The ups and downs of my TEDx Talk – Part 1

Okay, so you all know that I spoke at TEDxHobart on the weekend – and if you aren’t aware well where have you been?! I’m going to talk about the experience here, and for any of you who have done public speaking I’m sure that some of this will be very familiar. For those of you smart enough to decide that sitting in the audience is a great way to spend the day, this may reaffirm your decisions.

Applying to speak
As with many TEDx events, there was a call for speakers. A chance for us to stick up our hands and say “yes, I have an idea worth spreading, pick me”. As an introvert who still has far too many “I’m not good enough”, “who would want to listen to me” demons, this was a difficult thing to do. But the chance to give a TEDx talk was one I couldn’t pass up – and being in Hobart means it would be quite small and “safe”.

Then came the waiting…

Getting the email
When I got the email saying I’d been selected my head almost exploded. I was so excited, for about three hours, and then the reality of what it meant kicked in. I managed to push the reality demon away for a little bit though, so I did enjoy being accepted for about a week before the doubt kicked in.

What the hell am I going to say?
Most people only get one chance on a TED/TEDx stage, and since the exceptions are people like Brene Brown, Derek Sivers, Barry Schwartz, Malcolm Gladwell, and Hans the-king-of-statistics Rosling – well let’s just move on.

So what to do with my one shot? Of course I would talk about My Year of TED, that was the point, but what would I focus on? I toyed around with the Permission and Accountability aspects of the construct for a while, but then I decided I needed to talk about the Wizard of Oz analogy. In the end I think that was the best approach – and I got to have some funky shoes for the day!

I’ve never rehearsed so much… for anything!
Then there are the limitations that you have to work within, which I think are great in so many ways, but make the whole experience that little bit scarier. No notes! Don’t go over 18 minutes! Oh, and remember that this will be recorded and placed on YouTube with a TEDx tag on it – no pressure!

I think I was going through my talk in my sleep, I know I woke up a few times part way through the talk so I can only imagine what my brain was doing. I kept making changes up until the last few days – which I don’t recommend when you have to memorise your content. Fortunately they were minor changes that improved the flow so it wasn’t too bad. But there were two parts I kept messing up, two rather important parts, so I was pretty freaked out.

Dress rehearsal
It’s one of the tips they give on public speaking and calming your nerves, see if you can rehearse at the venue beforehand – and I give that piece of advice a big thumbs up. We had a dress rehearsal the day before, we’d had other smaller rehearsals in the build up that were great but not at the venue. I was really happy with how well I remembered things, and how well I recovered when I stumbled a little bit. All that self-compassion practice really paid off, and I left the rehearsal feeling happy, confident and calm.

And then Saturday came
I was still calm when I woke up on Saturday, I even slept in to a reasonable time (not 4 or 5am like the last couple of mornings). Getting everything together was fine, and then we headed off for the day. Since I was calm let’s say that I started the day at 0 out of 10 on the stress metre (it was probably still a 3 but it felt calm). The ten minute walk down generated so much nervous energy I felt like I needed to run there, but that was still okay.

Registration was fine. I saw someone there I knew and we talked for a little bit, which was distracting so great, although the nervous energy was building. We went in for the first session and walking in the room kicked the stress up a little, not too bad though – after all I was scheduled to talk last so I had hours before I had to hit the stage.

Then Robin, the first speaker, came out – the spotlights went on and the lights dimmed, and my head exploded because we didn’t have this lighting in rehearsal and all I could think was “I won’t be able to see people”. This is a bad thing from a person who likes positive reinforcement when they present. Yes I could see the benefits in it as well, but not at that point. Since Robin’s talk was so interesting I got back on track pretty quickly, but the seed was planted.

Morning tea
I survived pretty well through the first session, after the spotlight shock. Morning tea was good, I chatted with a few people and I felt I started climbing to about a 3 on the stress metre. There were more people there that I knew, this is Hobart after all, and it felt like a pretty nice crowd which was reassuring.

