Have you heard of TED? Technology, Entertainment, Design. It’s a media organization that provides and promotes talks by subject matter experts under the general theme of “ideas worth spreading”. The talks are given in front of live audiences, recorded, and distributed without cost to the viewer via the TED website, or through social media outlets. Large venues and big-name speakers mark the main TED shows, but around the world, smaller gatherings, called TEDx events, are organized and hosted at the community level. The amount and diversity of content created through this organization is impressive. It is an interesting social phenomenon, and potentially a powerful platform by which to communicate an idea to a live audience, and then, via their digital distribution, a worldwide audience of indeterminate size.
It was exciting when the coordinator from a local TEDx event approached us to ask if ITEC would like to have someone speak at an upcoming event and bring its “idea worth spreading”. I had helped give the coordinator a tour of ITEC in the recent past, and apparently, made her short list of potential speakers. Scheduling conflicts and previous commitments pared that short list down to one candidate, and I was given the opportunity to be a TEDx speaker. Me, the introvert engineer? Hmm…
One Idea, No Proselytizing
The introvert anxiety passed as preparation went by, but as I worked on what to say, two significant issues came into focus. One of these is that the form of a TED speech is intended to convey one big idea. Just one? There is amazing work being done by the dedicated team at ITEC, such a rich history of ideas and innovation in the past, and amazing stories of our partners abroad, and I only get 8-12 minutes of talking and one big idea to share. Narrowing down the content to highlight was challenging, but the focus on technology and design narrowed the field. I was encouraged to speak from personal experience about things for which I have a passion. I finally had direction.
The second issue was harder to solve. TED events are secular venues and proselytizing was against the rules. Merriam-Webster defines proselytizing as “to recruit or convert especially to a new faith, institution, or cause.” ITEC’s mission is to develop tools and training systems that open doors to the Gospel. My intent was not to give a sermon, but I did want to give evidence of my faith in Jesus Christ. The big ideas ITEC is working on don’t make any sense without Him. What would you do if given the opportunity?
In the end, I wanted to leave the audience with a core idea: selflessly using the opportunities given to us and partnering with those in need can make a profound difference. I also wanted to pique their curiosity enough to go out and learn more about who we are and what we do, and in the pursuit of answers, discover in Whom our motivation lies.
There was a lot of thinking about what to say and what to leave unsaid. Was the action I planned to take commensurate to the opportunity afforded me and with the faith in Christ that is in me? That is a question that needs to be asked often but seemed particularly pertinent for this occasion.
On the 15th of February I got up and gave the speech I had prepared, didn’t fall on my face, and didn’t forget any large sections of what I wanted to say. The audience applauded at the end. . . that was nice. And friends in the crowd were complimentary. Whew! Big sigh of relief. Soon it will go out to the internet to sit and wait for views.
This article is a bit shorter than the average found in an ITEC newsletter, but as you already know, I’m an introvert and have now used up almost all of my words for the day! You can watch the talk embedded above, or watch on YouTube here.