Talk of the town / Hutchinson gathering gives people a reason to connect

Taylor Harris is one of the various speakers featured during a Talk20 Hutch program.

Since humans walked the Earth, talking has been a form of communication ? sometimes a great form, other times not so much.

Talking is quite an effective form of communication at the Talk20 Hutch events in the town?s library. Talk20 Hutch kicked off Jan. 24, 2014, with 10 speakers, ranging from Marci Penner speaking on ?Talking to Locals?It Makes a Difference? to Bob Colladay discussing ?Ukulele: The Revolution Will Have Four Strings? to Lindsey Young on ?Making Headlines: Entrepreneurship in Your 20s.?

Others spoke on ?Going Viral? and ?My Take on the Creative Process,? among other topics.

?Talk20 Hutch is not a lecture but a gathering, an open forum for the exchange of ideas,? said Talk20 Hutch co-founder Kari Mailloux. ?Ten community members will share 20 images and speak for only 20 seconds per image. The idea is that each presenter shares a story or an expertise or an interest through the combination of quick images and words to create a cohesive narrative of a chosen topic in six minutes, 40 seconds.?

The other co-founder, Patsy Terrell, echoed those sentiments.

?Our goal is to give people a new way to gather,? she said. ?It?s wonderful to see people who might not otherwise connect come together. We always have an opportunity afterward for people to continue the conversation. Talk20 allows presenters to share their passions, and people always respond to that. It?s impossible to not be drawn into what thrills people, what drives them.?

Speakers cover a diverse range of interests, backgrounds, ages and ethnicities, Mailloux said, and it?s free and open to all ages.

Talk20 Hutch started in summer 2013 with a conversation at coffee between Mailloux and Terrell, both writers, after Mailloux had returned to Hutch.

?At that coffee date, I told (Terrell) about the ideas I had to bring to Hutchinson from my time away, and one event that she latched onto right away was Talk20,? Mailloux said. ?She thought it would be a great event to bring to the Hutchinson Public Library, so we met with library director Gregg Wamsley. He, too, was immediately receptive to it, and we put it on the calendar for January 24, 2014, and started asking presenters.?

Speaker Bob Colladay discussing ?Ukulele: The Revolution Will Have Four Strings.? Patsy Terrell photo

The idea for Talk20 Hutch came from Mailloux?s three-year stint working for a non-profit art and library organization in Spartan?burg, S.C. One of their more consistently popular events was Talk20 Spartanburg.

?I loved how it brought such diverse perspectives and stories from across the city to one place and how, as a result, the audience was so diverse; you know you?re going to meet someone new at each event,? Mailloux said.

?I loved how you didn?t know what you were going to learn, or in what order, before it happened. The format asks you to come with an open mind and expect the unexpected. And the exchange of ideas, giving people a voice for their passions and experiences, was what I knew I wanted to bring to Hutchinson.?

The Talk20 format and concept comes from an event called PechaKucha that launched in 2003 in Japan. Architects initiated the event because they wanted a ?contained format for creative people to share their ideas, knowing that without a limit, they would talk a long time,? Mailloux said. The ?Talk20? name is used more often in the States but has the same format as PechaKucha.

In Hutchinson, as in Spartanburg, Talk20 has been quite popular. During the first event, 150 people showed up, although they only had seating for 60.

?They were standing against the wall, sitting cross-legged in the front and listening in the hallway,? Mailloux said. ?It blew us away that the community was so immediately receptive to an event that was hard to describe without experiencing it. And the audience has continued to grow by about a third each time.?

During the second event, more than 200 attended, while more than 300 were there for the third event with standing room only. Library staff are thinking about moving stacks to make more room for the fourth event, which will be at 7 p.m. July 24 at the library.

?I think the community has been so receptive to it because there isn?t anything else like it in Hutchinson,? Mailloux said. ?And they know what to except ? if not from what they will hear and how long each person will talk. They know they will learn something new, meet someone new and connect with others who desire those same experiences.?

Since Talk20 only happens every six months, it takes place often enough to keep folks inquiring about it but not often enough for them to get tired of the format or have the pool of presenters depleted, Mailloux said.

Mailloux believes it benefits the town for a variety of reasons.

?It gives people a voice and a platform that they might not otherwise have,? she said. ?It?s a powerful conductor, and watching people meet and form new relationships each time is one of my favorite things.?

Mailloux believes Talk20 can benefit other communities, as well. She said anyone can start a Talk20, and it can work anywhere.

?I?ve seen it work for two very different communities now, and I think it?s such a simple format that every town can use it as a connector,? she said.

Those who wish to speak during Talk20 Hutch can visit, where they take requests.

?We?re always looking for another great story,? Terrell said.

by Wendy Nugent

The Edge

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