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TEDx Experience at Penn State

What do you get when you combine insightful and diverse artists, entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists, speakers and storytellers? Before you answer, let’s add superior production value, a beautiful auditorium and 1,000 audience members who are eager to learn and participate. Oh, and you cannot leave out the talented team of volunteers who put hundreds of hours of thought and planning into putting on a one-of-a-kind thought-sharing experience.

The answer: TEDx PSU 2013.

I was honored to be included on the all-star panel of experts, and even more so when asked to be the opening speaker to kick off the entire day of learning.

Although this was my first TED event, I was certainly aware of worldwide impact of this phenomenal brand of learning. TED and TEDx events have become, in recent years, synonymous with cutting edge thinking and transformational experiences.

TED stands for “Technology, Entertainment, and Design.” But it has become an oasis for innovators, motivators, educators, and thinkers who come to present, hear, and discuss “ideas worth sharing.” The format is unique. Instead of hearing a few speakers for lengthy sessions, each presenter is given a small window of time (from 6-18 minutes) to present the best of what they can deliver. The result is a larger number of speakers (16 at this particular event) and a head-spinning array of topics and content. The buzz is palpable.

I was given one of the longer slots – 18 minutes. I chose to share my signature Off Balance On Purpose message, as well as a model for work-life integration that challenged common preconceptions. Due to the time constraints, the program had to be streamlined and targeted for maximum effect. Expectations were high, as was the intensity.

As an added bonus, I was able to share this experience with my son, Eddie (14). Together, we journeyed to Penn State, toured the college campus, spent a day with the team and speakers, rehearsing our talks and getting to know each other, and then another full day (yesterday) at the event. Eddie even joined me on stage during the presentation! What a thrill!

My program was very well received. The conversations afterward with attendees and organizers were immensely satisfying. But I’d have to say that my favorite part of the weekend was getting to spend time with the other speakers, discuss ideas, and be part of a team united to make this an incredible day. That aspect was truly special, and I will remember it fondly for years to come.

What made this event so unique is that everyone involved was focused not on what they would get from the experience, but what they could give. No speakers were paid for their time or contributions. No books were sold or promoted. We simply showed up to give our best effort and ideas in the hopes that they would resonate with people, give them value, and contribute to the positive evolution of humanity.

Big goals? You bet. Audacious ambitions? Absolutely. But then again, that’s TED for you: Ideas worth sharing and, potentially, capable of changing the world for the better.

What’s next? Now that the event is over, the talks will be edited and uploaded to the web. Those presentations are then broadcast (free of charge) around the world to learners, leaders, and TED devotees. Stay tuned for updates.

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