The 20 speakers and performers at this week's TEDxNaperville ideas conference seem to have nothing in common.
They include a YouTube personality, a Slovakian musician, a "satiation distributor," a Hindi pop/jazz artist, an internet crimes investigator and, "by far the most provocative" of them all, an "unconventional racial conversationalist."
But the disparate nature of the speakers' professions proves the purpose of the gathering, now entering its eighth year, says founder and curator Arthur Zards.
TEDxNaperville, formed in the spirit of the annual Technology, Entertainment and Design, or TED, conference in Vancouver, is all about sharing ideas that make people think, challenge their beliefs, struggle with uncommon concepts, or otherwise say "huh," Zards says. "It's a multidimensional conference."
It's not all about politics, technology or social action. It's left, right, black, white, music, art and fresh thinking.
"That's the beautiful thing about the conference," Zards says. "People who go there just know that they're going to be listening to ideas."
This year's conference is scheduled for 1 to 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, at Yellow Box Community Christian Church, 1635 Emerson Lane, Naperville. Tickets are $95 plus a $6.22 fee, available at tedxnaperville.com/current-conference/.
A highlight among speakers is the one Zards described as "provocative," author and jazz musician Daryl Davis. Davis has written a book called "Klan-Destine Relationships," in which he describes his interviews -- and friendships -- with members of the Ku Klux Klan, relationships that in many cases led to Klan members quitting and renouncing the organization.
Since 1983, when Davis befriended a KKK member after one of his jazz performances, he has attended KKK rallies, accepted a "certificate of friendship" from the Traditionalist American Knights of the KKK, joined a previously all-white country band and become the godfather of a former Klan Imperial Wizard's granddaughter.
"Over time they end up becoming his friend and they leave the Klan," Zards said about the supremacist members mentioned in Davis' book. "It's about reaching out and understanding -- not agreeing -- but just respecting somebody enough so they share their ideas and start a dialogue and not shouting them down."
Today's political climate leads to people on opposite sides of an issue failing to connect, Zards said, which is why he thinks audience members can learn from Davis' stories. Davis will share an 18-minute talk, the longest of the segments given to TEDx speakers. Others might be given 10 minutes or as few as five to make their points.
Roughly a quarter of speakers have Naperville ties, including Rich Wistocki, a detective with the Naperville Police Department who investigates online crimes.
"Rich's talk will scare people on what's going on with sextortion on the internet," Zards said.
Also local is Janet Derrick, whose TEDx tagline is "satiation distributor," but whose official title is vice president of CARES programs for Loaves and Fishes Community Services. Zards said the organization is known as a food pantry, but there's more to it.
"When you find out what they're doing and how forward-thinking they are on food distribution," he said, "it's really innovative and it gives a lot of civic pride."
TEDxNaperville attendees will have the option of going on a field trip of sorts Friday morning to one of nine science- or tech-related destinations near Naperville, including Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, Sourcebooks publishing company, Solemn Oath Brewery or the Make-It-Here makerspace.
The conference itself begins at 1 p.m., with talks organized into three separate blocks. Breaks between the blocks will give attendees the chance to meet with speakers, chill in a lounge, practice mindful yoga, experiment with a 360-degree video camera or eat barbecue.
Zards expects 700 people to attend.