(Still catching up a bit)

So earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend TEDxNashville, largely to watch Space Launch System program manager Todd May give a talk.

If you’re not familiar with TED, it’s basically a lecture series around the theme “Ideas Worth Spreading.” There’s the big “real” TED talks, but the organizers allow groups to use the “TEDx” brand to hold their own independent events. (TED stands for “Technology, Entertainment and Design,” which covers a great amount of topics, really.) The talks generally are shorter (for Nashville, no more than 18 minutes), and are supposed to be the “talk of your life” for the speaker’s giving them. No pressure there.

I’ve watched any number of TED and TEDx talks online over the years, but actually being at the event was an interesting experience in ways I hadn’t anticipated. When you watch talks online, you’re generally cherry-picking. Something sounds interesting, so you watch it. Something doesn’t pique your interest, so you scroll past it to find one that does. Sitting in the audience, you’re not cherry-picking. You’re there, and the event unfolds in front of you. I ended up watching talks that I never would have clicked on online, and it was fascinating to have that sort of horizon-broadening experience.

Of course, the highlight for me was Todd’s talk. I’d had the opportunity to be involved in preparations, and it was one of the most fun things I’d worked on at this job. I was also anxious to see how it went. We’d had a dry-run earlier in the week, and Todd was still very much in the process of getting it nailed down. By the day of the talk, however, he knocked it out of the park. It was invigorating seeing the audience reaction as well (several attendees were live-tweeting the event). There was excitement that a real NASA person was at the event and about the reveal of the rocket. It’s easy to get lost in industry perspectives, and it was great seeing the reactions of real people. The work we do still inspires.

The talk should be posted online fairly soon, so I’ll post a link when it is.