On the other end of the call Rebecca Helterbrand from TEDx San Antonio was saying,  “congratulations…you’ve been selected…”

And before I had time to process the news, she had me taking notes on “several important dates.” Required dates. Meetings and rehearsals. Mark them down. Don’t miss them.

That was my introduction to an unwavering commitment to excellence on the part of the TEDx San Antonio team — a group of volunteers who invest months organizing and producing an amazing program. (A few, but not near all are pictured in the photo above.)

In case you missed it — that was volunteers. Not paid staff. No administrators at the top. Every person involved does it on their own time — from Susan Price, the visionary TEDx licensee to every one she calls on; from speaker selection committee to on-site event coordinators; from world-class emcees (Victor Landa and Molly Cox) to staging and video production crews; pre-event reception to after party workers. The whole thing is underwritten by sponsors like Rackspace — the San Antonio based global company who hosted the event.

The opportunity to participate in TEDx San Antonio represented many things at a personal level.  Among the long list, this experience reminded me what can happen in those rare instances when a team shares a common goal. For this crew, it was to be part of a grand event that would open minds, prompt dialogue, and precipitate dreams.

For everyone involved, TEDx San Antonio was a pursuit of excellence — because of a shared belief in what ideas worth sharing can mean to conversations, collaboration and community.

Excellence is easy to talk about  But this was way more than talk.

Enter The Speakers — With A Lot Of Help From Our Friends

Speakers get the stage, the lights, and that great TED name behind us in that photo. But like every other part of this event, the real work is the behind-the-scenes-prep — all driven by a group that believes in the forum.  In TEDx terms, the Curators are the volunteers behind each talk. They have one job — to make certain speakers do our job.  They don’t ask much — just “give the best talk of your life.”

Think about this for a moment.  These volunteer are given the formidable task of helping a bunch of speakers who believe they know their stuff better than anyone.  The curators gently nudge, help hone, finesse, edit, visualize.  And REHEARSE — over and over.

And every one of us — PhD educators and researchers, entrepreneurs, corporate, civic and community leaders, lawyers and a tag-along marketing type found ourselves swept up in this team’s pursuit of nothing short of the best.  (Thank you again, Amanda Volz. You were perfect!)

The Reason TED Rocks

This commitment to excellence is why TED is a trusted, admired brand for innovation, inspiration, and thought leadership.  (If you’re unfamiliar with TED, visit this site. You will become a fan.)

I took many ideas away from the experience as a TEDx speaker.  But the take-away that resonates today is that excellence never simply happens. Specifically, in this instance,

  • 500+ individuals don’t just show up on a Saturday (after applying for the right to buy a ticket!) — never mind viewers around the world via live streaming;
  • 20 individuals talking about something they believe in NEVER just happen to test every word, measure every pause, and stick to a 16-minutes-or-less clock.

Put together a team with shared aspirations, mix in outstanding leadership and commitment, and add a handful of subject matter experts willing to collaborate and conspire — and you have the recipe for progress. Even innovation.

One wonders at the change we might instigate — anywhere we live and work — were we willing to commit to excellence — in the seeding of every idea…in the formulation of every strategic plan…in the preparation for every opportunity to communicate.

Thank you TEDx San Antonio. It was an education. And a distinct honor to be part of the team.