What was it like to give a TEDx talk? Personally, it was quite an experience.
This is actually my second TEDx talk. The first one was on 11/11/11. How I came out to be on that stage is actually a pretty funny story.
While I was aware of TED (the main stage) and had watched several TED talks over the years (personally, I had watched Tony Robbin’s TED talk multiple times), I had never even heard about a TEDx until fall of 2011. A person whose radio show I had been on years before emailed me; asking if I could give her 30 minutes of time to delve a bit deeper on some of the concepts I had shared during our interview. She was giving a TEDx talk and wanted to include some of what we had talked about. I told her, “Sure, we can meet, as long as you tell me what a TEDx is.” And she did.
After I learned that TEDx is a local, smaller scale TED talk, I wanted in. Getting on the TEDx site, I found out that there was a TEDx being held near my home just a few weeks away. I contacted the person in charge of that event, who kindly told me that speakers had been chosen months ago (aka “there is no way you can speak at this event”). “Of course,” I told him. “I would just love to learn more about the event. Could we meet sometime to talk about it?”
He agreed, and we met for coffee a few days later. After he shared more about the event and I told him a bit about me. You’ll never guess what he asked next. He asked me to speak at the Naperville TEDx as his closing speaker! This was such a huge opportunity for me and my career so of course I quickly agreed. However, the event was in less than two weeks.
I threw together a talk that I called The Science of Happiness. I actually bought a PowerPoint template with a science theme and made my slides after the dress rehearsal (the day before the event).
All of that to say, it was a pretty quick prep and the talk was well-received.
Since then, I learned so much more about TED talks- how they are different from just a regular 18-minute talk. And for years, I have wanted to give another TEDx talk. Plus, my speaking has changed a lot in 8 years.
This year, I decided, was the year. I chose a location, developed a summary of my talk and shot a video.
Unfortunately, I did not get accepted at that TEDx event. But, while I was waiting to find out, TEDx UIUC contacted me out of the blue and asked me to be part of their event. And it was an incredible event!!! Held in what I later learned is one of the top performing arts centers in the country: The Krannert Center. Who knew? (I sure didn’t).
So, this time I vowed to spend more time really cultivating my ‘One Idea Worth Sharing’. I wanted it to be different from my usual speaking and follow more of a TED-type format.
I wanted this to be perfect so after writing my speech, I hired a speaking coach who specializes in TED talks to make me even more prepared. I tried a gazillion different options for my prop and finally decided on the light. It is something I have never seen anyone else do before and couldn’t wait to try it out on the big stage!
Two weeks before the talk, I took my daughters on a cruise for spring break. And I would go to the gym, get on the elliptical and memorize the speech.
Random fact: This is a habit I picked up in physical therapy school. It started with anatomy: trying to learn all the muscles, bones, nerves, blood vessels… in the body. It was stressful for me, and that stress would take over my brain so I could not really absorb new information. Of course, if your brain isn’t absorbing any new information, it is really difficult to learn anything.
So, my solution was to take my anatomy book (mostly pictures BTW) to the gym, place it on the book holder on top of the stair master and start working out while I was memorizing the location of the latissimus dorsi or anterior tibialis. It worked like a charm. My stress was reduced by the exercise, allowing my brain to be able to retain new info.
Fast forward to the week before the talk, my coach and I met every day to give the talk and receive feedback. All of this to say, I spent a lot more time on this TEDx talk. And I am so happy I did because after arriving at the dress rehearsal, I found out that I was going to be the second speaker of the day!
My biggest stress, in addition to remembering the placement of the word “emerge” (the theme of the conference), were the lights. If you watched the video above, you saw that I wanted to use the darkening of lights to signify how our inner critic darkens our lives. The day before I was still struggling to do it. I would put off trying to master it, like when Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey put off the jump sequence in the movie Dirty Dancing. Luckily, my avoidance was actually rewarded.
I decided to talk to the person in charge of lights and asked him if he had any thoughts about how to make this work. I was nervous wondering if he could actually make it work. “Of course,” he told me. “I am majoring in theatrical lighting.” How lucky was I???
In the end, he mastered the lighting, I remembered most of my lines, and we got some great feedback on the talk! And, the best part: My daughters were there to watch me. This was such an incredible experience and definitely one to remember. I’ve learned so much between the two talks and am so grateful for everyone who supported me along the way. Needless to say, I am excited to do another Tedx or Ted Talk.
In my next blog, I will share with you more about who was there and what it was like to interact with some pretty cool speakers.
Thanks for your interest in my TEDx! Can’t wait to share the video with you when I receive it!