TEDx Recap

Alden, usually my late sleeper, woke early on Saturday morning, excited at the prospect of a play date with her good friends Donald and Ann. August, who follows her dutifully, also crawled out of bed a bit earlier than expected. While I heated water for some tea, they huddled together for comfort and warmth.

Grooming ensued.

And painting.

Eventually, the clock struck a more decent hour, and we drove ourselves up to Washington College to set up our computer for TEDx.

We waited in the green room, which was actually green, which is not always the case.

Apparently, the walls were coated with a special paint that approximates a chalk board. The children were invited to doodle. Or perhaps this was an elaborate lie they were told to keep them from running around in loud and unsettling ways, which they had been doing before the chalk was produced.

While waiting in the green room, we admired the poster. There we were. There was no denying that, by the end of the day, we would be expected to get up and say something useful.

While we tested our presentation on the big screen, the kids waited with anticipation. They were, apparently, eager for a dose of “ideas worth sharing,” which is what TEDx purports to offer.

Instead of ideas, they got to see their mother projected on a very large screen.

Satisfied that things were in order, we went home to dress and drop the kids off at the aforementioned play date. We we had been practicing for weeks. It was time to do our thing.


But it wasn’t quite time yet. First there was the matter of lunch.

The good folks of TEDx saw fit to provide us with a very large pizza. Very large. The largest pizza I had ever seen. I knew right away, that there was no way our talk was going to be as successful or as inspiring as that pizza.

After lunch, we had a sound check.

For whatever reason, the sound check was an unmitigated disaster. It was our first time on the stage, the first time wearing the headsets, the first time seeing our presenter’s notes on the monitor placed on the floor in the middle of the stage. Everything was different from how we had practiced it, and we did terribly. We forgot our lines. We stumbled. We felt horrible.

Fortunately, the house had not yet opened, and there was not a soul to see our shame.

Which is, in all probability, the reason they do a sound check in the first place.

We went backstage and nervously walked through our presentation a few more times. But then it was 1:00 and time for the show to begin. We took our seats, and watched.

We learned about the chemistry of the animal/human bond from Meg Olmert.

The potentially devastating impact of carbon emissions on our oceans from Mike Arms.

The problematic state of US immigration policy from Kaitlin Thomas.

The inspiring story of the Freedom Riders from Frank Bond.

The power of mentoring in combating gender inequality from Mary Yerrick.

And the history of the steel drum (along with an inspiring performance) by Kevin Martin.


During the session break, we visited with friends in the lobby.

Including Man of Mystery Don Schulz.

What seemed like moments later, it was time for the second session to begin.

As people took their seats, we knew the inevitable was near. TEDx had scheduled us in the final spot, the anchor leg. It was an honor, but also an awful lot of anxious waiting.

The second session began. From Tynesha McClain, we learned about the science cheerleaders, a group of current or former professional cheerleaders with science degrees or careers who aim to reverse stereotypes about women in STEM careers.

We learned about remarkable new cancer screening and treatment techniques from Richard Thorp.

A group of students from Washington College shared their vision for a single-sourced internet authentication portal.

And then, believe it or not, a gentleman named Robbie Blinkoff spoke about an app that helps students studying abroad to document and share their experiences with others around the world. I was not able to take any photos of Robbie’s presentation, because I was backstage, preparing for disaster.

We were nervous, of course. In less than 18 minutes (the limit for TEDx talks), we would be walking onto the stage.

We considered the alternatives.

But ultimately decided to stay. After all, we’d done our homework.

And the headsets were so cool.


And so, eventually, the moment arrived.

We were introduced.

And the rest is history.

We did not forget our lines, though we stumbled on a few. The audience laughed at the appropriate places and listened attentively in the moments we’d hoped they would. At the end, we left the stage, and they clapped without throwing fruit. What more could we hope for?

Most of it is a blur. We look forward to seeing the tape when it becomes available.

Afterward, we attended the reception, where people assured us that we had, in fact, said a few interesting things.

A few people even claimed to have been inspired.

When we got home, the kids were already asleep. So we took a moment to reflect.

It had been a really good day.

Our friend Robin had brought a gift, two small birds from India. They are similar, but also distinct. They seemed to be in conversation. Perhaps conspiring, perhaps collaborating. If one is meant to be Robbi and the other one me, there seemed to be but one place to set them down to perch.

On the high beam that looks over the studio, on the exact dividing line between Robbi’s side and mine.

Robin has a way of giving perfect gifts.

And on that note, we went to sleep.

Today has been for cleaning, resting, recovering. We took a walk by the river, enjoying the clear sidewalks before another storm rolls in tomorrow.

Thanks for everyone who sent their love and support to us yesterday, and especially to those of you who came to see us in the flesh.

We had an amazing time, but of course, a presentation is nothing without the audience. Thanks for listening, for completing the circuit, for collaborating with us.

Whether or not you thought our idea worth sharing, we appreciate having had the chance to share it.

13 comments to TEDx Recap

  • Don

    That might be the biggest pizza I have ever seen. Very impressive!

  • Tara

    The Man of Mystery wears a cable-knit sweater? This was the most surprising thing. The birds are a delight. And yeah, I want to see the video.

  • Robbi

    You wouldn’t want the Man of Mystery to be predictable, now, would you?

  • YAY!! I’m so happy for you guys! I’m sure you both did brilliantly. Wish I could have been there in the flesh, too – sitting next to Don, the Man of Mystery… ;)

    Let me/us know when the video is available!

  • Holli

    Hope the Green Room brought you good luck (it is named for my husband, you know! ) Sorry not to be there, but I was thinking of you all. Enjoy your snow day!

  • Brad Williams

    I am so proud of you both! I feel as if I really was there. I still would love to see the video though. I also might add, Robbi, your hair was supa cute and totally rockin’! Dare I say, almost cartoon-like perfection. Another success for the, er, books.

  • Thanks for sharing your experience! I almost feel like I was there, except I didn’t get to hear and see your BRILLIANT talk. Can’t wait for the video.

  • Don

    Tara – I think what you meant to say was, “The Man of Mystery wears a VERY ATTRACTIVE AND FLATTERING cable-knit sweater?”

    Emily – I wish you could have been there too!

  • Aunt Pinky

    Again, two amazing relatives showing off their talent. This is such a beautiful way for me to stay in touch. The kids photo’s are priceless.

  • jenifer

    Brava! Bravo! The Idiots win the day – again!

    Robbi – darling skirt and fabulous hair.

    Don – great sweater. She we start calling you
    THE Don?

  • hermansherman

    First, where is the video of your TED X talk? Is it available online or only to those who know the secret TED X handshake? Two, how do you do it? Your life. Could you write a blog about how you do what you do.

  • Hello hermansherman,

    A link to the TEDx video will be posted here tomorrow.

    As for how we do what we do as the subject of a blog post…I like the idea. Stay tuned. Though it might require something more substantial, like a book.

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