There is something completely inspiring and beautiful about curiosity. The energy of being in the company of other curious people is a high no drug could ever duplicate. Being completely stimulated by information that you are receiving combined with the act of sharing knowledge with others breeds the best environment for creating new relationships that feast on transparency, authenticity and passion.
In the last month I have had the opportunity to attend both the Summit Series Basecamp event in Squaw Valley, CA followed by TED2012 in Long Beach, CA. In true admission I'm not one who usually spends a lot of time "conferencing." Though I do speak a fair amount yearly, I'm usually not the panel guy you find hitting the pre-cocktail, post-cocktail, etc. that usually comes with our speaker lanyard packet. I also find that I am so incredibly passionate about what I do that I actually DON'T CARE TO talk about at great length about Bloggers, Google Plus, Social Media Analytics and the newest cocktail subject, the "Jeremy Lin of Social Media" -- Pinterest. And for all of these reasons, this is why Iook forward to attending events like Summit Series and TED.
Summit Series for me is the summer camp I never had an opportunity to attend. It's the perfect blend of intellectual stimulation, musical exploration, personal networking AND personal development. While the content and speakers are amazing and inspiring the success of Summit Series lies in the ongoing relationships that are established pre, during and post the conference. In the months following last year's Summit Series At Sea I often commented to people, "I'm feel like I'm still on the boat" mainly because every city I travelled post-Summit Series I was meeting incredible new "Summitteers" in person and thru online communities. I found that Summit Series taught me that I have an unexplainable capacity to accept new friends both online and in real-time at a time when I was doing a lot of "un-friending" on Facebook. There is not a city in the world where the Summit Series community does not live, travel or have influence and they are not afraid to connect you with a friend or business associate. Buying into this "conference" means more commitment than just showing up it means actually "caring" about the well being of someone even after the event has ended. Summit Series fed my curiosity of knowing people on a deeper level.
TED on the other hand was the classroom environment that I yearned for growing up. So very ironic that upon arrival at TED one of the first people I ran into was TED regular Esther Wojcicki who some know as mother to Anne Wojcicki and mother in-law to Sergey Brin. To me, Esther Wojcicki aka "Mrs. Woj" was my favorite English teacher at Palo Alto High School so you can imagine the joy and the strange irony of being in the same room with her. At TED every session that I attended transformed the room into the most incredible presentations, amazing light and sound, with a blend of small theater and education. Whether discussing the diminishing resources on earth, hip hop in the middle east, DARPA technology or the power of introverts each session captivated my attention, heart and soul in a way no other conference has. TED's theme this year of Full Spectrum was just that -- a multi dimensional, multi sensory experience packed full of 18 min nuggets of fresh brain food. I was literally an empty vessel starving for more content around topics I would normally pass up in the NY Times. TED fed my intellectual curiosity in a way that even days after I'm fueled to research more ways in which I will impact in the future.
As a marketer I loved the simplicity and authenticity in which brands decided to make their presence felt at both of these conferences. Some standouts made a concerted effort to adhere to TED's theme. Dewar's Whiskey decided that they wanted to celebrate TED's notion of Full Spectrum by developing Dewar's Hub which was a gorgeous multi-media visualizer of TED Twitter conversations. What felt more like something you would find at a design exhibit this was an opportunity to play out "Full Spectrum" by allowing you to manipulate the actual conversation with your hands. Housed in what looked like a decorative tall-sized water tank TED attendees walked up and experienced the magnitude of the dialogue in a more human form. While Susan Cain was on stage enlightening us on the "Power of Introverts" the Dewar's Hub galaxy like background lit up with #Introvert thus marking a conversational meme that users were able to explore. Other brands won me over by "being not pushy" about their message were Autodesk and their "Ideas Cage Match" which was sort of a debaters "Fight Club." I attended the match as a loyal cheerleader for Esther Wojcicki who was one of the fighters debating on Education. I died laughing when she told her opponent Vivek Wadhwa, "I saw what you wrote about me on Twitter," as her social media "tutor" it made me proud.
It will be hard for me to attend conferences that do not stimulate my curiosity after this month. There is no doubt I will continue to speak around the world at various conference, but I'm now that guy at the networking cocktail mixer with the badge flip backward seeking curiosity over job titles.