Session two
This was a little up and down – I loved the talks in this session, well I enjoyed all of the talks but a couple of these were really fascinating. So my brain was a bit distracted from the fact that the day was pushing on and my time on stage was approaching. But during the final talk of the session by stress level jumped to about 6 for some reason, even with lovely people reassuring me, and then it was lunchtime.

I grabbed some food but after I ate a couple of sandwich quarters I felt very queasy, so I stopped eating. We spoke with some more people, and if you were there that day I’m sorry if I was disjointed because only a small part of my brain was functioning in the moment. I tried to distract myself, to no avail.

During lunch I went into the room to do a last minute check of my slides, and see what it was like with the spotlights. I was a little more relaxed when I walked out but then I saw everyone and my stress level started climbing again, and then my body decided it did need food, too much nervous energy.

Session three
Speakers sat down the front in their session so they could easily prepare to present – so I wasn’t near Derek for support. I remember only snippets from this part of the day, I listened to the talks but my brain didn’t take a lot in. There was a TED Talk played before mine, so I had a lot of time to get the microphones attached and wait to present.

If I was an 8 on the stress metre when we came into the room for session three, standing on the side waiting for that talk to end would have put me at 12, and yes I know the scale is 10. I just kept running through two things, my opening line and the bit I kept forgetting.

Standing on the dot
When I stood on the dot I was suddenly quite calm, probably just dropped down to 10 in reality. This was the moment of truth and my inner champion must have sedated my inner critic, the only thought I had was “I know this, I can do this”.

I don’t really remember giving the talk, I remember being able to see a couple of people at the front of the room. I forgot to think about making sure I was standing properly, and not blinking too much. About half way through, when I was talking about some particularly personal things, my hands started to shake, but that was okay. And then it was over – no stumbling, no forgetting and with 30 seconds to spare.

The initial aftermath
People were very complimentary, but it was the end of the day and a lot of people left straight away. I was buzzing on adrenaline by this stage, and when we left I felt great about the talk and proud of what I’d done.

About 90 minutes later I saw the still photos that were taken during the talk and I wanted to die – I know I’m overweight, I mentioned the other day that I need to do something to connect more with my body and increase my fitness, but the photos are… well let’s just say I dropped back to reality pretty quickly. What if the video looks that bad? Why did I wear that outfit? My internal critic was awake and primed.

I spent Saturday night alternating between “it went well and I’m really happy” and “I just want it all to have never happened”.

The next day
Yesterday was even worse, because I woke at 4am with a massive headache and vulnerability regrets. Why did I make the talk so personal? I can’t believe that I told them that? That’s going to be on YouTube you idiot? And other such comments kept me awake for about an hour.

I tried to distract myself with retail therapy, well we did need some rugs and there was a rug sale so it wasn’t mindless retail therapy. I just wanted to curl up in a ball, but I did try to be productive, and I tried to spend some time with positive self-talk to improve the situation.

And now… I’m a bit numb if you really want to know. I think part of that is because I wanted to do this talk so much, and now it’s over. Another part of it is anticipating what the video will look like. But really I think it is because I don’t know what to do next. I’ll admit that I am feeling very lost at the moment and I just don’t know what to do.

So I will do my job, because I am paid to do that; I will make some more jewellery, because I have a market in two weeks; I will write this blog post, because this is what I do. And while I’m doing those things I will stress about the fact that I want to do more speaking about the project, but I don’t know how to do that; that I want to finish the book, but I’m really stuck with it at the moment; and that I don’t know what to do with everything else I’ve learned – I don’t know what to offer people, and I’m not certain of the next step to work that out.

But I will remember that I did it, I faced up to the challenge and gave my TEDx talk, and I’m proud of how it went. I was brave, I just need to continue to be brave.

You will be happy to know I don’t intend on writing about this again, until it goes online and then I hope you will indulge me for a Part 2.

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