KEARNEY COLUMN: Thinking ahead: Charleston’s spring ideas conferences – Charleston Post & Courier

Dec 3, 2012

There are a couple of new techy conferences coming to Charleston this spring, but to make the events as neat as they sound, the organizers need your help now.

The first, the DIG SOUTH Interactive Festival is the ambitious brainchild of Stanfield Gray, former operations manager of Piccolo Spoleto and now director of strategic communications at the College of Charleston.

The festival, which will run April 12-14, has three main parts: the conference featuring presenters ranging from the senior vice president and general manager of CNN Digital to executives at Charleston technology companies; an exhibitor expo; and a “sideshow” of music, comedy and parties. The college’s TD Arena will be conference headquarters with assorted events at the Charleston Music Hall and other venues on the peninsula.

Gray modeled DIG SOUTH on the successful South By Southwest conference held every spring in Austin, Texas, and aims to bring people together to explore the “intersection of technology, marketing, social media and the arts” and celebrate what’s happening in Charleston.

“The goal of DIG SOUTH is to set the table,” he said.

To supplement the money Gray and sponsors have pledged and to get ticket sales going, DIG SOUTH is running a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign. Offering “founder” status and deals to early supporters, the festival had raised about $6,500 of its $11,776 goal by last week.

But Gray emphasized the show will go on regardless of whether DIG SOUTH reaches its Kickstarter goal by Friday’s deadline. He said 95 percent of the program is set, sponsorships are proceeding apace and regular ticket sales will continue through March.

“It’s all coming together,” he said.

The other notable upcoming gathering is TEDxMarionSquare, a licensed but independently run iteration of the popular TED, the Technology, Entertainment and Design conferences scheduled for May 15 at Pure Theatre.

The theme of the conference is “Reinvent,” and like DIG SOUTH, it will feature speakers from a variety of disciplines, like science, art and business, and focus on the changing face of the Holy City, which now also fancies itself the Silicon Harbor.

TEDxMarionSquare, curated by business consultant Edith Howle, is accepting applications and nominations for speakers, who will present on the topic of their choice for 18 minutes, now through Jan. 4. Prospective attendees must also apply for admission, and TEDxMarionSquare also is seeking sponsors.

The idea conferences are just the latest (and potentially greatest) of their ilk. Just in the past month, there was Ignite Charleston, a series of quick talks by local creatives, on Nov. 7; the fourth annual BarCamp, a tech-themed “unconference” on Nov. 10; and on Thursday, the Charleston Creative Parliament is staging its 16th Pecha Kucha, which is like Ignite.

“All these events are related and really create energy around people who work in the knowledge economy,” Gray said. “I really think it’s going to lift all boats.”

Reach Brendan Kearney at 937-5906 and follow him on Twitter at @kearney_brendan.