Houston gets think happy: Read 15 books in one day ... or do The UP Experience
Is Houston becoming an intellectual hub? The folks at The UP Experience think so. Now in its third year, The UP Experience goes down this Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Stafford Centre, with a unique gathering of the nation's top thought leaders and an eager crowd of curious knowledge seekers.
Think one day, 15 speakers, and enough good ideas to last a lifetime. The speaker lineup spans several disciplines from former Disney CEO Michael Eisner to Wired founder Kevin Kelly.
Sheryl and Ernie Rapp founded The UP Experience as a way not only to bring incredible minds to Houston, but to also create a community of engaged people. The couple was so fired up after their first TED conference, they looked for a way to import the experience to Houston.
"We gathered an amazing group of advisers from Rice University, the arts world, philanthropy and put them in a room at Tony's," Rapp remembers.
From there the first UP event was hatched. The couple traveled to numerous conferences in search of the ideal speakers, who can make their point in 20 minutes.
"Not everyone can do that," Rapp says. "They have to be able to deliver it passionately, with compelling conviction or it's not going to work. I can tell if they have what it takes to make it up on that stage."
The event continues to be tweaked in a way that distinguishes itself from TED, the mother of all thought conferences.
"First we are just one day and we have speakers from 15 totally different topics, from medicine to technology," Rapp says. "There's also time built into the schedule to mix and mingle with other UP attendees as well as an intimate Q & A session, where one has the chance to directly address questions and comments to the speakers. The schedule has been narrowed down to a science, where there's a balance between learning and connecting."
Lunch features a special Bento box designed by several top chefs. "I want brain and power food, not food that puts people to sleep," Rapp says.
Neuroscientist and author David Eagleman will reprise his role as the moderator. "Having an MC is important to us," Rapp says. "Last year David blew us away."
Eagleman is thrilled to be back as a speaker and idea weaver. "There's world-class talent on that stage. I don't know exactly what they will say, so it's a fun challenge for me," Eagleman says. "I have to think on my feet."
UP attendees stay connected throughout the year through mini-UPs, which combine one or two speakers with a social time. Rapp sees The UP experience as crucial for today's changing world.
"I had no idea that Houston had this intellectual community just hungry for this information," Rapp says. "Plan to meet the best of the best. It's like reading 15 books in one day."