Two Daniel Island residents share inspirational ideas during TEDx Talks

Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and Bono are just a few of the speakers that have taken the stage to deliver TED Talks.
The lengthy list of fascinating speakers also includes two Daniel Island locals, Stephanie Mackara and Alicia Hughes.
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design and was the brainchild of Richard Saul Wurman after he saw a strong intersection between the three fields. The first TED Talk was given in 1984 and included compact disc and e-book demonstrations.
This first event lost money, but Wurman and co-founder Harry Marks were not deterred, and in the 1990s they launched a TED conference in Monterey, California. It soon became an annual event, attracting distinguished speakers and audiences from across the globe, united by their desire to learn more about important, diverse ideas that shape the world.
The popularity of TED Talks has expanded in recent years with the creation of TEDx, which brings the spirit of TED to local communities. TEDx presents the opportunity for speakers to share the latest research and spark conversations within local communities.
Alicia Hughes on building virtual relationships 
Alicia Hughes said giving a TEDx Talk has always been a dream of hers.
“I always have my eyes open for opportunities. When scrolling LinkedIn in January, I saw an application being shared and immediately applied. A few weeks later, I got an email asking me to come to Austin (Texas) to present in March. I could not believe it!” Hughes said.
“So, I quickly had to prepare a 10- to 18-minute speech on building relationships in the virtual world. This is a talk I have given many times, but never for that length of time consistently and never on the TED stage.”
Hughes gave her talk at the University of Texas in March about building relationships in a virtual world. She focused on how to build a culture and create engaging opportunities to connect and collaborate beyond email and Zoom.
Hughes’ first step was to outline her talk, expand upon each point, and most of all, practice.
“At first, my practices were just me and my phone recording my words, but then I gave the talk to my husband’s office, my family, and a few friends,” she said.
For more than 14 years, Hughes has been a virtual school educator at South Carolina Connections Academy, starting out as a high school teacher, then moving into administration as an assistant principal, then principal, and then executive director.
“The school started off relatively small and unknown, but through the years, our leadership team grew the school into the largest public school in the state with over 6,000 students and 260 staff members,” she said.
“And while that is challenging in and of itself, we also created a strong and viable culture that led to tremendous staff satisfaction and retention, which is a rarity in the world of education, let alone the virtual space.”
Hughes, who is now the founder of Sparking Up Leadership Consulting, said a lot of positives came with her TEDx Talk, for instance, “Street cred. Since I hope to do more keynoting, having a TEDx gives me visibility and credibility. But beyond that, it showed me that I can express the importance of virtual education and the importance of this work on a big stage.
“It has allowed me to connect with many across the industry and form relationships and connections to further my new work as a consultant in the space. It reinforced my belief that this is the work I am meant to be doing and the path that I am meant to travel upon.”
Hughes’ advice to potential TEDx Talkers is not to set lofty expectations.
“Not every TED is going to reach Brene Brown or Simon Sinek level. Or even come close. Think of it as a challenge.”
And she added, “Practice! Practice! Practice! Alone and before a group. Even if you have spoken multiple times and in larger venues. I watched a seasoned speaker literally forget all his words and not be able to finish!”
During the process, Hughes had to remind herself to appreciate the moment. “I will say, I literally dreaded it the first few weeks, but I finally had to remember this was an honor and an opportunity. And, even if the worst-case scenario happened, life would go on. Once I had perspective, I found the ability to enjoy it.”
Stephanie Mackara on good money habits
Daniel Island resident Stephanie Mackara is a financial professional and owner of Charleston Investment Advisors. She also holds a degree in psychology and has always enjoyed going to the Charleston TEDx events. 
After authoring her successful book, “Money Minded Families,” Mackara was told by others to inquire about presenting a TEDx Talk. She decided to apply, and after a long process that included a series of interviews, she was selected last December.
“The process to get from being selected to telling my story was very challenging, but ultimately very rewarding,” she said. “You have to be prepared for criticism, and very open to telling your story differently than ever before. The team at TEDx Charleston, along with the other presenters, pushed me way far out of my comfort zone and helped me grow in ways I wasn’t prepared for; I am so grateful.”
In April, Mackara gave her first TEDx Talk. The title of her talk was “Rethinking Money: A Pathway to Financial Wellness.”
“The idea that by prioritizing our financial wellness, just as we do our physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness, we can rethink and ultimately change our bad money habits in order to live a life of freedom and purpose,” she said.
“I believe the combination, which was the focus of my book, allows me to look at the financial industry through a different lens, offering a newer perspective on how to achieve financial wellness, a concept you don’t hear much about in the industry.”
Mackara highly recommends checking out local TEDx Talks. “If you have not attended a local TEDx, do yourself a favor and get a ticket for 2025. You will be inspired and entertained in ways you can’t imagine.”
She also has advice for those thinking about applying to become a speaker. “As a friend told me when I was dealing with imposter syndrome…, your story deserves to be told, go tell it.”

Daniel Island Publishing

225 Seven Farms Drive
Unit 108
Daniel Island, SC 29492 

Office Number: 843-856-1999
Fax Number: 843-856-8555


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