Open Mic with Mich Hancock, TEDx


    Click here to win VIP tickets to TEDxGatewayArch’s Ripple Effect:


    Are you a TED-Head?

    Not sure? Well, according to Chris Anderson, the Executive Director of TED, “As of 2015, TED Talks are viewed some 100 million times every month – 1.2 billion times a year.” In other words, there are a ton of TED-Heads.

    TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). It began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages.

    In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TED has created a program called TEDx, where the x indicates a local leader is forming an independently organized TED event for their city. These TEDx organizations started popping up all over the world starting in 2010.

    Here in St. Louis, Steve Sommers and I founded TEDxGatewayArch, and over the last few years we’ve organized numerous events that brought people together to share a TED-like experience. Live speakers and engaging exhibitors combined to spark deep discussion and connection among a diverse group of attendees.

    At TEDxGatewayArch, we believe every individual has the ability to change the world by spreading great ideas. Through recruiting local speakers from different perspectives and backgrounds, we’re creating an inclusive and equitable community of thought leaders in the St. Louis community.

    TEDxGatewayArch all started when Steve Sommers, Licensee and Executive Director of the non-profit, read an article published in Wired magazine (Nov 2012) about the TEDx movement, and decided this was something that St. Louis needed.

    To achieve the required license, however, he needed to attend the TED conference himself, that year in California, to get an idea of how they do it. He was on a plane two months later, and has been working ever since to make a difference in his hometown through TED and it’s ability to foster the cross pollination of ideas and connection.

    Shortly after that California conference, a Facebook message popped up from my friend Bob Sommers. His brother, Steve, was bringing TED to St. Louis and he thought it sounded like something I would want to take part in. I was ecstatic! Steve and I met; we hit it off right away, and hit the ground running to launch TEDxGatewayArch.

    I’ve learned that when you get these inklings, don’t put a story around it. Just be ready for when the opportunity presents itself. I’d felt that TED was going to be a part of my life and was waiting for it to show up.

    Our first large conference was at The Sheldon in December of 2011. Back then we were a very small team, but we totally pulled it off. The thing I was most impressed by was the energy of the event; our team, the attendees, the speakers and exhibitors all came to together and what resulted was a positive, and excited vibe. It felt like St. Louis had been waiting for TED to come to town. We each had numerous roles, Steve was on stage and back stage at the same time producing the show. Our team came together and somehow just knew how to work together and what needed to be filled in when. That first event was such a great success. After we were in a state of awe, but also wondering if we could do so again and again.

    We did! During the last six years, TEDxGatewayArch has produced 4 large conferences and several smaller salon events with nearly 100 speakers presenting. This month, we’ll put on our 5th large conference event on Friday, October 27th, at 5:00 p.m. at the Touhill @UMSL.

    The theme of the event is Ripple Effect – it all starts with a drop. A drop in the bucket, and a hurricane of change. Attendees are invited to join us for an evening of locally sourced, free range ideas. You can engage with the minds impacting our world, and help us explore how ideas might have the capacity to send ripple effects of possibility throughout the St. Louis region. Ripple Effect will also feature innovative tech-based exhibits, creative food offerings and the smartest happy hour in town.

    Last year, TEDxGatewayArch launched the Young Innovators Program, a fellowship program that provides the opportunity for young people ages 16 – 20 to attend the event, free of charge. Due to the overwhelmingly positive response, we’re offering the program this year as well, young innovators are invited to apply online at our TEDxGatewayArch website.

    “Each year we present amazing people, all of whom are connected to St. Louis, and all of whom are doing important work that should be shared,” says Steve. “To be a speaker is to make a commitment, they put a lot of time and work into their talks. We have all the speakers work with COCA Biz to learn how to present, then set them each up with a facilitator that is trained in how to craft a true TED Talk.”

    I am beyond honored that I get to know each of our speakers on a personal level, through interviewing all of the speakers individually on my podcast, MichMash, which can be found on iTunes and SoundCloud. Every speaker has amazing stories, great insight, and interesting perspectives.

    They are purposeful people that live with a great awareness of who they are and why they are here. I am continually inspired by them! One of my favorite parts is ending with a few quirky questions to spark conversation that may not otherwise take place.

    Steve and I wear many hats as co-founders of TEDxGatewayArch, but we are excited that we get to work with an amazing team of individuals that volunteer their time and talent. The TEDxGatewayArch Team includes Casey Epley, Director of Marketing; Elaine Thompson, Director of Speakers; Jeff Leonard, Speaker Selection Committee Lead; Chyna Bowden, Sponsorship Lead; Ebonee Shaw, Director of Event Planning and Management; Tyler Sayer, Marketing Chair and Frankie Gerwitz, Volunteer Lead.

    Steve and I agree we could not make any of this happen without a strong team. We are blessed to have attracted top talent from the area; they embody the vision of TEDxGatewayArch, and are truly passionate about making TED available to the people of St. Louis.

    If you’re still not sure whether you are a TED-Head or not, I’d say a TED-Head is a crazy interesting, always learning, wildly intelligent, forever curious thought leader. They are the individuals that actively seek out the positive and know there is always a better way, and there is always an answer to every human challenge.

    If this is you, we hope to see you at TEDxGatewayArch: Ripple Effect on October 27th!

     HEC-TV is proud to be TEDxGatewayArch’s official media sponsor. When the Ripple Effect speakers take to the stage in October, The Higher Education Channel will be in attendance as the official media sponsor of a multi-year partnership that includes television programing, community involvement and more. You can learn more about TEDxGatewayArch at


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