TEDx Seattle FTW

Google Africa project manager Fiona Lee addresses the crowd at TEDx Seattle. Photo by @stephenbrashear for MCDM

I spent all day Friday at the Pacific Science Center (blast from my childhood past) at the first-ever TEDx Seattle conference. For those of you unaware of TED, click here or just know that it’s the premier annual event where the world’s geniuses in their respective fields give inspirational talks. For those of you who kill time watching kitten fights on YouTube, I’d recommend heading over to http://www.ted.com/ and watching those videos. You’ll instantly become 5x smarter or your money back guaranteed.

I didn’t know what to expect at TEDx Seattle. Honestly. It obviously wouldn’t attract renown speakers like its big brother, and its hyper-local setting and resources led me to believe that I would be in for hearing the same people I would at Gnomedex or Social Media Club Seattle (Nerd alert!).

Wrong. I had only heard of one of the speakers before but despite my not knowing of them in advance, I was FLOORED by the quality and range of stories that they had to share.

Whereas TED brings the best of the world together, TEDx Seattle brought those on path to become the best. It felt like seeing Nirvana in 1989 or Lady Gaga in 2008 (Choose whichever is most relevant for you). You just knew you were seeing people on the brink and the stories were emotional and inspiring.

While I was taken throughout the day, I have to highlight five lectures that really stood out for me.

  • Science fiction author Greg Bear spoke about being overwhelmed by too much information and how our desire to consume all of it limits our ability to take action. He said,  “We are spending so much time tracking everything online…We don’t have time to be private.” Time is scarce, so how are you using it?
  • One Day’s Wages’ founder and lead pastor of Quest Church Eugene Cho gave a entertaining, informative lecture about global poverty and made it relevant. How is it that so many people in the audience had iPads while more than 660 million people without sanitation live on less than $2/day? He said, “We are probably the most overrated generation…  We are in love with our ideas so much that we don’t seem to move beyond them.” So very true.
  • Google Africa project manager Fiona Lee spoke about how Google is investing in simple text messaging search technologies to help Africans learn more about health and sexuality. She showed a number of examples of how people can ask via mobile phone about transmitting AIDs, condom use and pregnancy and receive nearly instantaneous, accurate answers.  She said, “Technology is not the be all and end all, it’s a starting point.”
  • Contrast can be such a powerful thing. Cheezburger Network (I Can Has Cheezburger?, FAIL Blog, etc.) CEO Ben Huh is well-known for his stupid-funny websites, so imagine the silence in the auditorium when nearly halfway through his speech, Ben paused to hold back tears as he talked about failing his first businesses and failing his family’s expectations. I’m actually going to dedicate a future post to the subject of Ben’s talk: 19 life goals.
  • The show closed on a sweet note. Theo Chocolate’s Debra Music and Joe Whinney provided free chocolate for the audience to munch on while they talked about being the only organic, fair-trade bean-to-bar chocolate factory in the United States. Debra talked about how they take their chocolate bars to cocoa farmers to educate them about what makes a good product and provide the farmers – some of whom have harvested cocoa for decades – with their first tastes of finished chocolate. As Joe said, “When we come from a place of love & joy, we have a greater capacity to affect change.”

I’m excited to see the videos when they’re ready for playback. Re-watching these talks is at the top of my “must-watch Internet videos” list (which I just created). The event Flickr photos are here.

I had the unique perspective of knowing a lot about this event before inception – helping MCDM program director Hanson Hosein decide when/where/if the event was going to happen as part of the MCDM’s greater effort to drive community engagement and thought leadership. Of course I said, “Go for it!” but I had no grasp on how big and great an event it was going to be.

I’m there next year for sure.

See a better written, more professional version of this post at the MCDM blog, Flip the Media.

2 Comments
  1. Love your recap! I’m excited to watch the lectures you highlighted now. I was so excited to hear that TED talks was going to be held in Seattle. I’m so bummed I couldn’t go but exciting to hear that they’ll maybe be back next year.