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The eight TEDxPlano Speakers and Shannah Hayley (center). All photos by Texas Red Photography.

Bravo! Many audience members gave a standing ovation at the end of the third annual TEDxPlano. The locally organized event stems from TED Talks (read more) known for its mind-stretching forum and think tank that’s turned unique ideas into meaningful answers. Historic Downtown Plano’s Courtyard Theatre was filled with guests Friday, March 25 who were eager to listen and absorb the eight creatively brilliant speeches delivered by individuals from the North Texas area. FWD: Thinking was 2016’s theme, and it did not disappoint.

Shannah Hayley, City of Plano Director of Marketing and Community Engagement, led the night of inspiration that held a focus on ideas that drive vision and possibility. The speakers took to the stage:

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TEDxPlano speaker Melinda Marcus

Melinda Marcus, an award-winning business owner, introduced perfectionism as a hindrance backing up this topic by quoting hockey star Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” If you set a workout goal of an hour but can only complete a 30-minute workout, who cares, half is better than none at all! Melinda told the audience to do away with perfect excuses, take risks and most importantly, shift your thinking from “perfect” to “purpose.” How many shots are you taking?

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TEDxPlano speaker Josh Hart

Josh Hart, President of Red Panda ADR, taught us to rid the negative stereotypes that coincide with the three working generations—Baby Boomers, Generation X-ers and Millennials. The generational gap is often seen within the workplace as an issue, but there are truly a lot of commonalities. To successfully speak to someone from another generation, Josh gave us four tips: 1. Be Real 2. Be Empowering 3. Be Connected and 4. Be Open. Each tip must be handled independently based on age, too. For instance, to empower a Boomer use advancement and accolades (titles); compensation works well with Gen X-ers (money talks); and Millennials just want to feel a part of the team (positive talk).

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TEDxPlano speaker Krithika Iyer

Krithika Iyer, a junior at the IB World School at Plano East Senior High, proved her topic on “Why Young People Are Your Best Investment.” Through the nonprofit she founded, the SmartStart Initiative, she encourages parents to be educators and students to be proactive in their education. Fostering an education in creativity is of much greater importance than having kids cram knowledge and regurgitate it. Krithika supported this theory by citing research that states, “Developing entrepreneurship skills was a better measure of progress than obtaining a PhD.”

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TEDxPlano speaker Kimberly ONeil

Kimberly O’Neil, a social entrepreneur who is also the youngest African American woman to serve as a City Manager in the nation, declared “Voice is your power, your value, your currency.” If everyone paid attention to the voices of others, can you imagine what we could accomplish? No matter race, gender, religion, socio-economic status, “Your voice makes a difference.”

Before intermission, a video by Drew Dudley on the topic “Everyday Leadership” played. “How many of you are completely comfortable with calling yourself a leader?…It’s insane to think we celebrate birthdays (not dying for 365 days) but not the impact another has on our lives?” Share moments with others where they’ve been a leader or game-changer in your life. It’s almost a guarantee they’ll appreciate it and they may even be taken aback.

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TEDxPlano speaker Craig Janssen

Craig Janssen, Managing Director of Idibri, a team of technology designers, theatre consultants and acousticians, discussed the affect game-changers of today have on society. Long gone are game-changers such as communicators, listeners and builders. This day in age, the three game-changers are human connection (social media) where we can connect to the world at a click of a button; crowd intelligence (crowdsourcing) where we can connect to more people with little effort; and machine data (connected devices) where the data drives activity and data drives behavior. All current game-changers fulfill the two things we all need, relationships and engagement.

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TEDxPlano speaker Ramy Mahmood

Ramy Mahmoud, a PISD high-school teacher and lecturer at University of Texas at Dallas, engaged the TEDxPlano crowd on social media, education and what perception looks like based on perfection. People flock to sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Tinder and upload pictures looking for approval, praise and acceptance, turning us into “perfection seekers.” But if the expected attention is not given, we “protect our perception.” Ramy’s Williams High School students had a lesson that taught the majority, ” Sometimes, you can learn to appreciate the other side of an argument, even if you don’t agree.”

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TEDxPlano speaker Diamond Wilson

Diamond Wilson, a writer and poet, presented Stephen Krashen’s Input Hypothesis. The hypothesis is “i+1”, where “i” is knowing where we’re at and the goals we set and “+1” is the next stage of taking risks. In short, “i” is the ‘I can’ and “+1” is the ‘I must stretch.’ “Decide what will be your next +1 and go and get it!”

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TEDxPlano speaker Marquita Burke-De Jesus

Marquita Burke-De Jesus, dancer, writer, speaker and activist, spoke on the power of “the shift” and the power of empathy. Her shift occurred when she became empathetic, rather than sympathetic to girls affected by human trafficking. Marquita established a nonprofit, Silence the Violence, that benefits girls in human trafficking on a global scale and has already accumulated $75,000. “The great thing about the shift is that it’s not some mass pilgrimage, it’s your willingness to think differently. And thinking differently will change the world.”

The three-hour-long TEDxPlano event flew by since the audience was so deep in thought, learning about FWD:Thinking.

What will you do next to move outside of your comfort zone and think big?


Photography by Texas Red Photography.

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Colbea Smith

Colbea Smith is a young professional who grew up in Plano and loves the community she will always consider “home”. She is a proud alumna of Texas State University – Go Bobcats! – who spent most...