By Drew Jubera
In February, Cheryl Grisson, a retired elementary-school teacher, attended a presentation known as an EPIC Talk (an acronym for Empowering People, Inspiring Communities), a series featuring speakers with various areas of expertise.
Held in the 600-seat theater of the state-of-the-art Riverside EpiCenter in Austell, its message was economic empowerment.
Grisson, 66, of Austell, left impressed. “It made you feel as soon as you leave you have to get out and get things going,” she said.
Sponsored by AARP Georgia, the EPIC Talks Empowerment series is billed as a local version of the popular TED Talks—entailing short presentations, with an emphasis on personal storytelling about issues relevant to communities of color.
Instead of a panel of speakers with prepared notes, the format favors direct engagement.
Each speaker is limited to 30 minutes (TED Talks are restricted to 18 minutes), and presenters talk directly to the audience in an intimate setting.
The goal is to inform and inspire, noted Christopher Boyd, an EPIC Talks organizer and general manager of the facility.
“These are not lectures; they’re not speeches,” he said. “These are inspirational stories about people’s life experiences.”
While the EPIC Talks are intended for those of all ages, they include themes that directly affect the 55-plus demographic.
During February’s economic empowerment program, one entrepreneur in his 70s described the different phases people go through as they grow older in business life—the 20s and 30s are “learning years,” the 40s and 50s are “earning years,” and the 60s, 70s and beyond are “returning years,” which can include mentoring and giving back to the community.
The talks are an outgrowth of AARP’s partnership with the Word of Faith Family Worship Cathedral. Each February topical themes are developed around Black History Month.
The program has been such a success that organizers decided to expand it into a series of talks to be given several times a year.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity to engage the community,” said Lee Baker, 51, of Stone Mountain, the volunteer state president of AARP Georgia.
Upcoming programs are scheduled to include talks on justice, on Thursday, Aug. 22; and health and wellness, on Wednesday, Oct. 23.
Baker said that if the EPIC Talks continue to be successful, the format can be replicated for years to come.
Programs are already being organized for next year and could be copied by AARP offices in other states, as well.
“I can easily imagine still doing these events two or three years from now,” Baker noted. “And when we go to regional meetings, we can tell other folks, ‘Here’s the template. You can do this in your state and have similar outcomes.’ ”
EPIC Talks tickets are $25. Livestreaming is not available, but talks will be filmed for later online viewing.
To register and to see a schedule, go to tinyurl.com/yyfxudbb.
Drew Jubera is a writer living in Atlanta.