Monday, February 16, 2009

TED FAQ I: What was it like at TED??

Having successfully released more bugs on the audience and survived an interview with a cautiously "mac-ed out" Chris Anderson, Bill Gates shares laughs with Paul Allen and other original Microsofters over dinner at TED. Read what it was like to be there first-hand. Photo credit: Steve Jurvetson

I've been getting a LOT of questions about TED...what it was like to be there, what it meant to be there, and what were my favorite parts.

If you live in the Los Angeles area and are a friend (or want to be a friend!), I'm going to try and have something called a TEDx party (or maybe several of these, depending on how many show interest) at some point. Essentially, TEDx is where you do your own version of a TED-like event in your surroundings with your community. At mine, I want to show some videos and talk about my experiences, and answer the umpteen questions I've been getting from friends and family.

For those of you who can't make it, I'm going to try and recount some of my favorite moments to give you a glimpse of what it was like to be there among these wonderful geniuses of the world.

Here are some FAQ's to start:

Q. What is TED?

Ummm...Go to the website, watch some of the talks, get more information, and tell me what you think. In short, its the bestest and most kick@$$ conference man ever made.

Q. What was TED like??

It was an absolutely amazing experience. EVERYBODY at the conference has done something spectacular with themselves. I like to say that everyone is a somebody. The wisdom, the brainpower, the humility, the speakers, the audience, the musicians, the conversation there is unparalleled.

Here are some ways I would describe TED:

- an intense brain orgasm. Really...its very intense, just the right length, with amazing mental and emotional stimulation, and you remember it for life!

- the Academy Awards for Geeks. TED celebrates nerdiness in all its forms, by bringing together some of the greatest known and unknown nerds of the world under one roof, letting them give timed speeches under a spotlight, and giving them awesome goody bags just for coming.

- an intense booster shot of MIT goodness. Not sure if you've been to MIT, but its amazing. At all times, it contains some of the most hard-working, brilliant, well-rounded and humble people in the world working for the betterment of humanity. Its inspiration in a nutshell. At TED its the same, only there's good food at all times and you are generally a person of significant income (at MIT, both of these are sorely lacking). The exception to the income part are us poor Fellows!

- inspiration in a nutshell and nerd heroine. For those of you who watch the TEDtalks regularly, TED is addictive. You get incredible highs and lows and energy levels from it. You have withdrawal symptoms and anticipation symptoms. The time in TED is almost blissful. No wonder it sells out immediately and is the hardest ticket in town, inspite of its hefty pricetag!

Q. Are all the people nice there??

Well, that's a good question. Define "nice."

I'd say a great number of the people who have really done something are amazingly and surprisingly down-to-earth and approachable. If there is something that will totally disarm and put you in your place, it is this. Many won't even speak of their accomplishments and when they do in even the humblest terms, it blows you away.

Still, this is the real world, and there were a number of people running around with some sort of a "Bush Complex," named after the glorious ex-president of the U.S, people with enough means, fame, and brains to get to where they are (while everyone else wonders how!), who were there largely to network and talk down to people. If you are a Fellow, the "Bushes" avoid you almost entirely because you are worthless to them, except to allow them the chance to gloat.

Q. Did you encounter any "Bushes"?

No comment.

(Wondering what's a "Bush"?? read the last paragraph of the previous answer to "Are all the people nice there?")

Q. Did you see any famous people?? Who did you see??

Define "famous."

Like I said, its the world's best brains in all categories coming together. So most definitely yes, I saw a lot of people who I considered celebrities in their fields. TED has a strict confidential policy, so I can't mention a lot of people. But among many others, I trailed Seth Godin on a walk to lunch; counted Bill Gates' semi-gray hairs when I sat behind him; waved to Vice President Al Gore in the hallways; walked arm-in-arm with Regina Spektor; and hugged Ray Anderson for being such an inspiration. And yes, all these people sat with the rest of the audience on other days. There are no special places at TED.

more tomorrow... (and feel free to send me more questions!)


Anonymous said...

Oh, I know what you mean by the "Bushes". Of course, being staff, I was even less interesting to them I think. I was just a tool. The "help". Which is fine. They can view it that way and go put hot pokers up their @$$es.

I have to say that TED was some of the highest highs and lowest lows I've had in a while. All worthwhile, of course, but man!! Still... in... recovery. It took me a week to realize that Elizabeth's talk was the first one that made me crack and about lose it. She was amazing!

Gerard said...

I have to say that I have no clear idea about what is meant by "Bushes."

It seems like snark, but perhaps it is not.

Some clarification would seem to be in order.

pragzz said...

Gerard, thanks for asking. I explained what a "Bush" or the "Bush Complex" is in the last paragraph of the answer to the question "Are all the people nice there??"

Let me know if its still not clear...