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TEDx brings ‘Positivity’ to Big Sky

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What began in 1984 as a conference to share new ideas concerning technology, entertainment and design has become the most renowned speaking series in the world. TED Talks now encompass nearly any conceivable topic, and occur around the globe in more than 100 different languages.

An independently organized version of TED, called TEDx, is coming to Big Sky on Jan. 27. The second annual TEDxBigSky will feature seven hand-picked, inspiring people at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center. The speakers will share ideas and personal stories related to the 2018 event’s theme of “positivity.”

Outlaw Partners—the media, marketing and events company that also publishes this newspaper—launched the idea to bring a TEDx event to Big Sky when Media and Events Director Ersin Ozer reflected on the journalism and stories coming out of the region.

“I was inspired by our magazine, Mountain Outlaw, to put on this event on a live platform,” said Ozer, who works with a group of Big Sky community members that sit on the TEDxBigSky committee and bring the event to fruition each year. “Outlaw aims to create connections and inspire others to act, and this year’s theme of positivity juxtaposes much of what we are seeing in mass media and current events. Producing TEDxBigSky with this theme brings it all full circle.”

Past TEDxBigSky presenters have included rocket scientist and professional snowboarder Andrew Crawford, researcher and philanthropist Linda Wortman, world-renowned architect Scott Wyatt, thought leader Ann Herrmann-Nehdi, former head of the CNN international news desk Parisa Khosravi, and a musical performance by Lukas Nelson.

The 2018 event will feature a woman whose life was transformed by her mother’s death, and subsequent journey through her father’s Alzheimer’s; a Nepalese mountaineering guide; the founder of a media outlet devoted to uplifting news; the co-founder of an innovative technology startup company; a passionate outdoorsman; and special guest, musician Martin Sexton.

Stay tuned in to upcoming issues of EBS to get to know the 2018 presenters. EBS will feature Q&A interviews with the speakers in each issue leading up to the event.

Tickets for the event go on sale Dec. 15. Visit for tickets, updates and to view all of the TEDx videos from the inaugural TEDxBigSky event.


Daryn Kagan

You might remember Daryn Kagan from her more than 12 years as an anchor on CNN.​ ​Today, Kagan is a syndicated newspaper columnist for Cox Newspapers.​ ​Her weekly “What’s Possible!” column inspires readers in newspapers across the country, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.​ ​Eighty of her most popular columns make up her latest book, “Hope Possible: A Network News Anchor’s Thoughts on Losing a Job, Finding Love, a New Career, and my Dog, Always my Dog.”​ ​She is the creator and host of, an inspirational, online website featuring stories that “show the world what is possible.”​ Kagan lives in Atlanta with her husband, daughter and “little sister” from the Big Brother Big Sister program.​ ​Her three-legged cat,​ ​11-month-old rescue hound puppy and eight chickens complete the family.

Explore Big Sky: What inspired you to give a TEDxBigSky talk?

Daryn Kagan: The invitation, firstly. It’s always been on my wish list to do that. It’s a perfect fit because the theme is positivity and I’ve built the most recent chapter of my media career out of sharing positive uplifting stories.

EBS: What does positivity mean to you?

D.K.: To me positivity means a choice—the choice of where you’re going to focus your attention. We all have a range of emotions and things happen that you can’t control, but you can control what you focus on.

EBS: In your career at CNN, you have reported from the red carpet at the Academy Awards and from the ground in Kuwait during the Iraq War. What was one of the most impactful stories from your years as a broadcast journalist?

D.K.: Probably being on the air on 9/11, when the second plane went into the second [World Trade Center] tower, in terms of witnessing history and being a journalist and having the world look to you for information. If you want to do news, CNN is the place to do it—it’s a front row seat to history every single day you go to work.

EBS: How does your experience as a journalist inform the work you’re doing today?

D.K.: At the end of the day it’s storytelling—how do you tell a story? And those skills are important whether you’re covering a war or someone who is overcoming an obstacle in their life.

EBS: Do you have a favorite TED or TEDx program? Which one and why?

D.K.: I’m biased but my friend, Parisa Khosravi, who spoke at last year’s TEDxBigSky [about her son with autism finding his voice] because I’ve taken that journey with her, and have seen her struggles as a mother and it’s so inspiring to see what’s possible for her son now.

EBS: You have said that you view your life as a story of reinvention. In what ways have you reinvented yourself?

D.K.: I’ve come to find that everything ends. Every job ends, every relationship ends, every life ends, and endings aren’t necessarily sad; they can be, but they are also openings for new chapters.

EBS: How would you like the audience at TEDxBigSky to feel after hearing your talk?

D.K.: I would like them to feel empowered, and to make different choices about the media they consume.

Robbie Houcek

Robbie Houcek began her information technology career in Silicon Valley, working for companies like Advanced Micro Devices and Sun Micro Systems. During her years in the corporate world, Houcek’s mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Several chemotherapy and radiation treatments later, her mother lost the battle with cancer. This devastating event led Houcek to purse a career in alternative therapies. She is a nationally certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, an Emotional Integration Practitioner, Associate Polarity Practitioner, Ontological Kinesiology Facilitator and an ordained interfaith minister. While tending to her thriving practice, Houcek’s father developed Alzheimer’s disease. She became the executor of his will, his power of attorney and over the last several years, has functioned as his most fiercely dedicated advocate. Her inspiring story provides a unique perspective of the journey through the disease. 

EBS: Losing your mother to cancer in 1994 caused you to leave a career in IT for one in alternative therapies. What was the thought process that compelled you to switch careers?

RH: By the time my mother was diagnosed, the cancer had spread through most of her body. It wasn’t a matter of if she would die but when. She was in New Mexico and I was living in Silicon Valley. I couldn’t be there to support her on a daily basis, but I wanted to do something to help her navigate the last phase of her life.

At the time, I was putting in six days a week and lots of long hours. I was over-worked and out of balance. Her diagnosis was a wake-up call—I carry 50 percent of her DNA in my body. I started looking for an alternative therapy that would help me facilitate my mother’s experience with cancer, as well as her eventual passing. I took my first course and was hooked.

EBS: What, at the most basic level, compels your current work?

RH: Empowering my clients. There is nothing better than working with a client to shift her perspective, watching her confidence grow, then watching her thrive.

EBS: What advice would you give young people who are beginning to think about their professional lives?

RH: Find a way to make a career out of doing what fulfills you. When I was in the corporate world I felt very successful but my work didn’t feel significant. Now my work feels both significant and successful.

EBS: The theme of TEDxBigSky is “positivity.” What does positivity mean to you?

RH: Positivity is being able to face challenges and obstacles and look for the positive aspect, look for the opportunity for growth. We all face challenges and obstacles. How you deal with those challenges, the perspective you choose, is up to you.

EBS: How does one shift to a place of positivity when they are struggling?

RH: It’s all about shifting perspective. When you’re struggling, you’re not aware of options. When you stop pushing against the situation … you stop struggling. When you stop struggling and just breathe, you give yourself some room to shift perspective. Then you may be aware of options you had not seen before.

EBS: Do you have a favorite TED or TEDx program? Which one and why?

RH: Amy Cuddy’s talk “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are.” Her message is all about changing perspective through the use of confident postures.

EBS: How would you like the audience at TEDxBigSky to feel after hearing your talk?

RH: Uplifted and hopeful. – Sarah Gianelli

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