TED Talks come to Northrop

The talks included a beard competitor and an information security expert.

Logan Carroll

More than 1,000 people crowded into Northrop last Friday to hear speakers ranging from a beard competitor to a local entrepreneur.
The independent TED event was organized by University of Minnesota students.
The event’s theme, “Re-Awaken,” wasn’t determined beforehand, said Aashin Shah, an economics major and the president of TEDxUMN. She said the group didn’t want to influence what the speakers presented on. 
Rather, when they looked at the speeches, they found that each was connected by the idea of reexamining commonly held beliefs, Shah said. 
“TEDx is about trying to find ideas that we think are worth spreading, ideas that people don’t know about that they should know about,” Shah said.
The event attracted people from across the state, including Britta Hanson, a sophomore at the University of Minnesota-Morris, who drove to the Twin Cities with a friend to attend TEDx.
Hanson said she came because she enjoys watching TED talks online. She didn’t look at the list of speakers before making the more than two-hour drive, she said.
“You have to go to find out how good the speakers are going to be,” she said.
Such speakers included Sona Mehring, who founded a social network to connect ill people with extended family and friends. She used her speech as an opportunity to introduce a hashtag, #sayitforward. 
Mehring said technology has the ability to spread positive feeling. She encouraged the audience to spread happiness through emoji and sending nice tweets to others.
Alex Kleppin, a graduate student at the University, said he attended the event because a friend recommended it to him.
“There’s been a good range of people,” he said. His favorite speaker was Michael Johnson, a beard model and competitor. 
Johnson said during his speech that he lost the first beard competition he entered but realized at an after-party that his beard was his admission ticket. 
His beard has taken him to Austria, landed him national attention by CNN and enabled him to get a job as a Remington For Men spokesman, he said.
“Give yourself the time to grow something unique,” he said, “and adventure can grow under your nose.”