On November 12th I had the top of my head opened and magical fairy dust sprinkled inside.
Yes, I went to my first TED event!
If you unfamiliar with the Technology, Education, and Design events – TED for short – they started as a day-long series of talks on a wide range of subjects by the most fascinating people in each discipline. Physicians talked of amazing breakthroughs in understanding the body; technologists demonstrated prototypes of spellbinding new technologies; and artists, musicians, comedians, magicians, and other performers used their skills to tell a wide range of stories.
The audience was an invite-only group of the best, brightest, and powerful. They attended the event, learned things, made connections, and left the event inspired to do great things.
The model of TED proved so successful that the organizers allowed people to start local TED events, and called them TEDx. These have become a bit like the semi-finals in pro sports. The best and brightest of the local TEDx events are sometimes invited to present at what is commonly known as “The Big TED”, which happens once a year in Long Beach, California.
TEDxRainier was the TEDx event in Seattle this year, held on November 12th at Kane Hall on the University of Washington campus. (Videos from the event should be up on the site after December 1, 2011. I’m in the front row, left of center, wearing the hat and vest!)
The speakers this year ranged from innovators to philanthropists, from technology geeks to religious leaders, from musicians to photographers, and from a fledgling auto manufacturer to a librarian. And pretty much everything in between, too.
Being an “x” event, all the presentations did not match the quality of the Big TED, but there was still plenty of fairy dust sprinkled on my brain by the 27 different presentations.
The Importance of Story Telling
The essence of any TED event is exquisite story telling. If you watch a few of the TED talks online you will notice a pattern to how the stories are presented, how the presenter speaks, the simple body motions, etc. The majority of these people – if not natural story tellers to begin with – have developed their ability with time and practice.
The reason why so many of the presentations – regardless of topic – are so good, is because of the story telling. The fascinating tapestry being woven together from numerous interesting threads.
It has been my dream to one day give a talk at TED. And being there on November 12th I saw some amazing presentations and some amazingly bad ones as well. But even the “bad” ones were only “bad” in the rarefied air of TED. Any of these presentations would have blown away the typical conference or tradeshow presentation.
Watch and Learn
To see the brilliance of good story telling and to learn what makes a good story, watch TED talks. Here are a couple to get you started:
Majora Carter – Greening The Ghetto
Jill Bolte-Taylor – Stroke of Insight
As Steve Jobs so eloquently put it, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”