Organizers consider TEDxUNC a well-attended success

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Victoria Hale, a pharmaceutical scientist and global health entrepreneur, speaks at the TEDxUNC conference on Saturday, Jan 21.

To close the TEDxUNC conference Saturday, John McGowan issued a warning.

If nothing came of the event, a sign would be put up at the FedEx Global Education Center that read, “In this spot in 2012, nothing happened,” the director of UNC’s Institute for the Arts and Humanities said.

But organizers said they were confident something had happened — and will continue to happen in the future.

“There was this really great vibe for students to go back and relay these messages and what they learned to their friends and their classmates,” said Mackenzie Thomas, one of the event’s organizers.

The conference was an adaptation of TED, a national organization that brings together high-profile experts to speak on a wide variety of subjects. The talks are then posted on the Internet.

TEDxUNC, which organizers plan to make an annual event, featured nine speakers ranging from the captain of Afghanistan’s first national women’s soccer team to the online editor for The Wall Street Journal.

Thomas and fellow organizer Rachel Myrick said they had overbooked the auditorium by a few seats expecting some absences. But the venue remained almost completely full, Myrick said.

Hundreds watched the event on the reesenews.org livestream, and more than 1,000 tweets referenced the conference, Thomas said.

“Five or six months back, this excitement wasn’t expected, but by the end of the day, we weren’t surprised by it,” she said.

For next year, organizers said they hope to garner more attention in different ways, including holding a competition that awarded the winning student an invitation to speak at the conference.

“We want a huge blowout ­— even more publicity, some huge names coming in, all sorts of events leading up to it, and more interaction and student discussion,” Myrick said.

“We already have the infrastructure to run this next year for sure and hopefully continually after that.”

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