My Date with TEDx


February 2020 Issue
by Carrie Hirsch

TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) began in 1984 and quickly evolved into a worldwide conference with speakers presenting in more than 100 languages. Independently run TEDx events, including TEDxHiltonHeadWOMEN Bold + Brilliant, held at the Harbourtown Clubhouse at Sea Pines Resort last December, continue to share “ideas worth spreading” thanks to organizer Rex Gale. As Rex says: “The thing about TED is, it’s not like your normal presentation – it’s an idea. What are the experiences you’ve had in your life? What are the situations you’ve found yourself in?” Bringing these experiences to the TEDx stage can be empowering, as I learned on a personal level when I attended to hear all the ladies’ ideas.

As a speaker at TEDxCreativeCoast in 2014 at the Jepson Center for the Arts in Savannah, Rex felt Hilton Head Island would be an ideal location to present TEDx events. He then organized TEDxHiltonHeadWOMEN with the themes of “Showing Up” (2018) and “Reinvention” (2019). I have attended each of these events, and although space does not permit me to profile each speaker, each speaker spoke directly to me in varying degrees as a woman, a documentary filmmaker and an entrepreneur. I’d like to share my thoughts about these five speakers from the December Tedx Hilton Head Women, who shared some very personal stories:

Erika Kramer is an award-winning filmmaker and writer living in New York City and has worked for over a decade in entertainment since her student film days at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Kramer created an independent production studio called Sleeves up Productions (SUP), producing and directing over 1000 videos for brands like Microsoft, Venmo, and Zocdoc. Her perseverance, hard work and determination were very inspiring, as I have an insider’s perspective about film production, which from the outside (if done well), looks like a cakewalk. Most of the time, however, it is an exercise in sweat equity and long hours. Kramer has accomplished more than many of her older peers in the industry and is a serious contender in today’s field of production.

Amanda Russ Cifaldi is the chef and owner of Pomodori Italian Eatery on Hilton Head Island, which happens to be one of the most popular restaurants for locals and visitors. She is a graduate of the Italian Culinary Institute in Calabria, Italy and has a BA in history from the University of Georgia. Her love of nurturing her community has allowed her to plant deep roots on the Island, where she is finding new ways to bring fruitful and thoughtful discussion to a variety of important topics. The poem Amanda recited was almost ten minutes long, and I had the good fortune to be sitting next to her mother, who I instantly took a liking to. If Amanda ever decides to make a career change (which I hope she doesn’t), acting, composing and lecturing would be her next calling.

Lee-Anne Gilchrist, Managing Director of the International Junior Golf Academy on Hilton Head, is a motivator and educator who has worked with hundreds of athletes and their parents in the quest for athletic success in college and on the professional tours. With the dream to create a unique environment for athletic development, Lee-Anne was a founding partner of two successful junior golf academies. Her stories of helicopter parents, with some fitting more into the newer category of bulldozer parents, were harrowing and entertaining at the same time.

Whitaker Gannon graduated cum laude from Wake Forest University as a Presidential Scholar, majoring in communication and participated in multiple theatrical productions in various capacities, including directing, performing, composing and scenic designing. Her inspiration is Blake Gannon, her brother and best friend, who just happens to have autism. She generously shared her personal stories about Blake with the audience, which were moving and enlightening. Her confidence and eloquence on stage were exemplary and her message prompted some serious food for thought regarding autism. Whitaker has been involved in volunteer work for several organizations for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The final speaker, Fran Capo, is a six-time Guinness Book of World Record holder (most known as the World’s Fastest Talking Woman at 603.32 words per minute), comedian, actress, 21-time author, ordained minister, consultant, spokesperson, motivational speaker, producer and adventurer. She has appeared on 450 television and 4,500 radio shows, including Dr. Oz and Larry King Live. Her stories of overcoming her fears by Scuba diving for the Titanic and climbing mountain tops, both taking her well out of her comfort zone, were absolutely hilarious and inspiring. Her dazzling closing was to set the record for setting a record for doing the fastest TEDx talk which she did in under a minute!

Other wonderful speakers were Denice Brown, Kweighbaye Kotee, Loren Brill, Victoria Baylor, Rebekah Smyth, Anya Sarre, Dr. Bahby Banks, Tiffany Reed Briley, Melissa Wagner, Katie Gerardi and Mel Savage

If you are ready to experience the next flight of exciting speakers
with ideas worth spreading, don’t miss the upcoming TEDxHiltonHead on March 20, 2020 at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina. For details, please visit

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