x = independently organized TED event

Theme: Unzipped

This event occurred on
April 11, 2014
9:00am - 4:30pm EDT
(UTC -4hrs)
Greenville, SC
United States

TEDxGreenville was the first independently organized TEDx event in South Carolina. It all started in 2010 when a diverse, passionate group of TED enthusiasts from around the community came together with the singular goal of bringing an educational and inspirational TED-like experience to Upstate residents.

After many months of hard work and more than a few late night planning and brainstorming sessions, TEDxGreenville 2010 launched to a sold-out crowd at CU-ICAR. The result: a brain-teasing, inspiration-filled, day-long event unlike anything Greenville has ever experienced… and TEDxGreenville was born.

Now in its fifth year, the TEDxGreenville movement is igniting passions and building bridges like never before, while highlighting the incredible people and organizations that make the Upstate of South Carolina one of the best places to live on the planet. Yep, we said it.

UNZIPPED. Our 2014 annual conference theme has broad meanings that effortlessly apply to TED and TEDx ideals. Like opening up to new ideas and experiences. Letting go of restrictive masks or emotions. Revealing an epiphany previously hidden. Shedding confining stereotypes and fears. Peeling back layers to discover the heart of a challenge. When we are “unzipped,” intrinsic creative qualities such as wonder, enchantment, exploration, play, and delight emerge naturally. We readily pursue passions. And differences in attitudes, appearance, and lifestyle matter less… or not at all. Existing and thinking differently becomes natural and accepted.

Kroc Center
420 Westfield Street
Greenville, SC, 29601
United States
Event type:
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Speakers may not be confirmed. Check event website for more information.

Melisa Holmes

How old were you when your parents relayed the dreaded birds-and-the-bees talk? How did it go? A physician, associate professor, and mother of three, Melisa Holmes provides a somewhat startling vision to help make the process easier and more meaningful – at the ripe old age of eight. That's right. Eight. And why not? We all really start wondering where we come from and how it all works when we’re in grade school. Her genius: talk to them before they hear about it on the playground. Let them hear it from you as a parent. That way, you can help communicate the wonder and awe of life-making before your child gets bombarded with the crass and harsh R-rated world of teens.

John DesJardins

Patients are granted renewed hope and vigor with medical implants born in Clemson University’s Bioengineering Department. John DesJardins tells us about the growing number of total knee replacements, and how things can go wrong due to infections or other complications. This may result in a hard choice for patients — be wheelchair bound, have the knee fused so it doesn’t bend, or amputation. A very tough choice, indeed. He then reveals how researchers at Clemson invented a new knee implant that allows a fourth, more functional, option. It’s not a fully functional knee, but allows the patient to lock and unlock the fused knee for greater comfort and convenience. Looking into the future, he sees more and more functional prostheses, where patients will be able to adjust their ‘bionics’.

Jody Servon

Jody Servon doesn’t go into the studio by herself to create works of her own imaginings. Her art is woven by the people she meets, connecting within clever scenarios that spur insight and humor. An associate professor at Appalachian State, she tells us about one project which she's conducted 12 times at different locations in the country. How does it work? She sets up a spot with a sign proclaiming "Dreams for Free." Passers-by learn that Jody will give them a lottery ticket if they simply write down what they would do with the lottery winnings should they get lucky. The project, which ultimately involved 600 people, is all about how to give people hope, to give someone pause — to do something that will interrupt their everyday. It’s a powerful message about connecting with people, being genuine with strangers, and getting people to dream beyond the moment.

Jacob Johnson

Blending and blurring the lines of genres, this energetic performer crafts a unique vibe that grabs you and take you on a rockin’ ride. Jacob Johnson quips that he’s a musician, and not used to ‘the single digit’ hours of the day, but quickly kicks it into high gear, expertly strumming and thumping his guitar. He even played a love song to his favorite ‘lady,' his six string. When he walks on stage, he immediately engages with the audience; when he walks off ten minutes later, it's to wildly enthusiastic applause.

