Tag Archives: TedXAustin

TEDxAustin 2013: A LOVE Letter

The event is tomorrow, and I cannot be more excited to connect, re-connect, and jump in headfirst into one of the most intense and immersive experiences.  It isn’t a secret that I’ve been a huge TED fan for years, but this year, this post isn’t going to be about the actual event.  It will be a LOVE letter.  A LOVE letter to all those who taught me so much during my tenure on the TEDxAustin production team.

Being on the TEDxAustin production team is no easy feat.  We are challenged regularly.  We’ve gotten so good at creating experiences, spaces, and connections, that many on the team should probably add miracle worker to their list of occupations.  Thank you to everyone on the team who contributes their time, energy, ideas, and hearts to this huge endeavor.  Photos by OutboxMail.

I’m quite proud of my TEDxAustin 2013 project.  Shawna Butler called with a question: how can we share the love?  One of the things that Shawna and I talk about frequently are LOVE letters.  When she says, “Write a LOVE letter,” I know the purpose is to connect, give thanks, and to show our appreciation to our partners.



I must give thanks, as well, to Shawna for teaching me about the art of writing LOVE letters.  She tells me often that I’m pretty good at it, but my unspoken response is that I learn from the best.  Thanks, Shawna.  Thanks for being the glue that keeps our TEDxAustin family together.

This project never had an official name.  I always just referred to it as the LOVE letters, and it came to me as I was driving to work, ruminating about our wonky phone systems at work.  I was to call Evan at Outbox to discuss an interactive way to integrate their products into our experience.  Somehow, the idea of mail, phones, and missing connections turned into this idea.  

My idea was to send LOVE letters to our sponsors.  I genuinely do love our sponsors – I’m pretty huggy around them.  The plan was to have our attendees write LOVE letters to them at our pre-event, the Tuesday prior to TEDxAustin.  I spearheaded the pre-event, so that was pretty easy. I invited a dear friend of mine, Lydia Fiedler, and amazing stamping queen to provide our materials.  And I had Outbox provide a “mailbox.”



After the event, Outbox created a video of these LOVE letters to be shared with the world.  We’re not particularly shy about our love and gratitude.  At the event, these letters were stuffed into badges at random, and our attendees were given the following instructions:

“We’re about to start the day with words of wisdom, nuggets of insight, and catalysts for inspiration.  As you go through the day, we also ask you to dive deeply into gratitude and share it in a letter that conveys appreciation to those who committed their time, talent, and resources to making this immersive experience a reality.

During our community catalyst event at TreeHouse, attendees were inspired to write LOVE letters. Through the magic of Outbox they’ve been digitally delivered and you can view these letters of LOVE at http://www.TEDxAustin.com.  

We invite you to share our love. If you find one of these letters in your badge, please personally deliver the letter to its addressee.  Spreading the love, as it were. Fearlessly.”



My wish for this project was to introduce the idea of LOVE letters – how can we show our love and gratitude to others.  Now that it is done (you’re probably reading this after the event), we have documented our love, encouraged others to share declaration of our love to other attendees, and then to connect with our partners.  Post event, we have videos and photos of these love letters to be shared far and wide.

Many thanks to Evan Baehr from OutboxMail, Lydia Fiedler from UnderstandBlue, Stacy Weitzner our TEDxAustin voice, and Shawna Butler for giving this oxytocin-filled project life.  My heart is full thanks to you.

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Beyond Measure, Beyond Words: A peek behind the scenes of @TEDxAustin2012

I just finished an amazing 6 month long experience.  I after it was all said and done, I spent about 175 hours over the 6 months working on the experience called TEDxAustin.  I was the xLunch producer, and I produced every aspect of the food experience. I did not get to partake in the full experience, but working on the experience was just as amazing.  I can say that I’m even more rich.

Photo by John M. P. Knox @windaddict

I did hear bits and pieces of the talks.  I heard a quote from @JCourt about preemptive love, “ Violence unmakes the world. Preemptive love remakes the world.” I was overwhelmed with the feeling of preemptive love.  My friends who participated in the lunch concept preemptively showed me love.  They dedicated their time and their craft to something I was doing without question. Thank you, friends. Thank you for showing me that preemptive love.

I did sit down for Penny’s talk. I met Penny about 4 years ago at a food blogger’s pot luck at her house.  I absolutely love her, and the idea of that we should live I’m the moment.  Our lives are made up of all these small moments.  See them. Live in them. Cherish them.  I got to meet Penny’s father, and I stole a hug.

Penny’s talk was thoughtfully placed right before lunch.  This year’s lunch showcased some of the top chefs in Austin with deep roots in the food community.  There were several goals for the lunch 1. Create an interactive food experience to drive engagements 2. Serve fantastically creative dishes 3. Highlight the leaders in our food community and 4. showcase locally sourced foods.

Paper dress. photo by John M. P. Knox @windaddict

I was told that it would be a difficult task, but nonetheless, I took it on.  I won’t go into the logistics of pulling off this feat. From table settings to sourcing the food locally, this was nothing short of a miracle. I tweeted earlier that week that I was in the car with 100 chickens.  I didn’t tweet that they were all being delivered to the restaurants and were already dead.

TEDxAustin cake balls by Austin Cake Ball.

I had several people say that I did the impossible.  And they are right.  I did what was impossible to do on my own. With the preemptive love, it was very possible.

I must tip my hat to Rebecca Scofield at Whole Foods for putting in so much time into this endeavor.  She is nothing short of amazing by bringing in Johnson’s Backyard and Vital Farms.  My  chefs wowed me with their creativity and presented a fantastic menu.  David Norman of Easy Tiger started the day with showing people how to knead dough during breakfast, which tied into breaking bread over lunch with friends.  The Natural Epicurean  brought an A team staff to support our event.  The staff was sharper than their knives.

