Last week, I had the pleasure of being invited to attend IdeaFestival 2013 in Louisville, Kentucky.
This yearly gathering of the eternally curious is easily one of my favorite conferences. I always leave with tons of brain nibbles that keep me thinking long after I've returned home.
Up front, I need to thank the team for flying me down and taking care of me while there. All they ask in return is that I share my thoughts with those who will listen and I'm happy to do so.
Sadly, I had to miss the first day of the festival which focuses on the youth of the world and is known as Thrivals. Last time, it was my favorite day and since I don't think our youth get enough credit or exposure for what they are doing I wish more people knew about this.
Overall the event hasn't changed much since I attended in 2011 and that isn't a bad thing.
There is a single track that everyone attends. Each speaker has 45 minutes to present and then there is a 15 minute conversation between them and a moderator with time for questions from the audience. It is a format that I haven't seen used much at other events and it sets a great tone.
IdeaFestival is in the family tree with TED, PopTech and OTA Sessions where only speakers with a unique perspective on their corner of the world is invited on stage.
I loved hearing what Ariel Waldman has been doing with Spacehack and her life since leaving the agency world. Dr. Daphne Miller's passion for soil, farms and what we eat struck a nerve with me that I wasn't ready for and I bought a copy of her book Farmacology as soon as she was done speaking. I worried I was going to be bored when Professor Rafe Sagarin took the stage, but as he spoke about how marine life adapts and innovates and I was glued to his every word. Finally, seeing my friend Kevin Smokler on stage first thing in the morning to discuss his book Practical Classics and the state of high school education was a special treat.
Sadly, one horrible talk did sneak in. I guess that happens at every conference, but I nearly screamed for the person to get off stage after the constant self pimping and bullet ridden slides. Thankfully there were enough other talks to wash the bad taste out of my mouth.
The one thing missing from the event that in my mind made them stand out from so many others were the performances. Last time, they had slam poets, musicians and other artists performing in between some of the sessions and there was none of that. Yes, at night there were opportunities to take in various artists, but having it included during the day was a powerful way to expose more people to the arts and I encourage the organizers to bring that back next year.
That being said, I can't think of another conference where speakers include experts on Sherlock Holmes, a magician sharing insider secrets and a man wrongfully imprisoned for fifteen years for a crime he did not commit.
Someday I hope to earn an invitation to take the stage myself, but until that day arrives I'm more than excited to sit in the audience and be inspired by some of the most inspiring individuals I've ever had the pleasure of hearing speak.
Before I end, I must shine a light on Hasan Davis. I have not seen someone walk on stage and own it like he did in a long time.
He had me laughing, crying and standing on my feet to applaud him all in the span of fifteen minutes. Thankfully, I was able to track him down in the hallway and thank him for being part of the event and for sharing his story with me. The man is doing great work and hasn't had an easy road to get where he is today.
IdeaFestival has the tagline of "stay curious" and they certainly help me do that.
Hopefully it is in the cards for me to attend again next year.