Around the Campfire: Meet Jenny Zoe Casey and Dave Casey

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Each person experiences TEDActive differently. Whether you’re an artist or techie, a morning or night person , a foodie or bookworm, an introvert or extrovert — the beauty of TEDActive is that there’s something for everyone. The experience is what you make of it. We talked with veteran attendees Jenny Zoe Casey and Dave Casey from Orlando, Florida on how they tackle TEDActive:

Would you define yourself as an extrovert or an introvert? How did that shape your TEDActive 2013 experience?

Jenny Casey: I’m more of an introvert. But I have better social skills.

Dave Casey: I’m more of an ambivert. I crave social interaction but I can also be introverted.

JC: I don’t really need as much social interaction. Almost none would be fine with me. One reason for that is I have get a sensory overload. If I have 3 or 4 conversations per day, that’s fine. I feel like it would be nice if I connected with more people but that’s not what my capacity is.

Dave talks to Chris Anderson during the Q and A session.

What were your favorite talks this year? What were some of your favorite moments?

DC:  Larry Lessig and Amanda Palmer. Amanda Palmer inspired me to go out and buy a ukulele.

JC: Which he’s been playing quite a bit.

DC: It was also really good to reconnect with people we’ve met over the years.

JC: Getting to see friends is really special.

DC: This is our fifth year going to TEDActive.

JC: We didn’t go to the one in Colorado. But we’ve been going ever since it was in Palm Springs. We decided to go because Dave was curious about it.

DC: I had a friend who used to attend the Monterey conference back in the day and he had great things to say about it. And when the talks came online, the Craig Venter talk really intrigued me. We started looking into it and realized that there was an option that was accessible to us. Got in, got addicted, started doing TEDx’s.

JC: And it’s been insanity ever since.

DC: Viral.

JC: My favorite moment was actually not a moment but an experience. It was the TEDx workshop that happened on Sunday. I am really introverted but I actually feel that organizing a TEDx has stretched my social self because I am so passionate about it. I felt so happy being among all those other TEDx organizers and it was such a beautiful day. Another highlight that stands out in my memory, was having early access to the theater, because we were donors this year. Not having to worry about getting a seat is a relief.

DC: Have you ever watched the Big Bang TV show? You know how Sheldon has a spot?

JC: Think of me as a more humble Sheldon.

DC: If someone else sits in her spot, it doesn’t go well.

JC: I like things to be predictable.

DC: We sit in the main theater, front left couch.

JC: That’s pretty important to us.

DC: Jenny sat on the left side of the couch. I sat to the right of her. The whole theory of trying to sit next to somebody different each time is not really a constructive way to meet folks. For me, it’s a lot easier to strike up a conversation while we’re waiting in line for food. It’s harder to converse with someone sitting next to you while Aida is playing.

JC: I also feel like just by going, I’ve already stretched myself quite a bit. So once I’m there [in the theater], I kind of deserve to do what’s more in my comfort zone.

Jenny makes her way for her seat! Dave says it's one of his fav photos
Jenny makes her way for her seat! Dave says it’s one of his favorite photos.

Jenny, it’s interesting that you choose to go to TEDActive, even though you say you’re an introvert. What are your reasons for going?

JC: I go because I am someone who loves ideas. I always have been idea-oriented. I could always stay home and watch the livestream, but at TEDActive, there’s such a feeling of joy. I don’t dislike people. I like people; I’m just not outgoing. The people who go are wonderful people. I think that there’s a difference between watching the simulcast in your living room and watching the simulcast with a group of other people who you like and respect and who are all really happy to be there. Although I don’t partake of a lot of what happens at TEDActive, I still like to feel immersed. I can still appreciate it even if I’m not socializing like a lot of the other people are. I think there are other people there who are like me, who really like to be there, but they don’t do the whole thing. We talked to someone else who said that TEDActive was a real stretch for him, but it was right on the edge of what he could handle. He said it was worth it though.

DC: In Susan Cain’s talk, she basically said speaking was really a stretch for her. It was worth it, but it didn’t mean it was easy. She needed a lot of downtime to recharge.

JC: It’s kind of a tricky thing. As an introvert, it’s not that I don’t need human contact. It needs to happen. But it needs to not overwhelm. In a way, TEDActive is a way for me to have some connection with people that are my tribe. That’s really important. But I just take a portion of it. I don’t eat the whole pie. I eat one slice.

DC: Socializing is a bit easier for me. But I get off to a slightly slower start than Jenny does. I’m usually going to bed by the time she’s getting up.

JC: I’m more of a morning person.

DC: I’m more of a night person

JC: I actually get sleep. I get up super early, hang around for coffee and wait until it’s time to go sit in the theater. Dave’s always dashing in at the last minute. During the breaks, I don’t talk to people. I go back to the room to take a break, then I get back in position to do it again. Dave dives in again at the last minute.

What were some of the most valuable conversations you had?

DC: Some of the conversations that really stood out to me were about music and people’s passions. That seemed to be the theme this year. Last year, there seemed to be an underlying theme of failure and fear of failure. I take a lot of 3D pictures during the course of TEDActive, and I was handing out View-Master reels this year from last year’s conference. One of the TEDFellows does stereoscopic photography as well. We were being 3D nerds and geeking out about that during the last evenings.

JC: For me, I think I’m not so focused on the content of the conversations. It’s important for me to connect with people I’ve met previously. To have it be more about finding out how they are. Not necessarily talking about deep subjects, but more about being with them. I did have at least one really important conversation with another TEDx organizer. We talked about how to work with sponsors which is something that I didn’t understand very well, but she did. I met David Gurman [TEDFellow and artist] through another friend. I’m an artist and I’m interested in some of the same things he is. We got to know each other a little bit.

What did you take away from TEDActive? 

JC: One takeaway is that TEDActive will supplement my reading. A really important part of my work is understanding current thought trends. The kinds of things TED brings to light. TEDTalks are vital in helping me to shape my thinking. It really supplements the reading that I do throughout the year. I feel like it’s really essential for me and the work that I do for me to participate in TEDActive.

DC: When we’re not working, we organize TEDx. Being able to bring that experience back here is great. We play different roles, of course. Jenny is a far more organized person than I am. She basically does all the work.

JC: Dave generates the ideas that create the work for me. Then, I implement them. I’m just joking. We talk things over a lot. We have an annual TEDx event and monthly events. TED is a huge part of our life together. We talk about stuff that comes out of TED between the two of us. It really informs our life together in a big way. We’re always talking about the ideas, the talks, how we should do TEDx better and stuff like that.

What is your advice to someone going to TEDActive for the first time?

JC: Going with Dave is huge. My advice would be to go with a close friend that’s more extroverted than you are. In my life in general, having Dave go places with me is huge. My other advice would be to always honor yourself and don’t feel inadequate if you’re not a social butterfly. Respect who you are and accept who you are.

DC: Watch the Susan Cain video before you go, especially if you’re an introvert.

JC: It’s a validating talk.

DC: I think some things that people complain about – the lines for the food, the lines for the coffee – are actually good. It’s one of the best parts of the day. It’s hard to have a conversation when you’re sitting in the theater.  When you’re stuck in line next to somebody for 10 minutes, you can have an interesting conversation. I met someone, who I’m probably going to collaborate with on a project that I’m excited about. It wasn’t a planned activity; it was just waiting in a line.  The lines can be a friend, if you see them as an opportunity.

Will you be at TEDActive2014?

DC: Oh yes! We’ve already signed up.

JC: We can’t wait!

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