, and I will give you a brief bio on each, as well as a summary their topic.

The first speakers were a trio of young men who are currently making a film, Far From Home, based on the life of their friend, Brolin Mawejje, who came to the US from Uganda when he was 12 years old. Brolin faced incredible odds and is now working towards a doctorate in Neuro-Oncology at Westminster College. Additionally, he is also training to represent Uganda in the 2018 Winter Olympics in snowboarding; he will be the first person from his home country to participate in this event.

Galen Knowles, Director, Philip Hessler, Producer, and Adam Schellenberg, Producer, were amazing speakers- and they are so professional for being so young (Although Adam thinks I am old enough to have a 18-year old daughter. Adam, if you are reading this, I am still seriously considering putting tire tracks up your back :) ). Their presentation of this film, as well as Brolin's story, made me definitely want to follow their progress and see and support this documentary when it premiers next year. 

The next speaker, Maxwell Wessel, is a genius. After reading his bio, I had two thoughts. The first was that I was way out of my league speaking at an event with this guy. My second thought was that no one that intelligent would be able to hold my attention for long because everything he said would be way over my head. Thankfully, my second thought was wrong. (The verdict is still out on my first thought. I haven't seen the full playback of my speech yet...)

Maxwell spoke on innovation and failure, and why the creation of new, brilliant ideas are often not repeated. He used understandable examples and gave us all great tips on how to be fresh and innovative while pursuing our ideas. Very informative and held my attention- I felt smarter just being in his presence. Osmosis? Fingers crossed...

The final speaker before intermission was one of my personal favorites, Anne Even. I loved Anne for many reasons, but mostly because she was the only other female speaker, because she is a Mom of twins, and because she is a Tough Mudder. If you don't know anything about these events, you have got to check out their website. She's amazing.

Anne talked about labels and forcing yourself outside of your comfort zone. She was always labeled as a "non-athlete," a title she has completely obliterated. Anne was real and open and honest, and she was the only speaker that made me cry, which is a big deal for me. She was inspiring that night because she was completely outside of her own comfort zone speaking at the event, and it really made me take a look at my own life and challenged me to push the boundaries on my comfort levels. I may just have to look in to this Tough Mudder thing...

After intermission, I spoke. I usually don't get nervous when I speak, but something about this event had my stomach in knots. I don't know if it was the other amazing speakers, the time limit, or the cameras, but I was a hot mess while I waited in the wings with my student ambassador, Amber (who was an amazing assistant all night!). But something happened when I was introduced and got out on stage. I think it was a mix of peace that only could have come from the Lord (thank you to my friends and family who were praying for me!), the incredibly receptive, amazing audience, and the knowledge that the sooner I got out there the sooner I would be out of the spotlight! Either way, I felt good about how it went, and once the video is available, I will post the link for those who want to watch it.

Jason Kintzler was up next. Jason is the Founder and CEO of PitchEngine, a website that gets ideas out to the world. This platform completely transformed how PR departments share information. The best part is that Jason's company was founded and remains right here in Wyoming. How great is that?

Jason spoke about attainable innovation, and how we all have the ability within ourselves to make a difference in the world. He also talked about community and shared stories about the impact we can make when we have the vision and courage to push boundaries and innovate.

The final speaker of the evening was John Kanengieter. John has many years of experience training on leadership and team work- he has even worked with the astronauts at NASA! He is one of those guys that just exudes calmness- I wish he had spoken right before me!

John talked to us about taking risks with our minds, our hearts, and ourselves through showing kindness to others.  Only through taking a risk can we innovate and grow. By living our lives without a safety net, we can experience true relationships with those around us. He continually asked the question, "When is the last time you took a real risk?" It was very thought-provoking and a great way to end the evening.

I can't forget the MC for the night, Chris Jones. Chris is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Riverton, and he was perfect for the job of host for the event. He was funny, he put the speakers at ease, and he had a great rapport with the audience. We all loved Chris!

After the event was over, we were given a final opportunity to talk to people in the lobby. I was able to speak with a 12-year old girl who had come to the event after her Dad read about it in the paper. She was excited to learn about coming up to Cody next year to hunt with Wyoming Disabled Hunters. We are going to have a lot of female representation in the 2014 hunt!

I am so grateful and humbled to have been a part of this extraordinary event. It is definitely something I will never forget. As I mentioned before, as soon as the video becomes available, I will share the link with everyone.

Speakers at the TEDx CentralWyomingCollege event gathered for a group photo afterwards. (Ernie Over photo)

I am leaving next week for my bull elk hunt. I will hopefully have something exciting to blog about when I return!


  1. That's soooo cool. I LOVE Ted talks, they are so informative.
    And that last speaker is so right, you definitely do grow and change through taking risks and sometimes those risks turn out to be the greatest thingss you do! (this is a silly example but I remember being so scared to go skydiving, so I made myself do it for my 25th and I LOVED it. When we landed I felt like I could do anything after that! It was so empowering, oddly. And then of course taking the risk to quit my job and move to Russia. That one was scary too and it's turned out to be SO amazing. I still can't believe I get to do this...) Ahhh life, it's so fun. =) Can't wait to see your talk!!!

  2. Thank you! It really was an amazing experience. And the risk question hit home to me too! We use so many excuses to stay inside our comfort zones- makes me wonder about all of the amazing things we miss out on because of fear!