A big thank you to the restaurants and chefs:

And our food partners:

Photo by John M. P. Knox @windaddict.  This was a view from inside the black box.  I loved the design that Jeff Sharpe and Chris Czichos made.  I want them to do that to my house.

In case you were wondering about the menus:

BC Tavern/Wink  –  Broccoli, Bleu cheese mac / Braised chicken (cachatorrie style)/ roasted carrots and spinach

Carillon   – Chicken Roulades, Bacon, Espellete, sherry emulsion / Texmati rice,dried apricots, almonds, celery, black pepper syrup / Carrots, caraway, molasses, pork jus gastrique

Fino/Asti   – Smoked Vital Farms Chicken & Spinach Morcilla Blanca / Carrot Purée / Broccoli Slaw & Egg Yolk Bottarga

Lenoir  –  The Chicken or the Egg – Chicken pot-au-feu with egg ravoili
Swift’s Attic  –  Roasted Chicken Bahn Mi / Broccoli Kimchee Spinach / Quick pickle salad
Uchi/Uchiko  – Vital farms chicken, sweet short grain rice, candied pork belly, crispy garlic / Pickled carrots, pickled broccoli /s pinach oshitaki

It must also be mentioned that just a few weeks ago, Chef Scott Kaplan of Fino was attacked and seriously injured.  While I am sad to see something like that happen, I was thrilled to see that he decided to come out to play at TEDxAustin. You can view Chef Scott’s fundraiser here.

The speakers and sponsors dinner.
Working as the xLunch producer, I got to meet some other incredible people, in very unexpected places.  The staff at the Austin Music Hall,  Pascal’s catering, and Premiere Party were fantastic to work with.  They went over and beyond with helping with the set up and loading.  We also had group of volunteers from Accenture who were amazing. I couldn’t believe how focused they were. I’d love to have them at any event.

The TEDxAustin 2012 copywriting, design, and production logistics were handled by an extraordinary team.  A big thanks goes to Kristin Bender, Leah Kaminsky, and Lisa Cogliati.  Also, Jeff Sharpe and Chris Czichos did all of the design, layout, and building to create the stunning environment at TEDxAustin 2012.  It was drop dead gorgeous.

Close up of the panels.

And lastly, I had the experience of working closely with Shawna Butler.  I must have called or texted her at least once a day during the last few weeks of production.  This woman is insightful, efficient, focused, and I’m guessing that the final singing experience was her doing.  Craig Hella Johnson lead a choir in being.  We announced our being by singing.  We sang to announce our being.  And our being was Beyond Measure.

r being was Beyond Measure.

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I’m the richest person @TedXAustin

Once the TedXAustin videos and photos are up, I will start adding photos and switching out the videos. 

I love TED.com.  I really do, and TedXAustin 2011 was my third TED experience.  Each of my TED experiences have been uniquely different, and left me even more certain that I was deeply in love with TED.  My first TED was TedXAustin 2010.  I thought the energy in the room was tremendous, the speakers and attendees were equally amazing, and I was infatuated with connecting to the awesome people I had met.  My second TED was TedXUT 2010, in which I was the live tweeter.  Live-tweeting for a conference is extremely mentally draining.  Not only must one pay full attention all the time at the conference, one much also quickly synthesize the content and post it into short 140 character messages.  I also respond and join conversations when I’m live-tweeting, which makes it only about a million times for difficult.

My TedXAustin 2011 experience can be described with several words: reflection, sharing, compassion, and understanding.  This experience had energy that was different from the others.  Many of the speakers spoke about pain, confusion, heart ache, and triumph.  I didn’t leave thinking that I was going to change the world, but I certainly did leave feeling a wider range of emotion than on a normal day.  The day started with an engaging performance by Mother FalconMother Falcon was like the liberal Austin version of classical music.  Performance and style like that kind of make me wish I didn’t give up on the piano 10 years ago.  I was in awe.

Another emotion expressed on stage was gratitude.  Gilbert Tuhabonye was that man.  Even though he came from Burundi with the scars of warfare, this man glowed of sunshine.  As an adolescent, he watches as his friends turn into his enemies and his other friends turn into the victims of beheadings.  Though his body was burned, he managed to escape by literally running away.  Running thusly became many things to him.  Gilbert also sang to the audience, a song he sang while running as a child.  And we mostly tried to sing back in tune.  I can’t wait for his video to be online so that you see this someone who runs with joy.

Joaquín Zihuatanejo expressed many other emotions. Emotions that my overactive mirror neurons picked up.   Joaquin isn’t just a poet.  He made poets.  He was an English teacher who took def poetry by the scruff of its neck and shook some crazy passion in it.  This embedded video isn’t of his performance at TedXAustin, and but I do hope that it will be soon.  One of his poems hit close to home.  It was about a deaf student named John.  This deaf student name John reminded me of my own experiences teaching last semester. It was a striking reminder, and a reminder that though we live in the same physical space, our worlds are completely different.

Another interesting theme at TedXAustin was on being rich.  No, I’m not talking about money.  I’m talking about having a rich life.  I think my life is richer than foie gras mousse served on pao de queso and covered with butter.  My life is rich with experience – the experience of driving all over the 48 contiguous states, the experience of working in prisons, the experience of driving on an autocross track, the experience of training and handling the top most titled dog of my breed in the world, and the experience of launching a cupcake at a zombie. My life is rich with friends, family, and community.  My life is also rich with opportunity, and lastly, my life is rich with food.  And after another great TedXAustin experience, I’m the richest person in Austin (self-proclaimed of course).

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