Tuesday, March 8, 2011


it's a blur...

There is no end to the clever plays on TED words, but the one I can most relate to at the moment is exhausTED, referring to that unique kind of fatigue that hits you after a week at the TED conference.

I thank my lucky stars, and my amazing mentor, for bringing TED to my attention in 2006.  I am fortunate to have been accepted and invited each year. Despite the rising cost, I can't imagine ever missing it. If it means having to pick up an extra job as a barrista at Starbucks to finance it, I would. 

I will be writing many posts, trying to recapture the experience now that I am back home. Many summaries of the conference are already out there, including this one by Jack Myers. I tried to do something new this time and write a post each morning, but I soon found I wasn't willing to give up the people time it would require to do so. In the attempt, I discovered real clarity about why TED is so special to me.

It is the people, the chance interactions with amazing new friends and the reunion with now close friends who were new last year. Why does this happen? Why does this introvert transform into a people junkie at TED?

I think it was best captured in two talks at TED University--the series of short talks that precedes and supplements the official TED program.

The secret to the TED experience is Collective Effervescence, a concept eloquently explained by Tony Salvador, a corporate ethnographer at Intel (how cool a job is that). A shared and defining experience, like a pilgrimage, that binds people together in community. I think it is that shared experience of TED, the long hours, the emotional roller coaster, the inundation of brilliant concepts, the tragic challenges in the world you can not turn away from, the beauty and resilience of the human experience, and yes, even the late night dancing that binds the community and encourages the open hearts. This experience is beautifully described in a blog post by a new TED friend I met this year. 

The other TED University talk that spoke to the magic of TED was by John Hagel on Shaping Serendipity. In his talk, Hagel suggested that you can give serendipity a helping hand by choosing where and how you spend your time. Suggestions included 1) be where people are (cities, TED, etc.); 2) be open, sharing your challenges and vulnerability; and 3) don't over-schedule your day, leave space for surprise encounters. John has a booklet on the topic and you can get it for free here.

In my opinion, to do TED "right" you have to go all in, experience every last offering, and meet as many people as cross your path, and all with an open heart. Sure, I wanted the hand of serendipity to swoop in and draw Demi Moore, Cameron Diaz or one of the many other celebs at TED to be mesmerized by the gorgeous handbag on my arm, thus catapulting our new HVE brand into popularity. It didn't happen. But other more subtle wonders and important relationships did occur. New friends and beautiful brilliant souls who will make my life richer and deeper.

I highly recommend applying for TED---even though TED 2012 may be sold out, try to apply anyway. And definitely apply for TED Global, or TED Active or any of the other events or TEDx offerings out there. It is worth it and the experience transcends the talks if you are open to it.

I am so grateful for this experience and I hope I can share some of this magic with you.

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