Now for the fun stuff! There were several speakers at TEDxSB who knocked my socks off, and I want to talk about what made them effective and successful at rousing the crowd. Read here for part 1 and part 2 of my TEDxSB experience.
In order of appearance, let's begin with Santa Barbara's Poet Laureate David Starkey.
I'm not a big fan of poetry. Most of the time, poetry is too abstract or esoteric for me. And hearing poetry is even harder. If I'm going to read it, at least I'm at my leisure to pore over the words and take my time deducing meanings.
So imagine my surprise when David Starkey began to speak, and I began to enjoy myself!
First of all, his performance was a respite from the visuals of the previous presenters. No slides, no video. Just a guy standing at a lectern, reading some poetry.
He was not dramatic or flamboyant, but rather a soothing and calming presence. He brought a sense of stillness that I appreciated.
He had a dry sense of humor, and in between poems made comments like, "Poets, as you know, are counterintuitive and deeply ironic," and "It took me forever to write this damn thing." He clearly chose his poems for the event, and even wrote one called, "Space in a Shrinking World," the theme of the TEDxSB conference. I thought the placement of Starkey just before the break was a brilliant idea.
Kip Fulbeck. From the way everyone spoke about him, I was expecting something special, especially when word went around that no one wanted to be the person to speak after him.
And I was not disappointed. Fulbeck brought the energy and passion that I expected from a TED-level thinker and speaker. He was funny and thoughtful, expressive, eloquent and engaging. His slides were simple images from his books with text handwritten by the subjects of his research (like the image to the left).
His opening was a simulated interview, featuring Fulbeck answering the questions of a disembodied voice. The questions became more and more bizarre as the interview went on, questions like "Pizza or spaghetti?" "Electric or acoustic?" and "Dogs or cats?"
Knowing Fulbeck's topic, it was only a matter of time before the "interviewer" got to "Ethnicity... check only one box." "Do not invent your own box."
The opening was lengthy (a little like those Saturday Night Live opening skits that seem to go on forever), but ultimately effective and brought humor to a subject that is sensitive for a lot of people.
What made Fulbeck's presentation captivating was that it wasn't about him. It was about the people he's met, interviewed and photographed for his books.
For example, "Boy Elijah purple belt," the description given by one child. Or the man who wrote (shown next to the photo of his tattooed backside), "Why they put tattoo parlors next to bars, I have no idea." Or the Holocaust survivor Eva Brown who, in showing the numbers embedded in her arm said, "It's my life's mission to show this tattoo."
Fulbeck's closing was on a different note than his opening, and showcased his affinity for spoken word, with his poem, "My World." Here's a version from a conference a couple of years ago. When I get the TEDxSB link, I'll post it.
And last on my list of inspiring and engaging TEDxSB speakers, but definitely not least, there was Alec Loorz. At 15, Loorz is the founder of Kids vs. Global Warming and the youngest presenter for Al Gore's Climate Project.
Here are some of my notes about Loorz:
Easy to understand
Simple images and text
Humor, passion, conviction
Not to harp on his age, but Loorz' abilities are far beyond what I see in many adult presenters. But it's not all training, and yes, he's had training.
He is emotional and he brings out emotion in the audience. He's real, he cares deeply about his subject matter and he wants the audience to care, too. Here's a video of one of his presentations from a year ago; when the TEDxSB video becomes available, I'll post it here. I'm also hoping to get an interview with Loorz, but he's one of the busier speakers on the circuit!
Action Snapshot: Youth in Motion from Institute at the Golden Gate on Vimeo.
I've shared the key factors of each speakers' performance that made me sit up and pay attention, and none of them is without their flaws. But this is the crux of what I found most engaging about these three: They spoke from the heart and they made me care.
I'll leave you with that.