Follow This, TEDxColumbus

FOLLOW THIS: ATTENDEES

Audince rowby Kendra Hovey

From the list of speakers you know who will be on the stage in front of you, but who will be next to you? Behind you? Who will be in the coffee line? In your lunch circle?

There are 900 possibilities, but I’ll take a small presumptive leap and suggest that one will be Maureen McCabe. The realtor and TED enthusiast has been to all five, plus some of the viewing events, and seeing as it’s not on an Open-House-Sunday, I’ll dare say she’ll show up for year six. And so, maybe, will Kate and Dave. In the past, the married couple juggled work and schedules to make sure they could go together, like a date, but not, cause “date” is just not the kind of language this couple uses. Still, there was date-like anticipation and expectations of fun and inspiration, plus lots of stuff to talk about later.

Audience lunchWho else? Well, each speaker gets two comps, so some of their peeps…and there are always past speakers who return as audience members. There’s a tech manager at a local insurance company who got tickets for her team. She considers the event a team-builder and good research for improving presentations. I’ve heard, too, of a small and overworked non-profit staff that is coming for some needed self-care. They had the option to go to a day spa. They chose TEDxColumbus instead.

There will be students and volunteers, as always, and also out-of-towners: I once sat next to a retired couple who, inspired by their son who had just organized a TEDx event out west, drove to Columbus to learn more about what this TEDx thing is all about. Another year, I met a superintendent of schools (of a faraway district) who, after a year of contentious school board battles, gifted himself a stress-free day off at TEDxColumbus.

I had met this man at lunch—yes, at the maligned and lauded contested “space” that is the TEDxColumbus Lunch. Because we benefit by being open not just to new ideas, but new people, lunch partners were randomized. Though last year that was made optional. This year the event begins with lunch: Just show up, grab a box and eat (with whomever you please).

So as to the question of who else will be at this year’s TEDxColumbus, I really have no idea, so I asked organizer Ruth Milligan. Every year there is a whole crop of new people, she says: “Many individuals come on their own, and now we’re seeing some of our past attendees returning, but bringing their entire offices with them, like 10 to 15 people. But we do assure that the majority of the seats are still available to individuals and friends, partners or spouses that want an inspiring non-office outing for themselves.”

One thing we know is that you will see people who are strangers to you. But, none of us are really strangers. We all have some connection to Columbus. We are curious and want to be engaged. There’s a common denominator that binds us, even if not readily apparent. To get the most out of the day, it’s good to bring with you a willingness to sit next to and engage in conversation with “strangers.” You may just find that the mix of talent, passion and commitment you see on stage is also off-stage, and potentially sitting right next to you. In fact, come back to this site tomorrow; we’ll be posting about one attendee’s passion and commitment, and its positive reverberations close to home and across continents.

Kendra Hovey is editor at TEDxColumbus: Follow This. On Twitter @KendraHovey, she blogs at kendrahovey.com