Take a peek backstage at TED2024

Alexandra Samuel
3 min readMay 19, 2024
Take a peek backstage at #TED2024 — thanks to an experience that may sound like your worst air-travel nightmare.

You know, that nightmare where the person next to you on a long plane flight actually TALKS to you? That was me, a year ago, on a flight back from New York after speaking at a conference.

My seatmate was a woman with a fantastic mane of curly hair and beautiful eyes smiling over her mask. We exchanged a few niceties about mask-wearing and flight logistics, and before I knew it, we were deep into a conversation that ranged from our favorite TV shows to our experience parenting kids of similar ages to our career paths and marriages. Six hours later, we landed in Vancouver….and we had not stopped talking the whole time!

That fascinating woman turned out to be Mina Sabet, the head of production for TED Conferences, who was on her way to Vancouver to produce TED’s main conference for the year. Our exchange of life stories had covered her years of experience as a media producer and how it led up to the massive job of coordinating the complex team that makes TED possible; we had also spoken about my own work as a journalist and speaker.

This is the backside of the wall that encloses the stage. It’s a currently a massive room of A:V equipment they are still setting up.

“You should cover next year’s TED,” Mina urged me. “It will blow your mind!”

Even though I knew TED happened in Vancouver each year, it had never occurred to me to cover it — it’s just one of those events that seems to take place on an alternate plane of existence. But Mina introduced me to the press team, and here I am, all set to cover next week’s conference!

Best of all, Mina and I got to have a reunion on our one-year plane-iversary. We’ve spoken a few times over the past year, because the joy of giving yourself over to a six-hour conversation is that it’s the foundation for a genuine connection! So when she offered to take me backstage so that I could see what goes into making TED happen, I wasn’t just excited to get a look at a big event — I was keen to get a closer look at Mina’s work and world.

The scale of her team’s work is jaw-dropping: They build an entire theater from scratch inside the convention center’s main floor, in just one week. (I won’t lie: My inner tech nerd was especially gratified by checking out the sheer volume of gadgets and cables that go into this process.)

You’d think it would be super stressful (and it clearly is!), but as I walked around the theater and backstage areas with Mina, the vibe was more like a very fond college reunion, as all the staff and techs reunited with great affection after a year of working apart or long-distance.

I’m looking forward to seeing the experience this crew will create at next week’s conference, and to meeting the conference attendees who will be touched by their work. I’m going into that week with a deep appreciation for the serendipity of spontaneous connection — the kind of connection that’s possible if you talk to a stranger next to you at a conference…or on a plane.

The view from right behind where the speakers will stand



Alexandra Samuel

Speaker on hybrid & remote work. Author, Remote Inc. Contributor to Wall Street Journal & Harvard Business Review. https://AlexandraSamuel.com/newsletter