TEDxUWMilwaukee: Holy crap, that was awesome, and I need to take seventeen naps today.

photo credit: @alWHYssa_

photo credit: @alWHYssa_

Yesterday I had the incredible honor of speaking alongside nineteen brilliant presenters at the very first TEDxUWMilwaukee conference, sponsored by (the generous, engaged, and incredibly supportive folks at) Northwestern Mutual. I sit here, just hours from the event, still buzzing with the spellbound feeling that comes with being a part of something really extraordinary.

Augie and Sara Santiago TEDxUWMilwaukee 2014

photo credit: @AmyKant

Above all else, my heart is full of immense gratitude for the opportunity to be a part of the experience we shared as we journeyed through the day together. While the world scurried around us, we entered a small campus theater as strangers, loosely connected in our desire for new ideas and inspiration. The palpable excitement shared by everyone in the theater, the organizers, speakers, sponsors, volunteers and attendees, was matched with a warmth and conviviality that we could feel in the very first moment that kicked off the day, and it made me absolutely giddy. (Me. Giddy. Yeah, let that one sink in a minute. Gross. I know. Let’s move on.)

Throughout the day, I had the chance to talk to many folks in audience, and they all shared the same sentiment, “Every single speaker has been incredible!” I think that we all approach something like a day long conference expecting (hoping) to hear some really great talks, but also recognizing that with a group of twenty different speakers, it’s likely that some of the topics fall outside our area of interests, and/or we might not connect with a particular speaker. It happens at every event, it’s totally normal, but OVER and OVER again, people were sharing their excitement about ALL of the talks. One particular comment I heard quite a bit was that the entire line up was strong, and how impressed and excited folks were to discover that. When we emerged for that first intermission, people were beaming. It was fucking glorious.

Sara Santiago speaking TEDxUWMilwaukee 2014

photo credit: Mark Fairbanks

Obviously, none of that happened by chance. The event organizers have been working for nearly a year to curate and produce an awesome TEDx event. They worked with all of us (speakers) for months, helping us shape our ideas, improve our approach, and helping us translate the passion we feel for the ideas we want to share into a talk that resonates. They brought us together in various smaller groups throughout the summer to give us the chance to help each other through the development of our talks. These curation meetings were such a huge part of what made this whole experience so special for me. On the evening of my first curation meeting, I showed up to join this diverse group of really smart people who are doing some really incredible things, and I felt pretty intimidated at first. But this group, the speakers and the organizers, weren’t just brilliant thinkers. They were humble and kind, and I think maybe we all shared in a little bit of intimidation at first. Of course, it was short lived, and I left that first meeting feeling extremely fortunate to find myself on a team of really excellent human beings.

Mark Fairbanks and Sara Santiago TEDxUWMilwaukee 2014

Mark Fairbanks (my dear friend, excellent human being, and the opening speaker for TEDxUWMilwaukee) and me (and what I like to call my “crazy eyes’ look) – photo credit: Margaret Fairbanks

Working as a group improved and enriched my talk to something I couldn’t have done on my own, and exchanging criticism and offering suggestions was easy to do with this group because every single one of us wanted everyone else to succeed. For my part, I found myself also wanting to give a really great talk, not just for myself, but because I wanted my contribution to convey the respect I have for this group, and I wanted my talk to be a reflection of the amount of work that everyone involved put into this conference.

For me, yesterday was an incredibly beautiful and humbling experience. The number of people who so generously shared their own stories with me after my talk is something that will stay with me always.

The faces of the people who approached me to share a hug, a laugh, a couple rogue tears, or a simple “Thank you for sharing” are seared in my heart, which is perfect, because while my brain can’t always be trusted, my heart will never forget.

Stay tuned for follow ups on re-caps, photos, and the videos! This shit’s gonna be bananas. xoxo

4 comments

  1. Jack Edquist

    Sara, our TEDx UWMilwaukee team literally cannot thank you enough for being a part of this event. Your story was so powerful and wonderful and the words in this post truly brought a tear to run down my beard. Thank you, and know that you will always have friends and people to who care about you from the TEDx UWM team :)

    Like

    • Sara

      Jack, THANK YOU! I’m *still* processing all of the great moments from the day. You guys worked so hard and kicked so much ass, and it made for a phenomenal event. You and your team have much to be proud of! I feel especially lucky to be part of the TEDxUWMilwaukee family. xoxo

      Like

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