“I have a great TEDWorthy idea that has guided me through my socially hapless life: “Just show up and great things will happen.”
We at Women’s Voices have written before about the brilliance of the speakers at TEDTalks—thinkers who have been chosen to deliver speeches, in 18 minutes or less, on their particular “Idea Worth Spreading.”
So far, the talks have generated more than 1,500 speeches on a breathtaking array of topics (ranging from “underwater astonishments” to “how to live before you die” to “what’s so special about the human brain?” to “the levitating superconductor”). All are available for free viewing at www.ted.com.
Last Monday we published a post about the women whose ideas on the theme “To Be Is to Do” were highlighted on Thursday, December 5, at the TEDWomen 2013 conference in San Francisco. I was there, along with my friend and fellow Women’s Voices board member Kathy Rogers (left in the photo above). Kathy has moved to California, and we wanted to spend time catching up while having an adventure as members of a TEDLive audience.
Christmastime in San Francisco.
It was an adventure. It is not easy snagging an invitation to a TEDConference. Many people are turned down or cannot afford the fee. We felt that Women’s Voices for Change needed to be part of the conversation about TEDConferences and the fantastic TEDTalks, so we chose to attend as representatives of WVFC.
We were given a great many online forms to fill out before we arrived. Kathy is very organized and had, I was sure, signed up for the pre-event cocktail party, the breakfast meeting before the formal conference on Thursday, the evening party after the conference, and the fun day planned for Friday. I had filled out so much information describing myself online for TEDWomen 2013 that I assumed that I was surely attending everything. Or possibly applying to work for the CIA. I had even filled out the extra information required for the TEDWomen 2013 badge.
The TEDWomen 2013 team requests are very specific. The TED badge must be very important, since it is large and bears both a photo and information to guide conversation with people you don’t know. The instructions were, “Please choose only three items that will be used on your badge that will go under the heading TALK TO ME ABOUT”
Sex & Fun
When I was invited to send in a photo (or more than one), of course I sent in four. I registered and paid for the conference online. Then I had to write my TEDAutobiography. Over the next two weeks I received a great many informative emails from TEDWomen2013. These always arrived in the middle of my work hours and I filed them in SAVED EMAILS so that I would not lose them while being strafed by the other emails of the day.
Life happened, as it does to me every day, and I never filled out the forms to be part of anything but the TEDWomen 2013 conference. I found out on Sunday night after Thanksgiving, three days before the trip, when Kathy asked me if I were attending all the fun events that required me to be signed up in advance.
I then contacted the TEDWomen 2013 HELPHELPHELP email and was informed, “You are too late to apply for any activities at this time.” This information would have been distressing or depressing to a normal person, but I have a great TEDWorthy idea that has guided me through my socially hapless life: “Just show up and great things will happen.”
The Husband decided to combine my TEDAdventure with our first away holiday in many years as part of the West Coast trip. He can work virtually from anywhere with a great Internet connection, after all. We had a reservation at the TED-recommended hotel, the fabulous Fairmont, which was beautifully decorated for Christmas with a 29-foot-tall Christmas tree in the main hall of the lobby. Our home away from home was the most beautiful suite imaginable. It was on the 19th floor, with large windows providing panoramic views of the city down to the water. The buildings seen from our windows, all dressed up in holiday lights, were spectacular. The TEDTeam certainly knows how to choose a great venue.
The view from Dr. Allen’s room at the Fairmont.
Soon after arrival, I had to collect my TEDBadge. The TEDTeam at the hotel Green Room were extraordinarily organized and made registering in person efficient and easy. However, two different young people assured me that I was, indeed, too late to sign up for anything other than the conference. They explained with kindness that I could have signed up online, in time, as instructed. (I think they knew I was the one who sent the HELP HELP HELP email late on Sunday night.)
A really cute guy with a beatific expression on his face gave me my badge and gift bag, then pulled out a red ticket from my TEDBadge. He paused, looked at me, paused again, and asked me—the woman who loves great shoes—“What is your shoe size?” I have a surprise for you!” I was certain that I had won the TEDWomen 2013 shoe lottery or that I had been chosen to play Cinderella in an unannounced performance onstage at TEDWomen. Then he pointed to an odd, felt-like boot. “What is that?” I asked in genuine ignorance. He replied, with incredible enthusiasm, “This is the most comfortable boot, ever. It is the TOMS suede trimmed Nepal boot.” TOMS is a wonderful company that has a program called “One for One,” which helps a person in need with every product purchased from the company. TOMS has given away over 10 million pairs of shoes to children in need in 60 countries since its inception in 2006. My TEDEducation had begun. I accepted the gift of my boots with much humility and a reminder to self that I needed to find out more about TOMS (and maybe introduce them to the Manolo team).
