TEDxYDL: 'Invent. Create. Change.'

TED talks — Technology, Education, Design — are an international phenomenon where speakers share big ideas in short, inspiring speeches. TEDxYDL (Ypsilanti District Library) is an independently organized event in the spirit of TED talks. The audience hears from local speakers on a variety of topics around the theme "Invent. Create. Change."

Advanced Planning

Our goals for TEDxYDL were to hold a unique finale for an interactive STEM exhibit we were hosting (Discover Tech: How Engineers Make a World of Difference), raise awareness about what Ypsilanti folks are doing in the community and globally to change this world, and connect these problem-solvers with each other.

We began planning in November 2015 and partnered with the academic library at our local university, Eastern Michigan University (EMU). We quickly determined that their new auditorium was the perfect place to hold the event.

The first hurdle to overcome was submitting an application to TED that met their approval. We also had to find a video team to film the event, per TED's specifications, and then edit it for uploading to TED's website. The cost for that part of the event turned out to be higher than we expected, but our partners came through to help defray a portion.

We appealed to the Ypsi community for speakers and received many applications; however, some did not meet the theme of "Invent. Create.Change." and others proved to have little experience with public speaking. It was a challenge to find quality speakers who had interesting ideas to share. We did find 10 top-notch speakers, though, who spoke on topics ranging from developing robotics at the local middle school to open-source design in third-world countries.

It was also a challenge to fill the auditorium with exactly 100 attendees, per TED's rules for a library TEDx event. There were so many "little" tasks to complete ahead of the event itself: developing a logo, printing name badges, assembling the swag bags, ordering food to sustain the speakers during the event and much more. We also partnered with our local Toastmasters group to groom the speakers, which was very successful.


We promoted this event on our library's website and social media platforms, including creating a Twitter handle solely for TEDxYDL. We also highlighted the event in our award-winning brochure, Latitudes. We connected with our partners in the community and asked them to promote the event as well. We were thrilled to see a lot of non-library users show up for the event.


We spent about $4,000 overall. The videography was around $3,000, and that was meeting the bare minimum of TED's requirements. The rest of the money was spent on swag for attendees and staging of the event. To cut costs, I recommend seeing if the film crew would donate their services or cut their fees in half.

Day-of-event Activity

We held a last-minute rehearsal for the speakers, with the film crew on site to plan lighting and sound. We decorated the stage. There also was a lot of shuffling around for our digital registration as people who couldn't attend wanted to give their ticket to a friend who could. We had three staff members from the library on site as well as numerous staff members from the location, EMU University Library.

Program Execution

TEDxYDL, our first TEDx event, was a success. We had 9 speakers (originally there were 10, but one canceled at the last-minute due to illness) and more than 85 people attended.

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, from our partners, to the attendees. Many audience members asked us to hold regular TEDx events in the future. Ultimately, it was the perfect cap to an amazing three months of STEM programming, community engagement and education revolving around the STAR_Net/ALA exhibit, Discover Tech: How Engineers Make a World of Difference.


If you're interested in holding a TEDx event, you should definitely do so! The TED staff is amazingly helpful and the process, while lengthy, is clear. The TED brand is really compelling and will often bring new users to your library. I'd recommend trying to find speakers before you apply to TEDx. That will boost your application, and you won't have to scramble around trying to locate top-notch speakers in your community.

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