PORTLAND – When someone has a good idea, it’s probably worth spreading.

That was the rationale behind the second annual TEDxDirigo conference held Saturday.

The sold-out, daylong conference featured 15 speakers, from musicians, professors and authors to executives, innovators, doctors and even a beekeeper. Nearly 300 people filled Portland Stage Company to seek inspiration from their stories.

TED conferences — shorthand for technology, entertainment and design — are held worldwide. They began in 1984 to bring together people from the three fields.

Since then, they have grown to feature a broader array of speakers who, in 18 minutes or less, must explain who they are, what they do and how it impacts the world. The goal is to foster innovative thinking and promote positive change in the community.

“It’s not just a technology conference,” TEDxDirigo Executive Director Adam Burk said. “It’s about bringing together some really relevant, inspiring, perhaps unknown ideas of people who live and work in Maine.”

Among presenters was local musician Emilia Dahlin.

She kicked off the second session playing her guitar and singing: “It’s a sad, sad affair when latitude and longitude hold you in despair.”

She played off the conference’s theme “Latitudes” in her song choice, but later explained how she wrote it 10 years ago while spending a month in El Salvador. Throughout her journeys and service work, Dahlin said she has recognized how music can be a tool for social change and point of connection across the globe.

Jeff Thaler, a visiting professor of energy policy, law and ethics at the University of Maine, explained how he arrived at one of his life lessons that “indifference is unacceptable.”

He talked about a program started by his professor Robert Gaudino that he participated in during his sophomore year at Williams College.

“I spent five months with four different families in four different places in the country,” learning from the families that housed him and the jobs he held, Thaler said.

At the end of the semester, he told his professor how much the experience changed him, but Gaudino said: “You haven’t changed. You’ve just become more of who you were already.”

In the past five years, Thaler has run a similar program, bringing students of Williams College to live with refugee families for a month in Portland. It’s not the same as Gaudino’s program, but Thaler said the students learn much about what it is like to live within a culture.

Ralph Sweet, who lives on Long Island, said the presenters at the conference were fabulous.

“When you listen to somebody talk about something they’re passionate about, you really have the opportunity to learn something,” he said. “There are so many interesting people doing different things, making the world a better place.”

Deb Coyman of Falmouth attended the conference to gain inspiration for the next chapter in her life. She most recently worked at Idexx.

“I’m struck by the sense of personal story. I’m struck as well by the diverse areas of interest and subjects,” Coyman said. “It’s all been very enlightening.”

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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