Saturday, the 11th February was a great day by any measure for TEDxTbilisi. The unusal levels of snow that had been falling every night for a week and that had blanketed the city in the days leading up to the event held off, and the morning arrived with a brilliant blue sky, bright sun and a cold that put a bounce in everyone's step.
Our venue, Tbilisi State University (TSU), had just finished a multi-year, multi-million dollar renovation of the building where our event was to be held. It is a builiding that does honor to the hertiage and the future of academic life in Tbilisi. For most of it's history, TSU was "the" univeristy to attend in Tbilisi and the building where TEDxTbilisi was held is the most distinctive of all the campus buildings. Wide halls with marble floors, huge heavy wooden doors, sweeping staircases and class rooms with walls of windows to let in light are just some of the fabulous features of the building. A circular museum room with a stunning ceiling fresco, a spacious and well thought out library, an art gallery and of course - the new state-of-the-art concert hall where TEDxTbilisi was held - all add to the magic of the space in the building.
TEDxTbilis was to be the first event in the newly opened building; literally it was officially opened on February 8! The administration and staff at TSU were simply amazing in the support they provided. (Tengiz - we will forever be in your debt for all you did!) No question went unanswered, no request was too big or too small. To keep costs down for our break / lunch space, we 'borrowed' furniture from around the building ... classroom tables and chairs, mixed with modular couches from the art gallery were mixed together to build a comfortable room for attendees to hang out in during the breaks. It all came together perfectly.
TEDxTbilisi attendee registration started at 9:30 and so we had put out a call for the staff meeting to start at the unheard of time (in Georgia) of 8:00am. Everyone - from TSU builiding staff, camera/light/sound people, volunteers, the TEDxTbilis team - were up and ready to go. Good start. The quick meeting was to ensure all volunteers knew their jobs (really - the one and only job was to smile and do all they could to make sure the attendees had a great day), make sure all had on the TEDxTbilisi t- shirts to make us easily identifiable and to get everyone generally psyched for the day.
The first attendee showed up at 9:20; TEDxTbilisi had officially begun. From then on, the day just flew.
Up at registration, attendees arrived and began checking their coats and checking in for their name badges and agendas. In the concert hall there was the last minute flurry of perfectionism ... "move that chair a little more to the left", "this monitor should be lowered a bit", "what do you mean he changed his slide presentation again last night ?!?!?! That means we have to reaload the version on the computer!!!" ... the normal stuff of any live event.
But finally, we were ready to open the doors; the attendees flowed in and took their seats, the live stream was initiated, the first speakers had on their micrphones, the hall lights dropped and the stage lights came up, the emcess walked on stage to start the show - and this was the moment the TEDxTbilisi team had dreamed about, all those months ago.