By Tina Hart
During the “Inside TED” session on Monday afternoon, curator Chris Anderson made a comment about how those who are attending TED and TEDActive provide such great support because, ultimately, the talks are available online and they’re completely free.
Though this is my first TEDActive, I knew I wasn’t really going just to hear the content of the talks. However, that comment got me thinking – what is it that makes the hundreds of TEDActive attendees all invest a significant amount of time and money into being here for a whole week? What’s the magic that makes TEDActive so special and goes above and beyond the ideas that the speakers explore on the stage?
More than one person has said to me, “Why would you pay so much to attend? Can’t you just watch those talks for free while sitting at home on your couch in your sweatpants?” As in, you’re crazy for taking time off work and paying for something you can get for nothing. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure of my answer to that even though I was positive I was making the right decision. So, when I arrived in Whistler, I started asking the veterans why they kept coming back year after year and the newbies what made them want to attend in the first place.
The funny thing was, not one single person told me they came for the talks. Not one. In fact, I heard people say just the opposite time and time again. I think my new friend Bruno Cheuiche from Germany summed it up quite nicely when he said, “You’re not here for the talks, you’re here for the people. You’re going to miss it when you get home.” The talks are important, interesting, moving, and inspiring, and it’s definitely something special to watch them in a theater with hundreds of other people. However, they aren’t the main reason we’re here.
The clear reason people show up, (and come back year after year after year), is truly because of the people, my fellow attendees, that hail from 65 countries and are doing the most incredible, amazing, world-changing things. I’ve found that it’s so simple to strike up a conversation about literally anything with almost anyone and it quickly involves into a rich exchange of ideas, new information, and connections. Sometimes, I find that my conversations with other attendees resemble listening to mini TED talks. Each person has such audacious and creative goals that I can’t help but be inspired and encouraged. I feel certain that the networks of change makers that I’ve seen develop, grow, and expand this week are going to revolutionize the world with their ideas. These people aren’t just talking about how to make the world a better place, they are putting together plans of action and creating movements. They are connecting with fellow attendees to find missing puzzle pieces and gaining significant insight into problems. It’s pretty incredible to be a part of.
I feel very lucky to be able to attend and share this experience. I’ve got new ideas to take back to my TEDx event in Portland, OR and new friends from around the world that I plan to connect with on projects. I’m inspired, energized, and beyond excited to plan for the future. And it’s this, the people and the connections, the energy and the ideas, that simply make attending TEDActive… priceless.