Vero Beach, FL

TEDx Vero speakers delivered on their promise of amazing ideas worth sharing

Ellen Contreras
Michal Strezinski - TEDx Vero BeachTEDxVeroBeach

Nervous excitement and electricity filled the air at the Emerson Center in Vero Beach this past Sunday. One by one, nine talented speakers graced the stage and delivered talks that ranged from poignant to shocking to hilarious sometimes all in one speech. Everyone had something to teach us and that’s the purpose of TED talks. It is about ideas worth sharing and share they did!

Kristina Pernfors opened the event and when she came out, gasps of shock filled the air. I know Kristina, and as a stylist and interior designer, she always exudes grace, elegance, and beauty. Personally, I don’t want to stand next to her unless I feel adequately put together. Kristina came out looking like a tough punk rocker. Dressed all in black, Doc Martens, black lipstick, studded belt, nose ring – you get the picture.

Kristina taught us that it only takes seven seconds to make an impression, whether it be positive or negative. As she spoke, before our eyes she transformed into the stylish Kristina I know. Off came the boots and she slid into gorgeous stilettos, garish jewelry and studs were replaced by a fashion forward statement necklace, black lipstick removed for classic red.
TEDxVero - Christina PernforsTEDXVeroBeach

She had lots of statistics for us and taught us a valuable lesson on not only the importance of our physical image but also for our cars and where we live. She demonstrated that how we treat ourselves and our surroundings has a direct impact on what we attract in our lives. If you need help amping up your image or your home, Kristina is the one to call.

Miriam Ismail was the second speaker and she spoke about the secret ingredient to happiness. The key takeaway is that happiness can be achieved without having tons of money in the bank, being a size two and the looks of a movie star. Miriam delivered her speech with such quiet, steady confidence that she had us hanging on her every word. She had us believing that happiness is indeed in the little things. She shared her secret with us, and it centers around time management. After reading her bio and all her accomplishments, there is no doubt that she has mastered time management for herself. Most of us have not achieved a fraction of what she has. It is impressive.

Jason P. Conklin was the third speaker in the first round of talks. He had us laughing with his “tell it like it is” demeanor. He means business and means what he says. He was as entertaining as he was inspirational with his talk titled, “Freedom, Independence, Environmentalism”. He took us on a journey from his childhood through his adulthood and the interesting twists and turns it took him. Jason spoke about being bored quite often in his youth, which is a sign of high intelligence. He spoke about his start in IT, but boredom led him to explore his passion for the ocean. However instead of becoming an oceanographer, he ended up in the Coast Guard, which took him to Colorado. Yes, I know that’s not the expected path, but you’ll have to watch him on YouTube for all the details. All his studies have him now focused on the environment, but in a way that is producing actionable results and a hope for the future.

Eve Kyoma Vendryes is from Uganda and said that the African continent should not be looked upon as a place of poverty, war, and safaris. She opened her talk with the accomplishments of her family and their travels all over Africa and the United States. While Africa has dealt and continues to deal with a variety of hardships, there is also much to triumph over. Eve delivered some fantastic statistics and made it clear that she is proud of her heritage, her family and all that she has achieved. She also made it abundantly clear that she is who she is in large part to her being from Uganda and would not change a thing.

After a brief intermission where we enjoyed luscious desserts courtesy of Ana Oballe and delectable wine from the amazingly knowledgeable Jerusha Stewart and her husband, Bob Stanley, we were in for a treat with the second group of speakers. Lisa Giessert shared with us her battle with cancer and surviving it with humor. Lisa’s self-deprecating humor had us all laughing despite the seriousness of the subject. What was so amazing was that fact that she does not want to be considered a cancer survivor because the negative connotation. Lisa is focused on the joy of living and is having a blast with her bucket list. She was another speaker that tells it like it is and did it in the most entertaining and charming of ways. She exuded such warmth and sincerity as she shared her struggles with cancer, it was impressive.

Jeff Pickering came on stage and his talk was also extremely serious, but will no doubt help so many thanks to the longevity of YouTube and the internet. Jeff courageously told his tale of sexual abuse by his doctor when he was a teenager. For many years, he had suppressed what had happened. He’s a surfer and used an analogy of the water to vividly describe how those memories resurfaced as if he were pulled under by the waves and came back up gasping for air. While he did not get the ultimate satisfaction of seeing his abuser go to jail, he was able to exact some retribution after thirty years had passed.

