Slate of 2020 speakers introduced at TEDx preview
Story by Mike Kilen
Photos by Gillian Rea
GCU News Bureau
At their best, TED talks can be enlightening. But for Grand Canyon University senior Justin McLean, organizing them has been life-changing.
McLean could give students his own talk on what it meant to be the leader of a 40-person crew of students who put on Arizona’s only student-run TED event.
“It’s really grounded in learning to be a leader of people,” he said. “For me, it’s influencing and encouraging students to grow in whatever way they want to grow – operation, marketing, speaker curation or production. It’s its own little business and gives students some real-world experience.
“That’s what it did for me. I’m blessed with some opportunities, and it all came back to TED.”
McLean said the TED experiences led to a job even before his graduation this April with a degree in Business Management. He starts work in the Twin Cities in May as a technical project manager at a tech company.
“The TED talk piece is the event, but really it is the hours, weeks and months we spent learning to work as an organization,” he said. “It’s tough to pull all the pieces together, but it’s taught me a lot about project management, it’s taught me how in the real world that business functions, and it’s helped me land the internship as a sophomore at a technology company that turned into a real opportunity.”
He said he learned business writing, pitching to executives and being part of a team.
“A lot of people sit in a school and they study, and they wait to graduate to get that,” he said. “TEDx is like this special door that opened that experience to us.”
McLean opened that door to students who attended the preview event, where GCU student Caleb Duarte did talk-show-like interviews with the speakers, picked by the GCU team from hundreds of applications.
“We found in years past that people love the talks but get little chance to know the speakers,” said McLean. “The majority are from Phoenix and are homegrown. When they come to the main event, they feel like they know the speaker.”
This year’s speakers will talk about everything from changing the business world through selfless service to believing in yourself.
GCU’s TEDx event is one of many independently managed conferences authorized by TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design), a nonprofit with a mission to spread ideas.
It’s a feather in the cap of speakers who get to share their take on life and business.
“A lot of people genuinely have a message they think will impact the world,” McLean said.
Steven Owens, Vice President of Content Creation who will be next year’s president, said it’s all about sharing ideas.
“It’s sitting down and listening to these people with an open mind and giving them five or 10 minutes just to teach your something, right? I think that is super cool to be a part of, especially as a 20-year-old in college when TED talks are these big events.”
McLean said leading the organization taught him the value of having a good team. “Without a team that gets after it and gets it done, there is no way this happens.”
They collaborated to come up with the theme for this year’s talks — “In Plain Sight.”
McLean said it’s all about authenticity, stripping down ideas to the essentials in talks that range from six or seven minutes to 18, though most are on the shorter end of that scale.
“We wanted to pull from the Phoenix community all different professions, all different backgrounds of cultural knowledge and experiences, and really give them a night to forget about life and listen to some really cool ideas, while putting away preconceived notions, putting away biases. Let’s explore the world in front of us and the ideas that grow right here in our community.”
Sponsors and students were teased with those stories Tuesday night and ended up hanging around to talk more afterward with the speakers, who are:
- J.A. Plosker, author of “The Nobody Bible”;
- Rian Doris, who will explore the misunderstood concept of leverage;
- Jonathan Keyser, who will talk about changing the business world through selfless service;
- Andy Maurer, who will discuss how “whole” leaders change the world for the better;
- Jessica Brubaker, who will show how to believe you are enough and treat yourself that way, and;
- Alison Hadden, who will talk about overcoming and faith.
Performers include Tia Penny, an 11-year-old who sings and plays guitar, and Mario Garcia, who specializes in painting and calligraphy.
Tickets for the TEDx event on Feb. 21 at Ethington Theatre are available here.
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.