The concept was simple as it was intriguing: assemble 10 speakers, each armed with 10 slides and five minutes, and highlight some of the interesting and eccentric characters populating this Creative Coast in a fast-paced, jam-packed, hour-long event. And today, the Sarasota 10x10 speaker series packs hundreds of people into the Art Ovation Hotel for its annual events. Yet when local architect Michael Halflants revived the series in 2009, dormant since its founder left for Portland years before, he found an uphill battle.  Like a nomad, he found shelter where he could—making venues out of bars on Main Street, in concrete studios—anywhere that could, and would, host the straggling crowd of 60 or so, including speakers. 10x10 was the underdog, but, Halflants believed, an underdog with something special locked in its jaws. As an architect spending his days with other architects, he welcomed every opportunity to expand and explore outside of his circle, to see what Sarasota had to offer elsewhere. So he and his organizing partner (currently local artist Tim Jaeger) invite speakers from all walks of life, including not just artists and architects, but politicians, world travelers, inventors, activists and even cheese-mongers, all to share their passions and stories. “I want to see what makes a life,” says Halflants. “Sarasota is an ever-changing, ever-growing community, and I’m surprised every time.” And with his own audience ever-growing as well, Halflants looks to the next 10 years with an eye to turning this community engagement into community action. “Trying to be more than a conversation,” he says.