The Fairmont lobby.
Kathy and I (sans invitation) made it into the Women@Paley Evening Program and Reception at TEDWomen at the Banking Hall. (Later, I found out that we had been automatically pre-registered.)
The party was mobbed and full of energy—great for people-watching. I knew I was at a special place when the wait staff solicitously and persistently tried to fob off vegan canapés as edible. I finally cornered a waiter and asked him to focus on the word “Bacon.” I was directed to a table where I found tiny sandwiches with smoked turkey and bacon. I had to ask for regular bread, however from the smiling waitress who proffered “gluten free.” I grabbed a beer in a bottle and avoided the cocktail-party wine. There was no place to sit, and Kathy and I, who had both traveled long distances that day, were in no mood to stand, hold a drink and a plate, and eat. Kathy found great leather couches in the front of the room with large placards announcing “Reserved.” We sat down and enjoyed our snacks and our time together before the program. To our delight, no one asked us to move once the program began.
Special TedSpeakers from the last TEDWomen conference, in 2010, had been invited for a re-cap of their original presentations, followed by insightful conversations with the co-hosts about the impact that the original TEDWomen 2010 talks had made on their lives and their work.
By the end of the program, we were inspired and looking forward to our TEDTalks the next day. We were encouraged to attend the “By Invitation Only” breakfast conferences that everyone had presumably registered for online (in time). As I was leaving the party, I was, seriously, offered a vegan desert…gluten free.
The next morning I was up early, PST, and took my time to look glamorous for the Beauty breakfast that I planned to crash. Hair, makeup, pearls, black suede Manolo stilettos, and a leather and suede black long sleeve day-dress from The Row. Those Olsen twins who design the clothes for The Row don’t mess around. They know that in a dress like this a woman has confidence and attitude. I chose a don’t-mess-with-me, of-course-I-will-be-attending-the-Beauty-breakfast attitude. I swanned past the badge-checking sign-in tables as if I were THE speaker for the Beauty breakfast. It always works. The waiter was pleased to be tipped before I entered the room and found me a great spot at the table and brought me coffee so I didn’t have to stand at the buffet.
Estée Lauder was our host for this breakfast. The senior management in charge of product development and marketing for women over 40 were there to discuss our thoughts about beauty and age, to inform and to listen. The women who were present at the conference were all interesting but certainly not alike: Women with different points of view; women of different ages; women from many parts of the world.
The topic of beauty is of great interest to many women, whether or not they want to do anything or use anything or change anything in order to maintain or enhance their unique gifts as they ascend into the decades past 40. After introductions, there was a spirited discussion of the usual questions: “Why can’t women just leave well enough alone and age naturally?” versus “What is wrong with taking care of your skin, doing a little maintenance, and using hair color if gray is not good for your skin tone?” I am still amazed that women are so unforgiving of other women who choose a beauty path different from the one they have chosen.
The Estée Lauder team unveiled a new video; they were justifiably pleased that they were using age-appropriate models to be the face of products for our demographic and that they had wonderful new products in the pipeline. They really wanted to know what words women over 40 would be attracted to as descriptions of skin care products. It was really great being part of a conversation where age was considered a good thing and anti-aging was understood to be both a dated and unwanted label. The women in this room clearly said, “We are visible and want to be described that way; we are vital, and want our complexions to stay that way. We don’t want an anti-wrinkle or anti-aging cream, and we certainly don’t want ‘youth’ as an adjective for anything.”
The goal of the Sapling foundation, which owns TED, is “to foster the spread of great ideas. Core to this goal is a belief that there is no greater force for changing the world than a powerful idea.” Inspiring women to think collegially about beauty and age, and the words that describe us and the skin products we choose, is a great idea. This idea by itself may not change the world, but there are so many women over 40 that we can change the world, especially when we feel that we are at our best.
I passed out the Women’s Voices for Change business card to the entire Estée Lauder team with a reminder that our audience is really their demographic. We look forward to hearing more from a company that cares about how women over 40 think about beauty.