One of my secret passions is Ted talks. Not sure what they are? You’ll want to check out their “about” page. I subscribe to their podcast and you can check out videos from their extensive library of speakers. The talks are generally nice and short so it a) forces speakers to get to the point, and b) it is a perfect length to listen to or watch on a quick break. I listened to a Ted talk by Bono the other day on my way to the doctor and listened to a Ted talk by Dan Pallotta on the way back home that dealt with a similar topic from a completely different perspective.
So, imagine my surprise when my friend invited me and another friend to attend a new TedX event – TedX Times Square on April 10. Once I checked the schedule to make sure that I could make it to the event and back during school hours, I quickly accepted the invitation. It was such a welcome change of pace to scurry off to the PATH train rather than scurry back to my house to clean or pay bills.
The theme was “openness” and featured speakers from a broad range of backgrounds. The speakers tended to all extoll the virtues of openness, as expected, but i was surprised to not see a lot of discussion about the finer points of openness such as when openness is not appropriate or how to minimize the downsides of openness. And some of the speakers talked about openness as a general “good” for society but failed to talk about the specifics of what openness can bring to an individual or organization. But in spite of those critiques, many of the talks were quite interesting. I wanted to highlight a few of my favorites for you:
- Architect Guy Geier gave a surprisingly interesting talk about the impact of physical surroundings – specifically buildings – on the idea of openness. In designing commercial properties, he is finding that by introducing architectural elements that encourage openness, it can have a dramatic affect on the way the companies conduct their business. His firm, in fact, designed the auditorium TedXTimesSquare was held in at the New York Times Building and he drove the point of his talk home by dramatically raising the screen that formed the backdrop for the stage which exposed a lovely outdoor space. His talk caused me to think a lot about my own home (which is also my work space) and how openness – or, in some cases, lack of openness – affects us.
- Mark Taylor from Vistage NYC gave a short but engaging talk about the importance of networking or partnering with groups of 3 rather than 2. With a partnership between two parties, there is a tendency to be either competitive or defensive which results in both parties being less open to feedback. However, with a triad, everybody tends to be more open to constructive criticism because everybody is seen to be on even footing. It’s an interesting lesson and one that is fairly easy to put into practice; if you find yourself in a partnership that seems to be stuck, possibly bringing in another partner could unstick the logjam.
- Collin McLoughlin, a singer and musician, sang a lovely song called “Chasing Dreams” (you can hear it on his site, it’s #9 on the Sound Cloud widget). He was on Adam’s team on “The Voice” last season (I’m a big fan of the show!). His music career has taken a very unusual path including not only “The Voice” but You Tube. He talked about the importance of being open to new ideas and new directions and, along the way, being opportunistic.
- Peter Shankman, in the last talk of the day, spoke about the importance of not only being open on social media and in networking in general, but also on the importance of being positive. He talked about the idea of the “negative sharer” – those who either share negativity or share things that don’t add value to other people. If you’re 100% positive, then you don’t seem real in social media, but you definitely don’t want to take the opposite approach or nobody will seek you out for networking. Shankman attributes his success as an entrepreneur to organically growing his connections by being open and positive.
For a list of all of my tweets during the event, check out my Storify – “TedXTimesSquare“. And if you have some time to kill, you can stream the entire event or watch any of the other individual presentations.
As a footnote, I’ll mention that there’s nothing like doing something completely out of the ordinary to inspire creativity. I consider TedXTimesSquare my first “Artist’s Date” (a la Julia Cameron) in quite some time. And, the fact that I attended with two of my dear friends made it even better!