Week 9: Ideas Worth Spreading at TEDxIndianapolis [Score +9]
When you know what a podcast junkie I am, it won’t surprise you to also learn that I’ve watched or listened to dozens of TED talks over the years. Getting a ticket to one of the bonafide TED conferences is no easy feat, but thankfully, the TED organization makes the hosting (and attending) of independent, TED-style events—called TEDx—possible in communities of all sizes. This year’s TEDxIndianapolis was held on April 25 at the Schrott Center for the Arts on campus at Butler University—my alma mater.
I chose to attend this year because a friend I’ve known since our time at Butler, Kristin Van Busum, was one of the speakers selected for the program.
A few years ago, Kristin left her job at a think tank in Boston to found Project Alianza, a nonprofit organization designed to help lift small, independent coffee farmers in rural Nicaragua out of poverty. When her initial mission failed, Kristin had the guts to pivot and try again with a new mission, this time with success. The growing organization now plants schools on coffee farms in that same region of Nicaragua, giving children of farm laborers a chance to not just get an education but also medical attention and a reprieve from child labor.
When Kristin’s pitch to speak at TEDxIndianapolis was accepted, she asked me to coach her and help her develop her presentation. I was honored, gladly said yes, and had a lot of fun working with her on it over the past few months. She wrote, I edited, she wrote some more, I commented, she practiced, and I offered advice. I create and deliver presentations for my clients at work on a weekly basis, but coaching this kind of speech gave me the chance to exercise some storytelling and speech-writing skills that don’t normally get touched in my day job.
When the day finally came, Kristin rocked it. She was confident, poised, smooth, and drew in the audience with her stories of the children and teachers she’s working to bring together in Nicaragua. The people sitting near me in the auditorium laughed at all the expected humorous parts, tsked at the touching ones, and took notes throughout. Afterward, standing beside Kristin during the afternoon break, I heard multiple people approach her with compliments and questions. She said I was like a proud mama standing by her side, and she was 100% right. I am incredibly proud of my friend for both the work she’s doing in this organization and for her powerful delivery of her very own TEDx talk.
My ticket for the day gave me the chance to hear all the other speakers, as well, and meet other attendees. What most surprised me about the day was the range of people who came from around the country to speak at this event. Most of my fellow audience members were locals, but at least half of the speakers seemed to be from other states and cities.
Aside from Kristin’s presentation, one of my favorites was by Rodney Foxworth from Baltimore, who made a compelling case for how shifting investment from incarceration to funding startups in urban environments could dramatically change our culture and economy. I got to chat with him afterward about some of the organizations he’s working with as well as the mountain of books that he’s reading (at least one a week!).
Natalie Schneider was a favorite of mine in the morning. She began her talk with a story from her childhood about her dad building a zip line in their backyard using wheels and other parts from a shopping cart. She used that story to illustrate the value of not allowing researching and planning—often unrecognized synonyms for procrastination—to get in the way of experimenting and doing something. As a natural planner and researcher myself, I was easily able to identify with this idea, and her encouragement resonated.
Naomi Tsu also inspired me to make notes to pursue after the day was done. She traveled to the conference from the Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama and deftly managed to address the current tempest of sentiment around immigration in a way that made it personal and identifiable in a way I’d never heard before: while many who study their genealogy learn the “where” of their origins, she encouraged us to learn the “how”. Did your ancestors come by boat? Plane? Foot? Did they come with papers legally? Or illegally in one fashion or another? Of their own free will to start a new life or escape an old one, by slavery, or by exile? Personally I know the “where” of my own family origins, but I’m now curious to learn more about the “how” we came to be here.
This day pushed me out of my comfort zone—hearing the word “networking” makes me want to hide in a corner—it really was a great day and well worth stepping out of that routine. I got to soak up some new ideas and inspiration, meet some cool people, and best of all, cheer on a dear friend.
- Did something outside my routine: +1
- Left the house: +1
- Had a conversation with a stranger of at least 30 seconds: +2
- Had a conversation with a stranger beyond basics (i.e., work, hometown, what’s your dog’s name): +2
- Learned someone’s name: +3