“Why are you here today?” I was asked at one of the breaks during my time at TEDxOttawa this past weekend (October 22, 2011). Good question. Why was I giving up a whole Saturday to listen to a roster of speakers I had (mostly) never heard of?
I knew about the TED Conference, mostly thanks to Twitter and YouTube. I had been inspired, entertained, and enlightened by a wide range of TED talks by people whom I had never heard of. As an entrepreneur and parent, one of my favourites is the 2006 talk given by Sir Ken Robinson. So I had been watching for a TED in or near Ottawa, and I wasn’t going to miss the chance to attend a TEDx organized in my own city.
What strikes me most about attending TED is that the value of the conference is more than the sum of the speakers. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t get value from from the speakers. I did. I learned from the speakers. I also listened them talk with such passion, expressing themselves in such a compelling way, that I was inspired all over again about things I already knew.
Here is a highlight of what I learned or relearned from the speakers:
- our manufactured foods are void of the nutrition our bodies crave
- North American architecture is functional and mass produced, with no thought for beauty or inspiration
- having a great, original idea doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t act on it
- poetry is powerful
- How to get the most of out life is as simple as: Awesomeness. Awareness. Authenticity.
All the talks I saw at TEDxOttawa will be available on Youtube. What I really want to share is what happened outside of the talks. The environment of the conference encouraged and facilitated conversation and discussion. Like most people, I was there alone. I’ve gone alone to hundreds of networking meetings, conferences, and workshops. There is always that slight awkwardness as people make the effort to overcome the “don’t talk to strangers” concept which is drilled into us at such an early age. At TEDx, there as an instant acceptance that we are all there to share and learn from others. Interesting conversations sparked without introductions. There was no preamble. No ice-breakers. No shyness. I discussed the impact of language on culture, and how the education system is evolving in response to technological innovation, with people I had never met. The sharing of ideas and listening to the perspectives and experiences of new people is what made the conference so much more than the speakers on the roster.
My time at TEDxOttawa exhilarating, and if you get the chance to go, I highly recommend it.