All you have to do is… whistle

Our Truth Fairies, Amy and Lenka, made this for Kelly. Thank you to everyone who participated! We were touched.

A TEDActive Talk and A Nature Walk

As a regular attendee and host of TEDActive and an organizer for TEDxIndianapolis, I am grateful for the opportunity to interact with some very interesting people and have some experiences that are unique. This year at TEDActive, I had a few firsts from which I learned a bit about myself both personally and professionally.

I have recognized and come to terms with the fact that being well-spoken and a bit bohemian in appearance is a magnetic formula for curiosity and engagement. Additionally, my involvement with TED has given me an associative point of interest in the eyes of some folks that is really only as accurate as our actual interactions prove it out to be. To that end, I was asked at TEDActive this year to give a [very] short talk on collaboration in one of the salon events. I had a matter of hours to prepare and deliver and about 3 minutes to work with a coach.

How did it go? To be clear, no movements will be started based on my talk. It was a great opportunity and learning experience and was generously received by my audience. However, it paled in comparison to another event I led during the week, and I understand very clearly why that was the case.

Leading from my strengths to serve a need I understand with a group of people who are receptive is a formula for success for me.

Photo: Marla Aufmuth/TED
Photo: Marla Aufmuth/TED

I led a hike on Wednesday at TEDActive to give folks a chance to decompress, process the emotions and intellectual stimulation of the event, experience the physical outdoor beauty of Whistler, BC, have unstructured conversations while moving about, share pictures and experiences, and create a unique memory. As a veteran of the conference and host, I know the subtle, yet profound impact of those things in the midst of an intense week. Expecting 15 to 20 folks, 70 people eagerly followed along as my co-leader and I struck out on the trails. This was a huge success – in no short part because it was a great fit at the right time for the right outcome with the right people.

My talk on collaboration was ok. There is a clear difference between my offerings as a TEDx organizer and TEDActive host and my time on the stage. The difference is in where my strengths converge with both the need and dynamic where they can thrive. That is the experiential side over the theoretical side. I am a kinetic and relational person and lead / serve / connect in that context; one who walks with rather than one who stands in front.

The hike at TEDActive will not get a million views on TED.com, but for a large handful of attendees, it made a significant impact on the week and calibrated their experience in a way that my talk never could. It provided clarity, validation, and gratitude that I will tuck away in my pouch of things-gone-right. Those “I get it” moments are excellent markers along the path of life. My goal and my joy is not necessarily to spend time talking about mine, but to walk closely with others and help them find theirs.

Photo: Marla Aufmuth/TED
Photo: Marla Aufmuth/TED

By Chris Carpenter

The original title for this piece was “My First TED Talk and a Nature Walk.” This post was originally posted here.

My TEDActive FAQ

Random Observation/Comment #506 : My life needs a meditation room and smilebooth.

Photo: Marla Aufmuth/TED
Photo: Marla Aufmuth/TED

I’m a big fan of summarizing into lists and preparing my day for common questions. Here are answers to the main ones I suspect this week:

Q: How was the conference?

A1 (in general): It was the best week of my life, but not something I can do more than once or maybe twice a year. At some point I felt like I was taking 40 credits a semester and jamming 12 sessions of over 90 expert lectures into this 5-day cram session. Whistler was beautiful and the people were what made the conference awesome.

A2 (to geeks): So we’re going to Mars in 2027 because Elon Musk is probably a Martian from the future. There’s also some crazy technologies coming our way that can change the future of manufacturing with 3D printing and extracting sound from video. It was a great conference with a lot of very proactive, geeky, and social introverts.

A3 (to organizers): The venue was incredible and I feel like everyone helping was on the same page. I like how there were 3 rooms for viewing the web casts: 1 device-free and silent, 1 in a whisper device open, and 1 just fully open. The veteran TEDActive goers made us feel at home and the schedule was jam packed. The TEDConnect app was super useful for scheduling and connecting – I think it’s something we should adopt for our new joiners in our firm.

Q: Which speaker was the most inspiring and what was your favorite talk?

A1 (in general): This is a really tough question because they were all so moving and inspirational, but they had two sessions about “Life Stories” and “Just and Unjust” that just brought me to tears with every speaker. In those sessions, Anand Giridharadas and Gary Haugen really gave me a different perspective and shocked me. Anand spoke about the split of Americas and how forgiveness is core to giving second chances. Gary gave a shocking overview of poverty and violence around the world that I couldn’t shake afterwards.

A2 (to management): From a technology stand point, David Eagleman gave an amazing speech about rewiring our brain to expand to other senses. He has a vibrating vest that he’s found people learn to “feel the internet”. He trained a few people to feel the stock market to decide on buy/sell. From this year’s TED Prize, David Isay pushed forward Story Corps, a project that records stories and uploads them to Library of Congress. It’s now available on the app stores.

A3 (to geeks): The tech is still in stealth, but within the first session, Abe Davis from MIT gave a preview of his research on extracting sound from video. Stephen Petranek also gave a speech about how we’ll live on Mars by 2027.

A4 (to humans): The Monica Lewinsky speech was actually quite moving because I remember how easily the whole country labeled her and marked her as the mistress that had an affair with the President. The media really took full advantage and used her as patient zero to cyber bullying. At the end of the day, we all forgot she was someone’s daughter and made mistakes as any 22-year-old might.

A5 (to artists/design): Two really beautiful and shocking speeches I found were by Elora Hardy and Neri Oxman. Elora spoke about the architecture of bamboo and Neri showed a whole different side to biologically printed clothes and a hundred other side projects that I looked up. It’s bizarre.

Q: Why is it better to attend in person than just watch the talks?

A: The TEDactive conference was not just a simple conference room web cast of a live event. It was back-to-back events that connect you with the smartest and kindest people around the world. These TEDx organizers covered companies, universities, cities, states, and countries. I was constantly listening and learning from those around me, and I’m sure I learned more in these connections than from watching talks. The reflection and sharing of the ideas after those talks really solidified a meaning around them.

Q: What did you learn?

A1 (to management): I learned that the attendees really make the conference what it is, and we all have our own skills to contribute to a bigger cause. I have never felt out of my league in a room of international super stars, but I have also never felt more inspired. I want to continue to surround myself by a community like this and help others with forwarding their own causes. I really hope TEDx this year will be just as great as last, and we can motivate others to get involved.

A2 (to organizers): TEDActive maintains a brand for not promoting a company or agenda for a good reason. When you strip a selfish layer of speaking-up at a conference and start to listen and contribute to shared ideas, this is where real building and collaboration happens. I also found TED used a lot of playful/silly breaks between speeches (either short viral videos or 3-minute speeches) that helped people transition into a more relaxed mode. As for lessons learned, I have a whole list of them on my blog.

If you ask me these questions, I will most likely not give you these answers, but you’re Damn sure I’d be excited to share more about the talks, people, planning, and feelings I’ve felt the entire trip.

by Clemens Wan

This post originally appeared on Clemens Wan’s personal blog. You can find it here.

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