At one point on Twitter, you’d often see jokes or memes after someone would go on a rant or on for a bit longer than 140 characters regarding something they may be passionate about. Then they’d wrap it all up with “Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.” And, while it’s not every day that you get to travel miles away to hear a real-life TED talk from billionaires like Bill Gates and even, the controversial Elon Musk, in April, that was the case for me. I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to travel to Vancouver to attend TED2022, “A New Era.”
At TED, I attended sessions that included topics like play, imagination, intelligence, and more, plus dinners that encouraged me to have tough conversations about capitalism with people who looked like me and some who didn’t.
Going to an event like TED (which stands for “Technology, Entertainment, and Design”) not only forced me to participate in uncomfortable conversations but also self-care that included hand massages, meditation sessions, and delicious smoothies daily accompanied by breathtaking views.
It’s almost needless to say that attending my first TED conference, was both a remarkable and eye-opening experience.
So, here are five things that I learned as a Black woman attending TED2022: A New Era.
Be Intentional With Every Move
Beyond learning that the folks at TED know how to put on a conference, the entire week taught me to be intentional — during every session, meal, conversation, and break.
Since I was intentional, I left Vancouver with a realization: yes, you’re always going to be at the right place at the right time. However, there’s never really a wrong time either. With that said, TED owed me nothing by the end of the week.
Imposter Syndrome Is Real
While it’s certainly easy to doubt yourself and feel like a fraud on the day-to-day in your environment, those feelings can become amplified in a room full of well-accomplished individuals like those who would attend a TED conference.
As a Black woman who, to be quite frank, had no time for that, I kicked the imposter syndrome to the curb. I realized who I was, and I also had some help and reassurance along the way that proved I had the right mind.
Not only did I receive it from other attendees, but I also took notes from speakers like Bevy Smith, who spoke about comparing her trajectory with others during “Session 6: Wellbeing.”
The Importance Of Finding Your Tribe
The night I walked into a “Welcome Party” all by myself and didn’t see many faces that resembled mine was the moment I asked, “Girl, what are you doing here?” Still, I grabbed some wine and poutine (in pure Canada fashion) and enjoyed the view.
Thankfully, before I walked out of the Vancouver Convention Center, another Black woman stopped in her tracks and grabbed me to introduce herself. You always hear the phrase, “Find Your Tribe,” but you never really know how important it is because that moment most likely impacted my entire TED experience.
While TED provided a space to interact with people from different backgrounds and walks of life, I can say that interacting with my people and finding my tribe made all the difference. It also made me think about truly applying that phrase to life as a whole, and not just at a conference.
Note: Finding your tribe could impact the trajectory of your life in so many ways, which is why it’s so important to choose the people around you wisely.
There's No Such Thing As "Networking"
If I learned nothing else at TED2022, it’s that there’s no such thing as networking. However, there is a thing called building connections authentically (Word to Bevy Smith, who said she doesn’t “believe in networking”).
While I went to Vancouver alone, I left with a network of people that I met through random conversations at sessions, bars, quick bathroom breaks, and even through an app called TEDConnect. I was able to scan QR codes and instantly connect with attendees to build my own network that wasn’t only useful at the conference but even beyond.
Embarking On "A New Era" Is Great, But Here's The Thing
While the theme of “A New Era” seemed fitting and the programming included everything from non-fungible tokens to human exploration of the solar system — something stood out to me. And perhaps, this was my biggest lesson of the week.
As we enter a new era, we must not neglect the unresolved problems of today. But, architectural designer and TED2022 speaker Alyssa-Amor Gibbons summed it up a bit better than I ever could.
“We are researching and figuring out how to live in and survive the extremes of distant planetary climates. Yes, that’s amazing,” she said. “However, on this planet, so many of us still live in constant fear that the next event will be the big one — that either dramatically changes or claims our existence here on planet Earth forever.”
She continued: “As we step into this new era, as we design and build our future cities and communities, the approach, again, is so simple. We must do so, no longer leaving the most vulnerable of us to guess and hope for the best, but based on tried, tested, traditional knowledge and lived experience — designing for the absolute worst.”
While this was relevant to “Session 9: Cities,” I also saw it as a call to action for all. We still have way more work to do — a duty to still spark change and make progress in the community before and as we enter this “new era.”It’s needless to say that Amor-Gibbons got me thinking about what part I can play in that. And, maybe, you should ask yourself that, too.
Thank you for coming to my TED Talk (Or whatever the folks on Twitter say).