Imagine, if you will, a snow globe. Wait, the snow globe is in California — Long Beach to be exact. It’s really sunny in this particular snow globe. There’s a beach. Okay, thinking of a west coast snow globe? Good.

What’s inside the snow globe? Buildings — say, the sprawling, mid-century Long Beach Convention Center, the Long Beach Arena, four hotels, maybe an aquarium down the road — streets, cars. A few Teslas even. People — lots of people. And of course snowflakes. The snowflakes (for our purposes) should represent ideas in this snow globe, and they rise and fall, are shaken up, vibrate if you will, in harmony with the people. From the people. People and ideas, vibrating, exchanging, walking, talking, eating — all together, all inside the snow globe. For a week. One week only.

That snow globe metaphor helped me to understand the TED conference (TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design), a yearly happening focused on “ideas worth spreading.” Those ideas come in the form of 12 to 18 minute presentations (dubbed “TED talks”), which are later disseminated online.

Before I physically went to TED, my only real impression of what the event was like came to me through those short videos. A person on a stage, wearing a flesh colored headset, talking about a Big Idea. But it’s not just Big Ideas, or the people on stage. It’s temporary world unto itself that brings some of the smartest, weirdest, most powerful, and most famous people together in one place. To vibrate; to shake snowflakes. And this is what it’s like to be one of those people when it’s all shaking.