Event speakers picked at open mic night

TEDxGrandForks auditions were held Friday to decide who would present.

Barry Striegel, who will be giving a talk titled “Cowpreneurs: Lessons from a Pasture Classroom in Opportunity Recognition, Risk, and Reward” at TEXxGrandForks. Photo by Chester Beltowski/The Dakota Student.

TEDxGrandForks hosted an Open Mic Night and Ticket Release Party on Friday, Jan. 17 at the Fire Hall Theater in Grand Forks.

The event was held to select the final presenter for the first-ever TEDxGrandForks conference that will take place Feb. 7.

“The Open Mic Night is not sponsored by TED, but it still has the spirit of a TEDx conference,” TEDxGrandForks co-organizer Becca Grandstrand said.

TED is an organization started in 1984 that sponsors conferences in cities around the world to spread new ideas. Each individual conference is labeled as “TEDx” because it is independently organized through a license from TED. The organizers for Grand Forks’ event include UND alumni Becca Grandstrand, her husband Tyrone Grandstrand, Emily Burkland and current UND students Hana Mattern and Hannah Bahnmiller.

Five presenters for TEDxGrandForks were announced prior to the Open Mic Night, but the organizers wanted to give community members a chance to try out for a spot on the lineup.

Nine people with ties to Grand Forks each performed a three-minute teaser — a summary of what their TEDx talk would be about if they were chosen for the conference. At the end, the audience cast votes for their two favorites on ballots, and the results were tallied.

The two winners were Barry Striegel, whose talk was titled “Cowpreneurs: Lessons from a Pasture Classroom in Opportunity Recognition, Risk and Reward,” and Tamarah Gehlen, who spoke about “Hanging Up the Cape: Overcoming Superwoman Syndrome.”

The acronym “TED” stands for “Technology, Entertainment, and Design,” but the conferences have evolved to much more, which was reflected in the variety of speeches heard at Open Mic Night.

Topics included education, self-confidence and health, but winner Barry Striegel took a unique approach by combining “cows” and “entrepreneurs” into his speech. He talked about his experiences working with children in the summer entrepreneurship camps he leads and how kids can become discouraged when trying to achieve their dreams, just like cows trying to break through a fence.

“I think it’s really important that kids know they can make their dreams happen,” Striegel said.

UND sophomore and mechanical engineering major Garret Flynn was one audience member who expressed appreciation for Striegel’s presentation.

“I enjoyed the ‘cowpreneur’ talk because I grew up in the country. We didn’t have cows, but I understand and appreciate what Barry had to say,” Flynn said. “We’ve watched TED videos in some of my engineering classes, and I thought they were interesting.”

Flynn’s friend Mike Van Doren, a junior majoring in commercial aviation, was also familiar with TED before attending the event.

“I’ve always thought TED videos were intriguing, and when I found out a TEDx event was happening, I thought it would be cool to see what the speakers had to say.”

Van Doren said he plans on attending TEDxGrandForks in Febuary and telling more friends about the event.

Becca Grandstrand and her fellow organizers expect that the event, titled “Challenge Accepted,” will sell out.

“We have only 100 tickets available,” Grandstrand said. “The event has been shared a lot on Twitter and Facebook, so we are expecting a good turnout.”

Audience members at Open Mic Night had the opportunity to purchase their ticket after the winners were announced, and the rest of the tickets were released to the public at midnight on the TEDxGrandForks website.

There are a limited number of tickets still available.

Emmy Erbes is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].