TEDxWelly: Connecting Hearts and Minds

I imagine there will be plenty of blog posts and articles about TEDxWellington over the next few days and weeks. This one is about me and my personal experience of being there rather than a summary of the presentations.

Going to a TED event has been on my wish list for a long time so I was there at 9am on ticket release day with credit card in hand. The build up was good — not too much information all at once, the speaker bios were intriguing and anticipation built. I know a couple of people involved in making it happen but they didn’t reveal any of the nuts and bolts of putting it all together, keeping the surprise and intrigue intact.

I have watched a fair few TED talks and while many have inspired me, sometimes they leave me feeling a bit flat, feeling a bit like I have been told something that I already knew. Being part of the whole event and in person rather than watching the live stream remotely had a totally different feel to it. The setting, the ambiance, the order of the speakers, the connecting thread of ‘Connecting hearts and minds’, the MC judging the mood of the room and connecting with us and getting us to connect with each other during the set up breaks and intros all contributed to a sense of being part of something bigger, something much more meaningful than a series of presentations. I didn’t feel like a passive audience member, I felt like I was contributing and being part of the event.

A lot of conferences and events are about ‘doing’ — being there, being seen, making connections for work purposes but for me TEDxWellington was more about ‘being’ — listening, talking, connecting with others, more about me as a person rather than what I do for a living. I wasn’t defined by just that one aspect of my life. I thought the name tag question ‘What is your passion?’ was inspired and a great conversation starter. The mix of topics covered was diverse covering design, creativity, connection, technology, physical space, science communication and addressing poverty. All the presenters were engaging and down to earth in their approach, I didn’t feel like I was being talked down to by the great and the good. And each one of them piqued my curiosity, leaving me with a desire to find out more about them and their journeys. A couple of highlights for me were:

Fraser Callaway and Oliver Ward with their ability to think outside of the (literal) box and use their design skills to solve real world problems. Their presentation was filled with humour and infectious enthusiasm.

Cassandra Treadwell for an inspiring story which while being the obligatory tear jerker showed the depth of humanity and humility in realising the reciprocal nature of charitable work.

The video of Megan Washington’s TEDxSydney session where she talked about trials and tribulations of living with a stutter —a humorous and engaging talk looking at communication and connection.

Photo by Dan Newman @danserif featuring the fantastic and speedy work done by @theinfrographers

The extras such as the food, the location, the goody bags, the activities in the interactive and reflection spaces all added to the overall feel of the day — plenty of opportunities and encourage to connect and share stories with others. It was a day as much about the happenings on the edges as the events on the red carpet. It felt well run but with a down to earth attitude rather than a sense of corporate polish.

And just like the sublime Wellington’s Chocolate Factory chocolate which we got to try in the final session, amongst all the joy, pleasure and good stuff there was a bittersweet edge. On the journey home I reflected on the day and to be honest I felt a bit lacking as I pondered the question ‘what had I done that was worthy of being shared on such a stage?’ I feel that I have been resting on my laurels a bit recently after all the excitement and adventure of moving from the UK to NZ. And while I don’t actually see myself presenting on the TEDxWellington red carpet in 2015, I do want to do something new and exciting. Something that tests my boundaries, takes me out of my comfort zone, has a risk of failure and puts something back into the community. So I am plotting, planning and getting ready for a new adventure, all fired up thanks to TEDxWellington.