Marie Majorais Smith

“Are you comfortable in your seats?" Marie Majarais Smith asks the audience upon hitting the stage. "I hope so. Because after this talk, you won’t be.” This passionate human rights advocate relates a shocking true story of abuse, brutal beating, and rape. We learn that it happened in retaliation for the woman reporting her husband for abuse, and that the retaliation was by her husband’s family. Horrifying stuff, but that's not all. With a tense and dramatic build-up, we learn that the woman is an undocumented resident — a resident of Greer, South Carolina. This heinous crime took place not in a third world country but just a few miles from where the TEDxGreenville audience sat. The woman did not get legal assistance or adequate medical help. “In a country that prides itself in law and order, liberty, and justice…she received none,” says Marie. “If we believe as a community in human rights, we need to stand up for rights of others right here in our community. There are no humans that are more human than the next person.”

Chauncey Beaty

A poetic, illuminating twist on family relationships, Chauncey Beaty's talk may just spur an insightful, more deeply rewarding bond with your own parents. This life coach and poet shares a story of moving back home as an adult to live with her mother, forcing the two to confront all their residual baggage. She introduces us to 'daughtering’ (or ‘sonning’), which is the act of releasing your parents from the unreasonable expectations that you had as a child.

Paul McAvinney

The inventor of optical touch screen technology peers into the future and provides a glimpse of the next generation of human/computer interface. Paul McAvinney saw up close much of the development of technology that we live with today. He was a pioneer in multi-touch screen technology, something we all take for granted as we use our smart devices. Clearly, Paul not only is a technical wizard, but also has a very creative side — even inventing a musical instrument called the video harp. He introduces us to exoskeletons, but cautions us that useful information resides in humans, not in computers.

David Benedict

This young musician pushes musical boundaries by mingling rich, aural traditions with a sensitivity of style that’s soulful, clear, and beautiful. Accompanied by guitarist Sterling Abernathy, David Benedict takes the stage and wows the audience with mandolin and guitar compositions of his own creation.

Conrad Ma

Born and raised in China, this young beatbox and sound effects pro brings a little hip, edgy, interactive fun to the stage. You’ll be amazed by this art form which, Conrad says, represents the infinite potential of human voice. He uses his voice to belt out rhythms and sounds that simply stupefy. Conrad gets the audience going by urging everyone to repeat his sounds. This works up to a point, and it demonstrates just how difficult the sounds are to produce. Ultimately, he makes seven sounds with his mouth and the mic, slowly adding them, one by one, until they were all layered together in a grand finale.

Joey Obermann

A walking encyclopedia about light and how it influences the human brain, Joey Obermann explains how the quality of light affects quality of life. This electrical design engineer relates that light is something that affects our lives in ways that we can barely perceive, giving examples of how different kinds of light make us feel and act. Something we can all relate to these days is sitting in front of computer and mobile device screens. The eerie blue glow our technology tools create is similar to the light of dawn, so sitting in front of screens right before we go to bed is not good for our quality of sleep. He demonstrates how to change iPhone screens to an intensity more conducive to pre-sleep.

Caroline Caldwell

Did you know that states base the number of prison cells they need on the number of failing 3rd grade boys? This and many other facts about a quiet part of our society, our prison systems, are brought to light by Caroline Caldwell. There are a number of paradoxes for convicted offenders. After they do their time, they are faced with a plethora of requirements that are often impossible to meet. Re-entering convicts are required to be in multiple places — often at distant places a short time apart — yet there is very limited public transportation. Drug convictions bar formerly incarcerated people from receiving any federal student aid, obliterating any hope of a college education. “Why are we hell bent on making people pay for the rest of their lives?" Caroline asks. "We set the price, and they paid the price. But we bounced the check.”

