Monday, December 6, 2010

TEDx musings

It's been more than two weeks since I attended TEDx McGill. Several colleagues have asked me to report out on the experience but I needed some time for it all to percolate. So now I'm ready to share. One of the first things I would note is that TEDx events are licensed by TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) but are independently organized by the host institution. The McGill event was held at Marché Bonsecours‎, a beautiful venue in Old Montreal near Port de Montreal. The full-day event began at noon and was slated to finish by 7:00, but it was closer to 8:00 when we wrapped up and went in search of dinner*.

The TEDx host develops the theme and does all of the content planning, etc. In the case of TEDxMcGill the theme was "Relentless Curiosity." The presenters covered topics including sustainability, importance of place, impact of language on healing, activism and beaver sculptures! We enjoyed several musical presentations, including a violinist accompanied by a laptop musician, and a rap singer with a personal survival story to tell. The sort of rapid-fire pace of the presentations left very little time for reflection during the event, and immediately afterward I felt shell-shocked by the information overload and anxious to decompress. That evening, my 'relentlesss curiosity' was piqued by one question: what was the connection? How did those things all weave together to deliver something cohesive? It wasn't immediately obvious to me.

Over the course of the next few days I came to a few conclusions. First, the topics didn't weave together neatly, and they didn't need to. Each attendee came with a different world view and something would undoubtedly strike a chord with each of us throughout the course of the day. What we took away depended upon what we brought. Second, I wasn't the target audience for TEDx McGill. My son and his contemporaries were. It's not that I wasn't inspired but the day's events, but what's really important is that Sam and his generation find purpose and work to make a difference, in whatever discipline they choose. They need to be inspired, and I think TEDx McGill succeeded in the goal of inspiring their target audience. Sam came away from the day knowing that one determined person can make a difference, and more importantly, realizing he could be that one determined person!

I think the concept of TEDx is a great one. You can really tailor the day and the message to your audience. I'd be interested in hosting one on the topic of the future of libraries, collaboration, the changing face of information, intellectual property, first amendment. . . Anyone game?

*For dinner we wanted tapas. We landed at Solmar, a Portugese place. The vibe was kind of blue hair Miami or white shoe New York City, but the Caesar Salad prepared tableside was the realest deal I've had in a long time. And the company was excellent! My son Sam, his girlfriend Danielle, Sam's new roommate Bernard and Bernard's little brother Deo made for some lively conversation!

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