In some ways, attending the TED conference in person is exactly what you'd expect from watching TED talks online. It's an overwhelming experience jam-packed with scientists, artists, entrepreneurs, and CEOs who all have their One Big Idea to share.
Many of the big-name speakers — in 2018, they included SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell, architect Renzo Piano, and Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker — stick around for the whole event. It's not unusual to see them roaming the halls. There are also lots of well-known attendees who never hit the stage (the press isn't allowed to name names, but you can figure it out with a little Twitter digging).
The conference costs $10,000 to attend, though there are $5,000 tickets available to select first-timers. In addition to the talks there are all sorts of indulgent experiences, buffets, and workshops to keep attendees occupied. I showed up at the 2018 TED conference to check it all out. Here's what it's like.
For the last several years, TED has been held in the Vancouver Convention Center in Vancouver, Canada.
TED was founded in 1984, and the first conference was held in Monterey, California. These days, the conference runs from Monday through Friday. People have to apply to go — attendance this year was capped at 1,500 — and it sells out many months in advance.
The space sits right on the harbor, with wall-to-wall views of the water.
My first stop at the venue each morning is the food. For every meal, TED lays out a buffet of options with detailed ingredient descriptions (including whether they are vegan or gluten-free).
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Credit: Ryan Lash/TED