Daytonian of the Week: Diane Farrell and some ‘ideas worth spreading’

Dianne Farrell will tell you the world is filled with interesting people and ideas.

Farrell, a TEDxDayton steering committee member, has helped shepherd those people and ideas to the community since the local event began in 2013.

The TedxDayton Signature Event, an afternoon of speakers and performers sharing their passions, will be held Friday at the Victoria Theatre.

If you haven't attended one of Dayton's TEDx events, let Farrell, this week's Daytonian of the Week, tell you what you are missing.

Credit: Andy Snow

Credit: Andy Snow

You serve on the TEDxDayton Steering Committee. For folks who aren’t familiar with TEDx, please explain the format. 

TED is a global nonprofit that started in 1984 as a conference to encourage sharing ideas around Technology, Entertainment add Design (that’s the TED).

TED talks now cover wide-ranging subjects from science to business to social issues and everything in between. You can see TED talks at, where there are tens of thousands of recorded talks, translated into more than 100 languages.

TED talks are short, powerful, memorized talks, typically under 15 minutes, and must have one central idea, an “idea worth spreading.”

TEDxDayton began in 2013 as a small group of loyalists convened under the leadership of Marilyn and Larry Klaben, who wanted to bring an officially licensed TEDx (locally organized) event to our community.

The all-volunteer group presented our first Signature Event in the fall of 2013, and we’ve hosted a sold-out event every year since at the Victoria Theatre.

TEDxDayton attendees have come to expect the unexpected from our speakers and performers. They are usually introduced to an entirely new concept, enriched on a topic they might have known a little about, and surprised by the intellect and passion of the speakers and performers, all of whom have some connection to Dayton.

In addition to the annual Signature Event (coming up on 10/11), TEDxDayton holds licenses for and presents TEDxYouth@Dayton each spring with a diverse range of speakers and topics generated by local high school students, as well as TEDxDaytonSalons.

What is the TEDxDayton Salon? 

Because so many TEDxDayton attendees told us they wanted “more TED,” the leadership team made the decision to add a three-part series of Salons this year.

Salons differ from the Youth and Signature event in several ways. First, Salons focus on a single subject. By aligning speakers to a focused subject, we are able to explore many aspects of each topic.

Additionally, Salons have a moderator who can ask speakers a follow-up question or two, helping the audience get to know a little more about the speaker, or push a little deeper on a specific aspect of their talk.

And, by design, Salons are more informal and intimate. With the three Salons in 2019, we welcomed an average of 175 guests per event. This intimacy allowed more interaction with the speakers before and after their talks, and also encouraged more engagement among fellow audience members.

The most significant difference for Salon events is how the speakers are selected. While the Youth and Signature events almost exclusively rely on an open audition process, Salon speakers are curated. The expertise each TEDxDaytonSalon speaker brings to the selected topic helps the organizing committee identify and then invite those who offer a unique perspective.

What have you learned from the previous years of TEDx speakers? 

I’ve learned that the world is full of interesting people, and that I have a lot to learn from them!

Each speaker, and I truly mean each and every TEDxDayton speaker, has an idea that is worth exploring; there are always nuggets of wisdom or applicable information that can be gleaned from every talk. I’ve also learned that it’s incredibly hard to stand on the TED stage. Most speakers spend about 100 hours writing, editing, memorizing and perfecting their talks. Through their willingness to embrace this intensive process, I’m constantly reminded that Dayton is loaded with smart, passionate and committed people.

TEDxDayton is one of the most important experiences in my year. It combines personal, professional and social growth, tightly choreographed into one memorable, moving and entertaining event. If you haven’t been, it’s time to give yourself this gift. No matter your age, or what stage of life you’re in, GO!

Tell me about your career in Dayton and the roles you have taken part in. 

After returning to my hometown of Dayton in 1993, I started working at the Dayton/Montgomery County Convention and Visitors Bureau. That was an incredible introduction to my community, which until then I had only known through my lens as a kid from the burbs. I collaborated with many agencies to provide services for large conventions, so I gained a true understanding of our regional assets.

After the CVB, I went to work with CITYFOLK, the local ethnic and traditional arts presenter, which I came to know during the National Folk Festival.

My next challenge led me to the Dayton Society of Natural History, and I had a wonderful time leading their External Relations Department, which included volunteers, technology, guest services, the gift shop, membership, fundraising and marketing.

When the 2012 Library Bond Issue passed, I was fortunate to be selected to head up the Dayton Metro Library’s newly-formed External Relations team. I’ve now been here for six years. Unbelievable!

Looking back on it, I’ve been so fortunate to work with organizations that all contribute to the quality of life in our community in different ways.

What do you do at Dayton Metro Library? What do you enjoy about it? 

I literally enjoy everything about my job. Not only am I working for a transformative organization doing amazing work in our community, but I get to collaborate with some of the smartest, kindest people I’ve ever met!

I concentrate on campaigns for large-scale community initiatives in which the Library plays a role, such as Early Childhood Learning, Kindergarten Readiness, Equity and Access, Third Grade Reading, summer/out of school enrichment, and Workforce programs for children and adults.

I develop partnerships to help us achieve our goals; I am a liaison to the Dayton Metro Library Foundation; I oversee the Departments that manage our marketing, PR, fundraising, and revenue-generating activities; I co-chair our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, and I serve on several committees working on the new buildings - furniture selection, artwork selection, and signage.

Of course, I do lots of other fun things too with the Library team, like develop musicals for third graders, design learning kits for babies and toddlers, organize career camps for middle schoolers, and plan cool projects that focus on literacy, learning and career & workforce.

For someone who hasn’t visited the new Main Library or one of the branches, what is special about them? 

If you haven’t been to the new Main Library or one of our neighborhood branches, I’d encourage you to stop in — soon!

The Library is a vibrant, relevant, welcoming destination. On any given day you’ll see parents interacting with their children using technology, books and educational tools. You’ll find people accessing information on our computers, young professionals using our WiFi to run their start-up businesses, older adults playing mahjong or cards, and researchers using our databases and exploring their genealogy. You may see budding YouTube stars using our recording studios and editing equipment or hear a group of New Americans practicing their English language conversation skills.

You’ll definitely discover a variety of timely programs and classes for people of all ages. For example, Library staff helps people with job searches and resume creation, and we offer classes on everything from computer basics to advanced MS Excel.

Our libraries have comfortable seating and quiet spaces for study, meeting spaces for collaboration, even beautiful, original art installations that are unique to each Library and community.

Our patrons truly represent the diversity of our region. First time visitors will immediately notice the abundance of natural light and be surprised by all the new amenities such as laptop lending machines, 24-hour hold lockers and coffee shops. And, of course, you can still browse our expansive collection to borrow books, music and movies.

What inspires you about the Dayton community, and how do you think it can continue to grow? 

What I love most about Dayton is our willingness to collaborate for the greater good. In my work, I am keenly aware that our issues, our challenges, are far too great for any one person or organization to tackle alone. It seems that Dayton recognized this a while ago, so most of our leaders are focused on working together to make things happen, helping us grow as individuals, family units, and as a community.

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