TEDxSF, find a TED Event in Your Area

I managed to secure an invitation to TEDxSF, an independent version of TED, at the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. I've never been to the Big TED conference but I've been a fan of the videos on the website for years. Calling TEDxSF a conference is not doing it justice. The event was more like a series mini-performances featuring musicians, entrepreneurs, scientists and change-makers.

All in all, independent TED events, TEDx, are less exclusive than Big TED. You apply for an invitation and you’re asked to write about how you’ve changed the world or at least how you’ve been an innovator. I wrote about being a recruiter for 10 years and realizing the need for better recruiting software, throwing caution to the wind and starting a technology company amidst the worst recession in recent memory. Maybe the TEDx committee felt sorry for me.

While the format of the performances was paradoxically similar, a thought provoking monologue aided by some slides and self-deprecating humor, the topics varied dramatically. I enjoyed every presentation and I loved the music and comedy too. Even the crowd was interesting, not the room full of geeks I’d anticipated, more chic, less geek.

Here are some highlights.

- Zoë Keating, a talented, avant cellist, informed the audience that computers crash but cellos don’t after her laptop crashed mid-performance. For the record, it was a Mac.

-Gavin Newsome, San Francisco’s Mayor, was given 3 minutes to address the crowd. Ever the opportunist, he delivered an inspirational, self-promoting rant ending with, “San Francisco has always been a city of dreamers and doers”. At least he got that right.

-Taking advantage of the venue, Ryan Watt, the Director of Morrison Planetarium and Science Visualization at the Academy of Sciences, reminded us that we may not be alone.

-The best story of the afternoon was told by Jill Vallet, the founder of Playworks, a non-profit that brings physical activities to low-income urban schools.

-Proclaiming that Silicon Valley has been as influential as the industrial revolution, photographer, Doug Menuez, shared images of the Valley’s most brilliant innovators, some in their weakest moments.

You can learn more about TEDxSF at: http://www.tedxsf.org/

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