Gen Nyema Kelsang

Simple, profound truths are the realm of this Buddhist nun. Her message? The gift of happiness truly lies within our own hearts and minds. Gen Kelsang Nyema, exuding a peacefulness that immediately connects with the audience, starts by asking three questions: Are you having a good day? Why? Tomorrow, would you rather have a good day or a bad day? She teaches that we cannot put our happiness at the whim of other people and of circumstances. If we want to be happy, we have to “stop outsourcing our happiness to other people” and cultivate a source of inner peace. What happens next is quite astounding. The whole crowd of 350+ people proceeds to meditate with Nyema. There's a little squirming at first, but as she leads the audience through a calm citation of how to rest the mind, audience members feel a collective relaxation flow into the room and through the people. Fascinating! Refreshing.

Wirewood Band

WireWood consists of Laura Koelle Pyle and Keith Groover, an engaging cello/guitar duo who break down rock and pop songs, jumping genres to compose lighthearted, creative, unexpected covers. In their renditions of 80s pop songs, Laura plays the cello masterfully (if you can do that to 80s music), and Keith strums out some excellent guitar riffs to take us joyously back in time.

Chiccy Baritone

An artist with a powerful, expressive presence “speaks life” through her poetry. It’s her goal to motivate and encourage people through the multiple facets of life, good or bad. An engineer, Chiccy Baritone's spoken word performance is about navigating the blurry lines between her profession (engineering) and her passion (poetry). She nobly lays down smooth and winding phrasing to leave the audience with a blast of energy, a verbal breeze in our hair. Her performance is strong and full of kick.

Clay Smith

With a glance inside her life, her humor, and her heart, Roxy asks us to unmake our minds about stereotypes that restrict our ability to love our neighbors as ourselves. A buxom drag queen and native of Greenville, she performs for the first time in her home town. Dressed in a full length, provocative, hot-red robe that may have been chosen un-coincidentally to match the mighty TED Pantone 485 red, she lulls the audience into a calm, yet expectant, roll of laughter. Slowly moving to the serious, she brings us to an acronym, SAFE, meaning stereotypes, assumption, fear, and expectation. With a dramatic and highly professional stage flourish, Roxy removes the Pantone 485 dress revealing – wait for it – a man! Yes, a man named Clay Smith.

Ella Mae Bowen

A powerful new force in the world of country music, Ella Mae Bowen is a gifted teen from Walhalla, SC, with a beautiful, commanding voice of bold soul and human fragility. She walks on stage toting a brown guitar with a patina well beyond her age (it turns out it was her grandfather’s guitar) and charms the crowd with her soft-yet-strong demeanor. Then? Then she kicks into high gear with three amazing songs that convince you you're getting a peek at an artist that you'll hear a lot more of in the future. Hers is a simply amazing performance. Awesome, powerful, beautiful!

Heather Marshall

In a search for her biological parents, this writer/teacher discovers a serenity in releasing the world around her from her own behavioral presumptions. Heather Marshall begins by telling us a story of her Scottish birth parents — they were young, too young for the age, and without options other than to give her up for adoption. Later, as an adult, as she was waiting to meet her birth mother, she had time to consider what her reaction would be if her mother was dying, obese, an ex-prostitute. How would she react to each of these situations? She dug deep and learned that expectations are like a third party in a relationship, constantly bouncing around in your head. Instead of dwelling on our expectations for others, we should allow ourselves to fully rest in the reality of the moment. “Whatever expectations you have should be kept away from your relationships,” she says. Only in this way can you engage in a truly loving relationship with others.

Carolina Ballet

Led by Artistic Director Hernan Justo, Carolina Ballet Theatre is a Greenville-based professional resident dance company that shares some of their most innovative, high-energy choreography on the TEDxGreenville stage. They wow the audience with a modern, truly beautiful interpretive dance. With a graceful, emotional flourish, the finale brought four audience members on stage to blend seamlessly into the dance routine. Emotional!

Organizing team


Greenville, SC, United States
  • Lisa Corley