Ever since I've been coming to TED, I've heard tell of the "TED Moment". It's spoken of in hushed, awed tones. People ask each other "Have you had your TED Moment"? Being from Texas, I found it similar to when my newly-minted Christian friends would ask me, "Have you been saved?" And I'm here to admit that I have had to answer "No" to both questions. Which left me feeling a little frustrated - what was I missing? Which koolaide at the Google Cafe wasn't I drinking?
Well, today I'm proud to announce that although it has taken until Year 3, I have now had my TED Moment.
It happened yesterday, at a lovely lunch hosted by Autodesk where Tom Wujec was giving a talk on Information Visualization. I arrived early at the lunch. I had my backpack (vintage TED 2005) with me, so I dropped it at a table and joined the buffet line. After making my way through the buffet, I headed back to the table where my backpack was. No one was sitting there yet. And I found myself faced with an all-too-familiar dilemma: join another or stay here and start my own.
I looked around and, admittedly, wasn't feeling the vibe from any of the other tables. Plus, any tables that were closer to the front already had the "good side" taken. So, inertia won and I sat down, shoving my backpack under the table.
While digging into my risotto, a woman came into my peripheral vision and asked "Are you saving these seats?" I shook my head, gestured in what I hoped was a welcoming manner, and quickly chewed and swallowed to finally be able to say, "No, please join me."
And then I stared at her chest.
Now, see, that's normal at TED. Perhaps it's a result of TED's information architecture heritage, but the name badges are one of the best things about TED. They have BIG FONTS and minimal information with a focus on your name, and of secondary import are your role, company and city. These name badges hang around our necks (as opposed to being delicately pinned to our lapels) and, as a group, we spend a fair amount of time staring at each others chests.
This woman's badge said "Brenda Laurel".
Brenda Laurel was sitting at my table, and I was about to have lunch with her.
As she sat down, in my usual charming and effusive manner, I sputtered, "You're Brenda Laurel".
She looked a little disarmed; people usually say, "Hello, I'm so and so" rather than stating the other's name; however, she played along. "Yes, and you're Kate. Kate Trrr .."
"TER-go-vak" I dismissed with a wave of my hand. "Yes, but you're Brenda Laurel."
She nodded (and I think she might have glanced around to see if she could make a break to a nearby table). "Yes, yes."
"Purple Moon! " I gasped as if speaking a code that would unlock the elven gate to the Mines of Moira. "You created Purple Moon!"
She smiled and nodded and may have tried to hide behind a lettuce leaf. I continued to wax rhapsodic, "Your ideas about games and gender shaped my fundamental thinking about interaction design and technology. Purple Moon was a model for how games for girls should be. You found what motivates them - collection and collaboration - and demonstrated a new way of thinking in this area. It continues to inform how I design interaction for adults."
I believe it was at this point that Brenda Laurel sighed deeply and resigned herself to the fact that she was sitting beside a slightly rabid but most-likely harmless fan.
She and I exchanged thoughts on why there weren't more women at this particular lunch, on the stage and at TED in general. We talked a bit more about gender and computing; she is smart and charming and generous.
Thankfully (for everyone) we were soon joined by other folks who took some of the pressure off of Brenda, and then eventually Tom's fantastic talk began.
After lunch, we nodded and said goodbye. And shockingly, I haven't stalked her further since then. But I have had my TED Moment. I had lunch with a Maverick/Icon/Genius who inspired me and has informed both my career choice and my continued struggle against the gender disparity in my industries (technology and marketing). And now I, too, can speak in awed and hushed tones. If you haven't had your TED Moment, don't fret, you will. And it will be worth the wait.
Photo Credit: fotografisch.at