Over bottles of Yuengling beer and cups of espresso at an Ybor City cafe, they talk about changing the world.
They curse the obesity epidemic that threatens today's children.
They wonder why more food isn't produced locally.
It's heady stuff, to be sure, but worth the attention, they say. Change only happens once you start the discussion.
That's the premise of TEDx, a program to spark dialogue about global issues at small community gatherings. It formed as an offshoot of TED, a nonprofit devoted to ideas worth spreading through talks and conferences by the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers.
The goal of speakers? Give the talk of their life in 18 minutes.
Gina Clifford of Wesley Chapel started TEDxTampa Bay after following TED for years. Watching her first TED video, she was hooked.
"It changed the way I saw the world,'' she said. "It was like a drug.''
Clifford and other local TEDx leaders, Arlen Bensen, Peter Kageyama and Nathan Schwagler, organized their first conference last year at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. This year's event at the Dalí Museum drew about 150 people and included a talk by Anthony Flint of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy about urbanism and regional planning. On Oct. 28, the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, which owns the St. Petersburg Times and tbt*, will host a separate TEDx event on the future of journalism.
Clifford started the TEDxTampa Bay meetings in May to recreate TED-like experiences in a small setting. At each event, they watch and discuss two TED videos. Anyone is welcome.
"People are starved for deep discussion and deep ideas and they want to engage their community,'' said Clifford, a Web strategist.
At the June event, the group watched a video of Jamie Oliver speaking about obesity. He showed photos of an oversized coffin made for fat people and brought out a wheelbarrow containing the equivalent of all the sugar children consume in milk during their school years. Another video by David Griffin, photo director for National Geographic, highlighted the power of photos to bring attention to the world's problems, from elephant poaching to global warming.
Later, the group brainstormed ways to get involved in a global art project.
"I love TED for inspiring and keeping my mind growing,'' said Tampa artist Heather Kendall, who enjoys the camaraderie of the TEDx meetings.
TED began in 1984 as a conference to bring together people from the fields of technology, entertainment and design, hence the name. Past speakers have included Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall and Bill Gates. At its annual conferences in California and Edinburgh, Scotland, guests are typically invited or selected based on an application.
TED's videos are broadcast online and translated into 81 languages. Its 1,000 videos have been watched 500 million times in the past five years. TED's Facebook page has more than 1.1 million followers.
Fans consider the talks brain candy.
Ian Baldwin, general manager of Tre Amici and co-producer of TEDxTampa Bay, said TED inspires and empowers people to have a stronger voice at a time when it's really needed.
"People are looking to have a platform to say this is what's important to me and to do something about it,'' he said.