This post is in honor of and in gratitude for the selfless organizers, steering committee members, and volunteers of TEDxSaltLakeCity. Thank you so sincerely for including me in your wonderful community.
After delivering a talk to an audience of entrepreneurs in downtown Salt Lake City nearly eighteen months ago, I was approached by a friendly young man (you’re welcome, Scott :-)) who told me he was the co-organizer of TEDxSaltLakeCity and graciously encouraged me to participate in the event. Little did I know how impactful the following five months would be as I got to know and befriend one of the most genuine group of people I have ever met: the staff and volunteers of TEDxSaltLakeCity as well as other speakers. Below are five things I learned from participating in a TEDx day and why I strongly encourage others who are so-inclined to participate in their local event as a board member, speaker, or day volunteer.
1. The organizers and committee members are selfless, and volunteer their time for the love of their local and intellectual community.
The event organizers really don’t get anything out of working so hard as volunteers, but they do make a huge impact on both the speakers and the community. I was genuinely moved by their passion for intellectual discourse and their selfless commitment to developing and enhancing their local community. I truly believe that Salt Lake City, Utah is an increasingly better place thanks to the impact these annual TEDx events have on the community.
2. It’s much harder than and different from a business conference presentation.
Despite having given more than my fair share of speeches and presentations at business conferences through the years, none of it prepared me for what this would be like. Business presentations cover somewhat clinical topics that are devoid of emotional depth or personal insecurities. Believe me: it’s harder to talk to 50 people about your true insecurities than to 5,000 people about the future of the Internet.
3. The audience is rooting for the speakers.
No matter how many times I screwed up (and those who were present in the audience that day remember my fiasco quite clearly :-)), the audience was unbelievably supportive. It’s as if they knew how hard it was to be up there and pour one’s heart out and, for that reason, encouraged us as speakers through every faux pas and every tear. Once again, that kind of audience simply doesn’t exist in the business world today where even minor presentation hiccups can be water cooler fodder for years.
4. I made deep connections that have resulted in new, lifelong friendships.
When you spend months presenting a very personal topic to a dozen or so other speakers, you can’t help but trust them; when you spend months listening to their very personal topics, you can’t help but feel affection, empathy, and genuine closeness. Within a mere months, exceedingly close friendships were built among both the speakers and steering committee members. I sincerely appreciate and cherish these friendships today.
5. It makes a difference; ideas do spread.
Nothing is more meaningful or moving to me than when I receive an email from a stranger who tells me that my message resonated with them and, more importantly, that it has caused them to think and behave differently. It is truly fulfilling to feel as though one’s message is being spread, even if only locally or even if only narrowly. After all, even big movements start as small ones.