Are you enjoying yourself?
Every single person I spoke to at TED asked me this.
Dude, I got to meet Harrison Ford. Did I enjoy myself?
That story didn’t end there, by the way. I mini-stalked Harrison Ford as he walked with his minders towards the theatre for the next session. He stopped for a drink, and I ninjaed myself at an angle where we would make eye contact as he turned from the table.
BAM. “Hey, I loved your talk.”
And as if that was not amazing in itself, by pure serendipity, the Indiana Jones theme song played on the PA at that exact moment. It was confirmation of something I have always believed: I DO live in a musical.
Was that why I enjoyed myself at TED?
Perhaps it was the strong and reassuring handshake Adam Savage gave me when I rejoined the audience straight after doffing my mic. It made me feel that my last three years haven’t been spent completely insensibly.
Or maybe when I finally got to say hi to Amanda Palmer and her tiny baby, which was a quite special because the first thing I did after knowing that I would have to give a TED talk was to buy her book on Asking.
Or that Joe Gebbia of Airbnb insisted that I autograph the posters that I gave to him and his wife. Such a friendly, personable guy who stayed and watched all the sessions and lent his support to all of the speakers.
Or that Shane Wall and Andrew Bolwell, movers and shakers at Hewlett Packard, wanted to meet me personally to talk geek about my toy.
Or getting to sit next to Ayah Bdeir, Ms.LittleBits herself, all evening over dinner.
Or queuing up behind Al Gore for one of the sessions, or just the fact that Al Gore is queuing up for sessions just like the rest of us.
Or that I got to sit next to Tim Brown on the bus to the party. After years of stea… I mean, applying his design philosophy, it was great to finally meet and talk wayfinding, or the lack thereof, in Singapore residential estates with the great man himself.
But that’s just me geeking out as a fan. I explained to a friend that I am not famous now, I just got to be near famous people.
I think what I really enjoyed was the camaraderie of speakers. I have read about the Dreadnoughtus schrani, the possible alien megastructures, the Bolivian weavers making heart stents, the Hololens, drone swarms, Gross National Happiness in Bhutan, and all the other tech news, but to finally meet the people responsible for them. Each a Titan in their own fields, I got to see that they too are human, and not born orators, get nervous and have to practice just as much as I did. Or more, I only had to remember 6 minutes, many had to do 16.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing backstage either: pregnant Ameera Haroud taking ill after her long and stressful journey, Franz Freudenthal working hard on his English, Uri Hasson losing his voice from practicing too much, Kio Stark’s nervousness, and of course, my own panic when my toy only arrived from Customs at noon on Monday, when I was scheduled to speak on Tuesday. We were in it together, shared each other’s anxieties and eventual relief when it all ended well on stage.
Everyone was great and any minor hiccups would be fixed in post. Which is only possible because of the amazing hard work of all the guys backstage. Amazing Priscilla, who takes cares of the needs of all the speakers, juggles so many fragile glass balls up in the air at the same time, and has to handle 20 crisis before noon, her own words.
And all the rest in the speaker concierge team, the Shaughnessys, the Tatianas and the Joses and the rest whom I regrettably forgot their names and wished I had the more opportunity to speak with. But they were constantly busy, and worked so hard to make it work for us.
The digital and sound guys, the guys who miked us up, Belle (I hope I remember this right) and the rest of the stage crew. Matt who pushed out my toy and revealed it. I wish I had a chance to speak to him more, and ask him which 80s action TV show set he walked out from.
And that poor guy who had to recover when Shonda Rhimes’ teleprompter control broke down. He had to switch to controlling it with the laptop touchpad, if he touched it too hard, it would scroll super fast up or down. And despite the hiccup, he finished the talk doing just that. He felt terrible but he deserves a medal, or at least the right to wear the “I’ve fucked up bigger shows than yours” t-shirt. These guys were more my species.
Someone asked me “So which is your favourite talk?”
I was bowled over by Al Gore, and teared up a few times over the week. Particularly when Andrew Youn talked about hunger in Rwanda, and Ameera Haroud talked about the Gaza Strip, but that was crying for others. Lidia Yuknavitch’s talk about Misfits made me cry. For myself.
I was a Misfit at TED. I am not White. Nor American. Nor famous. Nor wealthy. Nor particularly smart. Nor would I be saving anyone’s life or changing the world. No amount of swag and photos with the TED logo would turn me into a TEDster.
But I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The people, both speakers and audience. The stories, both onstage and backstage. The new friendships. The cool swag.
Adam Savage now has a poster with my toy on it. And to top it all off, he told me that Steven Spielberg loved my toy. You bet I enjoy myself at TED.