The idea of giving a TED talk makes me so nervous, I feel pukey just thinking about it. This is exactly why I was so thankful that I didn’t know I gave one until after it was over.
Here’s how something like that happens. My Pilates instructor/office neighbor Samira had mentioned that she was putting on an event with someone in her Lean In circle about empowering women. The theme was “Dare Greatly.” They were looking for speakers and she was wondering if I knew anyone who could speak on the topic. I said I didn’t, but would put my thinking cap on.
About two weeks before the event, they still needed a fourth speaker. Samira asked me if I would do it. I asked how many people would be at this event. She thought maybe 150 people or so. Gulp. That sounded scary, so I said sure.
Now to be fair, Sam had mentioned that this event was somehow affiliated with TED. But she also said it was an independently organized program; not like an “Official TED” thing. At any rate, I convinced myself that I would just be speaking to a group of local women who wanted to hear 7-10 minutes worth of info on my Hey Eleanor project. No big deal. I threw together a Power Point presentation outlining things I’ve learned via my blog project.
In the blink of an eye, the day of my big public speaking debut arrives. I drive out to Bloomington (a large, first-ring ‘burb of Minneapolis with lots of office buildings and hotels), find the locale, park my car and enter a big office building. I immediately see a sign announcing a TED event. Like, with an official logo and stuff. I hop into the elevator and hit floor seven. A gaggle of women (maybe six?) join me in the elevator, all discussing the TED talks they’re about to witness. I started sweating. A lot.
Before entering the event space, I hit up the restroom. There is an attractive, athletic African American woman in a plum pencil skirt suit standing in front of the mirror, applying makeup. She has tissue tucked into the collar to keep powders and makeup off her jacket. I figure she’s probably another speaker, so I introduce myself. Her name is Dr. Verna C. Price, an author and motivational speaker whose new TV show (the Dr. Verna Show, naturally) is supposed to air soon… sometime… somewhere… I didn’t really want to ask. I freaked. The first person I meet here is a PROFESSIONAL MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER. Excellent.
I headed to the event space, relieved that there are still quite a few empty seats. Phew. Maybe the icy roads kept people away and thus, no one would see me publicly flounder like a freshly caught bluegill on the bottom of a canoe! Samira found me and immediately introduced me to the production team that had set up four cameras to record the talk (which I later discovered would be submitted to TED). Ah, crap.
The room filled up and the program started. Samira and her two co-planners gave a nice introduction, then invited their first guest, Deirdre Van Nest to take the stage. Described as “a speaker and coach for Fortune 500 companies and small business clients,” Deirdre was yet another professional. What’s more, her topic was basically the exact same as mine… challenging yourself to do something every day that scares you. Her words were well-thought out, flowed at a perfect pace, and had all the right pauses. I was hosed.
The next speaker was Joe Schmitt, who (according to LinkedIn) is the “Executive Director, Federal Executive Board of Minnesota & Region 5 Chairman DOI IRECC.” I don’t know what that means, but it’s some serious military business. He told a very personal story about a life threatening illness his son faced as a toddler and how his fellow Marines dropped everything in order to ensure his kid got all the help he needed (they even donated something like 1,200 pints of blood in one day). It was an amazing, touching story. I was so happy I didn’t have to talk after him!
We took a short break. I hit up the bathroom again. I had literally sweat through my t-shirt, something I have not done outside of a gym since junior high. Then, instead of crying or breaking out hives (which is what I likely would have done a few months ago), I just started laughing. This situation was so funny and ridiculous. I decided no one has ever died from the actual act of talking to an audience. I was just going to go for it.
When the program started again, Samira introduced me. I stood up and walked over the big, black X on the floor. I saw a big digital timer, which stated I had 14:59 minutes to get my point across– which was 5 more minutes than I had planned for! I brushed it off. I was going to finish when I finished, and that was that.
The first few minutes were brutal (for me, anyhow). Awkward ums and stammers galore! Then, I showed this video and everything changed. Every single person started laughing hysterically, including me. Once the video finished, I felt light and carefree! All of my fear evaporated and I was just speaking, openly, from the heart.
The program wrapped shortly after my talk. I had so many people approach me after, saying my talk was inspirational and had them thinking about how they could face their own fears. One guy complimented me on my ability to be vulnerable in from of a big group. Another lady invited me to join her sketching group in January (I am a ho-hum artist, so yes, that scares me & I’m doing it). After the event, three people asked me to speak at something else. So I guess I couldn’t have done too poorly!
Someone at the event noted how cool it was that I could add TEDx speaker to my resume. I honestly hadn’t even thought of that. I don’t feel like a TEDx speaker; I just signed up to do this because it scared me & helped a friend out. Honestly, I didn’t even really understand what a TEDx event really means. Apparently, it’s partially a scouting grounds for TED– a way to find the next Brene Brown. I thought about it some more. I mean, my talk was less polished than everyone else’s. Awkward at times. Definitely unrehearsed. But maybe that made it all the more impactful. It sure seemed like my words resonated with a lot of people and that makes me so, so happy.
I am Molly Mogren. Food and travel writer. Editor. Blogger. Mediocre home cook. Great parallel parker. TEDx speaker.