Did you know that from kindergarten through third grade is when you learn to read and from the fourth grade is when you read to learn? Did you also know that more than 46 percent of Florida’s students are not reading at grade level when they get to the fourth grade? That sets them up for academic hardship at best and failure at worst. That is what Barbara Hammond taught us on Sunday. Her talk was titled, “Lessons from My Moonshot Journey: The Transformational Power of a Question. Barbara bravely shared her story of her son and the difficulties he had with reading. Her mother-in-law rose to the occasion and what Barbara learned from her about her approach to teaching her grandson had a terrific cause-and-effect reaction. It paved the way for the Moonshot bus and its literacy programs. I know how Barbara’s son turned out and you can too when her talk is available on YouTube.

Everyone enjoyed a second intermission to nosh, sip and mingle. At both intermissions, we enjoyed live music from the Carvajal sisters. Michael Strezinsky, the founder of TEDxVero and his board, did an impeccable job of putting this event together.

Richard Gallegos was the first one to speak after the intermission and his talk was on the power of perseverance. Before listening to Richard’s story, I only personally knew of one person to do a 100-mile run within 24 hours. Not only has Richard completed one 100-mile ultramarathon in 2019, but he has also completed eleven of them and one 200-mile run in Florida. Florida. The state of blistering heat. Richard confessed to us his past battle with substance abuse. When he was about to lose everything, he valued most in the world – his wife and daughter – he fought back through running. Running gave him back his clarity, his purpose, and his family. If running one hundred miles does not require perseverance, then what does?
TEDxVero - Richard GallegosTEDxVeroBeach

Patrice Bowes strode out on the stage like the statuesque boss lady that she is. A couple of weeks before this event, I attended a women’s conference at Indian River State College where she was also one of the speakers. During her talk, I surveyed the room and saw many women dabbing their eyes listening as she bared her soul. At the end, she received a standing ovation and then was swarmed by ladies wanting to speak with her individually. Talk about powerful. Sunday was no different. When Patrice was a young mom to three children, she received a diagnosis no mother wants to hear. She was told she had a brain tumor. While she was thankful for the advancements of modern medicine, Patrice also had a passion for holistic and naturopathic medicine. Her talk was all about empowerment. She encouraged us to not stop at the diagnosis and subsequent allopathic treatments. Patrice shared with us an enlightening talk about how educating oneself about all the other potential options may be the best course of action. Integrative medicine is quickly gaining popularity by patients and doctors alike. If Patrice had not given herself the permission to question and seek alternative methods, she may not be here to see her grandson grow up.

I really do not want to say that they saved the best speaker for last, because every one of them was amazing. However, Annie Meehan explained her pineapple theory in such a theatrical way and how everyone of us should strive to be one, that I am still thinking and talking about her speech days later. To share what a pineapple person is would steal her thunder and I cannot do that. You must check out Annie’s video when it comes out on YouTube, you will not be disappointed, and you will want to be a pineapple person yourself. You may even find yourself wearing pineapple clothes and accessories. Trust me, this is going to become a thing.

Annie understands the importance of seeing people, acknowledging them and how it makes them feel. We all want to be seen, heard, appreciated, and understood. Annie taught us not only how to do that but to elevate it to the level of being a pineapple person.
TEDxVero - Annie MeehanTEDxVeroBeach

Her speech was a wonderful way to wrap up a magical afternoon. All of us who attended were already talking about next year’s TEDxVero event. If you want to know more about it, how to apply to become a speaker, get on a committee or even be a sponsor, check out the TEDxVero site for all the details.

Their first event was in 2019 and it was also a smashing success. It goes without saying why there weren’t any events in 2020 and 2021 – thanks Covid! Check out the Tedx Talks YouTube channel, search for Vero Beach, for past speakers and be one of the first ones to watch the videos of the 2022 speakers.

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Ellen Contreras is also known as the Treasure Coast Connector because she shares information and writes articles that connects business owners to consumers in the community - Florida's Treasure Coast and beyond. Ellen is an iHeart Radio talk show host at Planet Vero. Her show, Treasure Coast Connector, airs on Saturdays at 3pm on WCZR 101.7FM (Stuart to Melbourne, FL). She also writes helpful articles and shares opinions on careers, business development, the Florida lifestyle and more. Follow Ellen on: Livestream - iHeart radio talk show: Spreaker: Facebook: Instagram: LinkedIn:

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