TEDxHouston Q & A: The journey of a TEDTalk

Brené Brown spoke at TEDxHouston 2010, and her talk on the power of vulnerability made it to TED.com and now has over 3 million views. 

She’s now speaking at TED 2012, closing the conference, and we connected with Javier Fadul of TEDxHouston on his event’s journey with Brené and his thoughts on her closing talk.

How did Brené Brown come to speak at your event?

We were very lucky to have connected with her, and the credit really must go to several people. 

Brené and her research were familiar to our team on a rather personal level, Ashley Whitney, my fiancee and member of the TEDxHouston committee, was a student of Brené’s at the University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work. I remember Ashley sharing some of her experiences in Brené’s class on “shame and worthiness,” and the many intense conversations we had around the subject matter. Monica Danna, a great connector and public relations strategist and member of our committee also supported the potential for Brene to speak. We were considering many great people at this point, and were exploring ways to find the best of the best.

Our speaker committee had her on a shortlist, but it was the connection through Mike Lundgren from TEDxKC that ultimately led us to really connect with her and her team. It was during my first TEDActive (months before the event) that I connected with Mike, the weekend before the conference started we found ourselves by the campfires, and he mentioned that Brene would be an amazing speaker to have at TEDxHouston, she had actually spoken at TEDxKC, and he thought she would be a really great person for the conference. Mike became the catalyst that pretty much set the wheels turning. Thanks also goes to Jo-lynne Worley for facilitating the connection.

What was the reaction to her talk at your event her talk?

It was an amazing experience… she was the first speaker during our first session of our first event. So we really had no idea of the power she was going to have. We didn’t really know what to expect ultimately, and she was dilligently putting the last touches on her presentation the last day of rehearsal. I remember all of us organizers were running around in the morning making sure things were ready, and I walked in a few minutes into the talk. As soon as I was in there, I picked up on a sense in the room that there was something magical happening. Volunteers and staff were in the side halls and stairs all of them absorbed by the power of what she was sharing. Not only did her talk open our minds to the potential for connection at our event, but her message continues to affect everyone who continues to see her videos. It’s amazing the kinds of comments that people have been sharing about the impact of her talk. I find it somehow very poetic that this year she is going to be closing the conference, which really bookends this narrative in a way, though I am sure her upcoming presentation will go on to an an even greater story.

What was the effect of having Brené’s TEDxHouston talk go on TED.com?

The most remarkable thing for me is how several other TEDx events have continued to share her remarkably moving talk within their communities. I was attending TEDxAustin last year, when her talk was presented to the audience. The reaction, and enthrallment was almost as powerful then as it was at our event. Being at TEDActive, connecting with other TEDx organizers has been even more evidence to the impact she is having on communities across the world. 

What do you think she’ll be talking about on Friday?

This is a really hard question! The poetry of the fact that she opened our event with the ideas of vulnerability and whole-heartedness, and how that shaped our perspective of the whole day frames my own perspective on what she may potentially speak on. It was so powerful how she used her own life story as an example of being vulerable, and in a self referential braid that Hofstadter would be proud of, used the power of her own vulnerability to make sure we understood the power of vulnerability.

I would like to imagine she could be able to somehow synthesize the amazing information and ideas we are absorbing this week, and again reach deeply into what makes us who we are, and what drives us to truly and deeply connect with each other and share our lives. It’s my own perspective that shapes this though, and I may be wrong, but I know for sure that we will get to see and hear a truly wonderful and humble woman, with an immense heart and the passion to help people understand each other, to better connect, and to make the world a more beautiful place.

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