The Power of TED — Pay It Forward

Image for TED: Ideas worth spreading
I've been a TED fan for the last couple of years. (If you've never heard of TED, check them out asap — you won't believe that you didn't know about them before now. Verbatim from their website and in a nutshell: TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader.)

I find so many of their videos informative and interesting, and I'm always attracted by the passion the speakers have for their topics. They caption their videos (making them accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing), so they work well in my accessibility social networking.

My friends (face-to-face and on Facebook and Twitter) have been listening patiently as I've gone on and on about how moved and inspired I was by spending a very long (but wonderful) Saturday at TEDx San Jose, California a couple of weeks ago.

I'm still processing, but I'm in awe — such smart, passionate people with the most creative ideas — and all of them striving to make our world a better place with their "Pay It Forward" ideas. There was not a single boring second — which I have to say has never happened to me at a conference before. It was inspiring just being in the same space as the speakers, and getting to meet and talk with them at the after party at the very elegant Silicon Valley Capital Club in downtown San Jose — just wow.

I've been ruminating about this blog post — unable to decide how to best articulate the experience and how I felt moved and changed by it, and just found this video that I have to share that says it all.

I used to play a game with my kids when they were small. After an adventure, I would always ask them what their favorite part or thing was. They were never happy only picking one, so I'd let them pick their top three or four. And I find myself in the same position — unable to share my single favorite speaker; but while enjoying all of them able to select the top six that resonated the most with me. I'm taking a wild guess that if you spoke with 100 different event attendees, you'd get 100 different lists. 

So here is my list of speakers who moved me the most, in no particular order:
  • Doug Dietz — A designer for GE Medical Systems who made the entire audience cry along with him as he told us about his epiphany on how to design large, scary scanning systems so that they weren't so scary to children, with the impact of dramatically decreasing the need to sedate children for scans.
  • Angela Zhang — A high school senior who loves to learn, won $100,000 for her science project idea, and may very well have discovered a cure for cancer.
  • Jim Fruchterman — A funny self-described geek who created a great accessible technology for people who are blind, and now runs a charitable tech foundation.
  • Manoj Saxena — The general manager of IBM Watson (how could I not look forward to meeting him), and a brilliant philanthropist in his own right.
  • Preetha Ram — A brilliant college dean who left academia to create a program that uses the power of peer collaboration, gamification and social networking to help students who are failing in school be successful.
  • Diana Reiss — One of the world's leading experts on dolphin intelligence who proved that dolphins are self-aware. She was also an advisor on the film, The Cove, and I've offered to help her with her social media campaign to stop the killing of dolphins in Japan. (I hope she takes me up on it.)
I can't wait until next year! :-)