This is a very long overdue update on my TED Summit 2016 experience.
As a TEDx organizer and a watcher of online TED Talks, I had some idea in mind of what a TED in-person experience would be like. Yet at the same time, I had absolutely no expectations. After all, how can you possibly know what a structured program, executed at the highest level, will be like?
With those conflicting feelings, I headed to Banff for a week at the Banff Conference Centre. The first 2.5 days were dedicated to bringing together the worldwide organizers of TEDx events.
We split into smaller groups for work sessions and discussions – mostly about the future of TED, the role of TEDx and TED-Ed.
However ample time was built in for casual conversation and relationship building. These informal times were immensely valuable. I met several TEDx organizers from my region (GO TEXAS!) and picked up several good ideas for our future efforts with TEDxPlano.
The Summit didn’t end there. We transitioned into a more standard TED gathering, with programmed Talks interspersed with workshops and discussions.
The time was invigorating and exhausting. I soon learned there are dual benefits to the online TED Talks: 1) ideas are not limited to those who are able to attend in-person and 2) it is simply not possible to retain all of the ideas shared in even one of the Talk sessions. (Those, by the way, typically feature 4-6 Talks.)
Initially I was bemused by the amount of free time and activity-focused sessions on the agenda. Hiking? Canoeing? Painting? Mindful of the cost to attend, I couldn’t figure out where the value would be found in “friviolous” activity. This, of course, is the perspective of a DOER.
The “friviolous” activity ended up being some of the most valuable time I had at TED Summit. A great deal of effort was put into creating serendipity. Different groups were together, being active while being tech-free, during each session. The honest conversations and new connections made (with CEOs, radio hosts, fellow TEDx organizers and so on) were amazing.
So how would I describe TED Summit? I find myself no better equipped to summarize it post-event than I was pre-event, other than I’m glad I went and wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.