The TEDx Charleston team aims to have a diverse range of topics and people represented on stage: Lecture topics include the role of public libraries, gun violence and the "wisdom of ramen." | File photo courtesy TEDx Charleston

TEDx Charleston returns to the Charleston Music Hall March 29 with lectures and performances by local speakers and artists. Now in its 10th year, the one-day event offers a localized version of the world-famous TEDx event, a lecture series that draws people together to share “ideas worth spreading.”

Local speakers will give 10-minute talks covering a variety of topics, including the role of public libraries, gun violence, choosing good advice and teen suicide. 

The event creates space to promote the “talent and great thinking that goes on in this region,” said Mike Sottak, TEDx Charleston’s 2023 chief organizer and curator.

“It gives people an outlet, and gives the audience a way to not only hear, but also interact with some really exciting people who talk about big issues, and who, for the most part, drill them down to a local relevance,” Sottak said.

MUSC trauma surgeon Ashley Hink will talk about gun violence and the health care system’s role in breaking cycles of violence. Deputy Director of the Charleston Public Library Natalie Hauff will speak about the evolving role of public libraries, while Earl Bridges, host of The Good Road on PBS, will share how the “wisdom of ramen” can help people make a difference. Dr. Andrea Abbott, an oncologist, will present on the importance of communication. 

This year’s talks and performances all relate to the theme of re-emergence. 

“We came up with the theme after a little bit of deliberation, because we thought that’s exactly what we’re doing as humanity after a really unprecedented period of time,” Sottak said. “We’re re-emerging into a new and different world.” 

The event’s speakers and performers go through a rigorous and competitive application process: The TEDx team receives more than 200 applications for 14 speaker slots. Applicants are interviewed at least three times by the TEDx Charleston speaker selection committee, which is composed of community volunteers. Once selected, speakers work with coaches on perfecting their presentations. 

LB Adams is a former TEDx Charleston speaker who will emcee this year’s event for the second time in a row. 


“The process to actually go from application to stage is rigorous but fun,” Adams said. “In 2019, when I was chosen to speak, that wasn’t the first time I had applied. I am a professional speaker, and even for me, the coaching process was really abundant and illuminating. Regardless of how much public speaking experience you have, no matter what you do, speaking on the TEDx stage is different.”

Each TEDx Charleston event also features artistic performers. Zandrina Dunning, event producer and program coordinator at Charleston’s Ohm Radio, is the entertainment chair for this year’s event.

Dunning  selected artists for 2023’s program, and said she is excited to showcase the Lowcountry’s wide range of talent. 

“Diversity is huge,” said Dunning of the lineup selection. “We want representation from all corners, if we can. It’s all about inspiration. So to be able to inspire people on this level, well, it’s just priceless.”  

This year’s artistic performers include Full Circle, a musical group which blends gospel, Gullah and Malian Kora music, and Brazilian folk music led by Grace McNally. The performance will also feature The Plantation Singers, a group composed of Gino Castillo, Abdiel Iriarte and Tim Khayat. The performers will share two original compositions which were created with the event’s theme in mind.

“When it comes to these different performers, I’m just excited that they’re excited,” Dunning said. “Getting to talk to Grace McNally, and seeing the excitement in her eyes … I’m reassured that we’ve picked the right people.” 

Also performing is spoken word artist Christian Morant and the Watoto Charleston Ensemble, which features students from the Watoto Academy of the Performing Arts. 


Sottak said there is “magic present in TEDx Charleston — that of collective energy.

“For many of the speakers, this might be the first time that they are sharing their ideas on stage,” he said. “A lot of the people on the TEDx Charleston stage don’t have any prior speaking experience and aren’t necessarily well-known. However, they’re accomplished, and they’ve done great things. This can be a launching pad for them to do even greater things.” 

He hopes speakers, performers and attendees will leave with a deeper connection to their community and energy for the future.  

“One thing I hope is that people are proud and engaged with the fact that we’re in a cool community — a very talented, creative community — and everybody that’s part of this event, including the audience, is integrated into that fabric,” Sottak said.

Check for upcoming information on live streaming.

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