On the eve of her first ever TED branded experience, TED-newbie Maddy Newman unpacks her complex emotions and expectations around the event.
Saturday 4th May 2013 marks the breaking of my TED virginity. Well, in person anyway. Obviously I’ve seen some earlier talks on YouTube (as well as the hilarious parodies by The Onion) and wiled away an hour or so watching the ’11 talks you have to watch’ on Ted.com (why 11? Why not 10?). But I’m hoping that, much like sex, watching videos on YouTube doesn’t compare to actually physically being there.
I’ve got some conflicting emotions when I think about the almost 10 hours I will spend at the Opera House on Saturday. There’s the not unexpected feeling of inferiority and mounting anxiety as I browse through my fellow attendees’ profiles. The ability to search via industry yields some telling results: pages and pages of profile pictures turn up for people in ‘Finance’, ‘Marketing’ and ‘Strategy’, while a mere 15 people appear from my selected industry, ‘Fashion’ (and two of those work with me).
I also spent an embarrassing amount of time agonising over the ‘Ask me about’ section of my own profile. How do I come up with the right mix of topics that make me seem intelligent, well-read and cool without sounding like I’m trying to be any of those things? My current answers are ‘Ira Glass’ (the host of my favourite podcast This American Life), ‘HBO’ (as in the television channel) and (the awkwardly general) ‘fashion’. I will probably change at least four times before Saturday morning. (Do you know how to sound interesting without trying to sound interesting? Please leave advice in the comments below).
But aside as anxiety over profiles and small talk, I’m also growing steadily more excited as the day draws closer. My mind is ready to be blown by amazing new ideas presented in snappy 18 minutes segments! Food, immigration, design, genetics – bring it on, I say. I hope that by 8pm Saturday night, I will have some notion of the problems and maybe even potential solutions in industries I currently know little about. Hopefully there’ll be ideas I’ve never considered, ideas I completely disagree with, and ideas that change the way I think about topics I thought I understood (please have a cure for ageing, Professor David Sinclair).
I am heading to the Opera House on Saturday with an open mind and an iPhone, ready to Tweet an inspiring sound bite at a moment’s notice. The viral nature of the content that persuades people to actively share is what I like most about TED and what makes it a target for others. But I look forward to feeling that collaborative spirit in person.
I have big expectations from TED since, let’s be honest, they talk pretty big game. These are the ideas they have deemed worthy to share, and can 20+ noteworthy ideas really be found and crammed into a day? We’ll see. But now I just have to figure out what to wear.
By Maddy Newman