Love of talk, innovation leads to Ted

  • Arthur Zards

    Arthur Zards

  • Arthur Zards founded TEDx Naperville, an annual forum of talks about different ideas and innovations. The last program attracted about 500 people.

    Arthur Zards founded TEDx Naperville, an annual forum of talks about different ideas and innovations. The last program attracted about 500 people. COURTESY OF ARTHUR ZARDS

  • LaRue Agresti

    LaRue Agresti

  • Mike Ditka

    Mike Ditka

  • Heather Walser

    Heather Walser

  • Jim Voigt

    Jim Voigt

  • Corey B. Quaglia

    Corey B. Quaglia

  • Sam Zada

    Sam Zada

  • Dave Reitz

    Dave Reitz

Posted11/22/2015 1:00 AM

Many IT industry types think of Arthur Zards as the co-founder of Lisle-based XNet Information Systems Inc., an Internet service provider.

While IT people are known to think outside the box, Zards wanted to think outside even further.


So he founded TedX Naperville.

As part of the company, he launched Ted talks, which have become known for featuring more than a dozen speakers who delve into a variety of thought-provoking topics from how to change yourself, your church or your industry, to breaking out new ideas and tech theories, among others. Zards licensed the Ted talks, brought them to Naperville and garnered a recent audience of about 500.

"I want to get people more engaged," said Zards, 46. "I just don't want the typical pitch, I just want to share ideas."

Zards, a Baltimore native, came to Naperville while a teenager when his father worked at Amoco, now BP. He graduated from Naperville Central High School, attended Northern Illinois University, College of DuPage and then graduated from Illinois Benedictine with a degree in business marketing.

Around 1992, he helped to co-found XNet, sold it in 1999, and then a couple of years later, bought it back. He's still a partner, he said.

He also started the Silicon Prairie Social to get suburban IT people to gather together to talk about the industry.

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"There were plenty of things in the city, but it was hard to get there when you're in the suburbs," he said.

He loved to talk about ideas and innovation and different ways of presenting things. He just wanted to get people talking.

So he licensed the Ted talks for Naperville and used his contacts at the Silicon Prairie Social to get it jump started.

He had about 200 people at the first event in 2010. The talks are held in early November each year, he said.

"I was passionate about sharing ideas and just tired of Chicago being considered a flyover city," he said.

He knew Naperville was a good place to start. It was more than just one of the top places to live and work and have manicured lawns, he said.

He now has a team of eight with 40 volunteers to help produce the TedX Naperville talks, he said.

"It was a lot of work, but I love doing it," he said. "Every person you meet has a great idea worth spreading.


In addition, he founded another company called Experiential Fuse, where he provides a different model for the typical work-related conference or trade show. Instead of having speakers come in, he has experiences presented, he said.

"I have flipped the model of the typical trade show and want to show how to get more engaging and more attention," he said.

Geneva writer has new book

Author LaRue Agresti of Geneva writes about her younger days in Chicago in her new book, "Boomer Tales: Hula Hoops, Hippies, Hemp and Hijinks." It was published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform and it is available on She writes about growing up in an Italian family during the 1950s and 1960s amid social change.

Ditka tastes da beer

Former Chicago Bears Coach Mike Ditka hosts a craft beer tasting on Dec. 3 at 6:30 p.m. at his namesake restaurant, Ditka's Arlington Heights, 2000 W. Euclid. Members of the Schaumburg Business Association will be on hand.


Attorney Heather Walser was among the headline speakers at the Financial Planning Association of Minnesota conference while partner Kerry Lavelle and attorney Jim Voigt participated in Harper College's first Veteran's Entrepreneurship Day. They were among several attorneys from Palatine-based Lavelle Law Ltd. to participate in professional conferences. ... Jill Foucré and husband Bob Bye own Glen Ellyn-based Marché, a new cheese shop. They also own Marcel's Culinary Experience, also in Glen Ellyn.

David Cunningham of Wauconda and owner of Woodstock-based Wondertucky Distiller is introducing the company's 80-proof bourbon, which follows his Shine Corn Whiskey now on the shelves at area liquor stores. ... Corey B. Quaglia of Elmhurst and a financial representative with Northwestern Mutual's McTigue Financial Group in Oak Brook has been appointed a College Unit Captain. Quaglia takes on a leadership role with the internship program and will assist in the training, development and mentoring of college financial representatives. He will continue to build relationships with his clients while also building relationships with campus professionals and prospective intern candidates on local college campuses.

Gino Bonanotte, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Schaumburg-based Motorola Solutions Inc., heads to Scottsdale, Arizona, to speak at the Credit Suisse 19th Annual Technology, Media & Telecom Conference on Wednesday, Dec. 2. ... Sam Zada has been appointed as director of rooms division at KeyLime Cove, an indoor water park resort in Gurnee. He actually held this position during previous employment at KeyLime from 2009-2013. He served as front office manager for a popular business hotel in downtown Chicago for two years before rejoining the team at KeyLime. ... Dave Reitz has been appointed as the president of the land development business line at HR Green Inc. in McHenry. Reitz previously served as the director of the land development Midwest region, overseeing planning, landscape architecture and engineering services delivered by staff in the Chicago area.

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