As I shared in my TedX Journey Part 1, the first part of my TEDx experience was presenting an idea to spread (TED’s tagline is Ideas Worth Spreading), and sharing the process of being selected as one of the eight speakers chosen by the curating committee from 60 original submissions. In Part 2, I’m going to share with you how I went from that big idea to presenting on the big stage.
Up until this point, all I could focus on what how this experience was really starting to get real. As a TED fan, I had followed TED Talks for years and often used them in my seminars, but this was different. This was MY TEDx Talk and frankly, I didn’t want to blow it.
The TEDx LehighRiver was scheduled for September 17th and I had a lot to do in just one month. Rehearsals were scheduled for September 1st, 8th, 15th and then one final one the morning of the TEDx Event.
I had two weeks between now and our first rehearsal on September 1st. The curating team and our coaches asked us to refine our talks further before our first rehearsal at the local PBS station. This gave me time to work on my talk even further and every guest at my salon received an optional TEDx Talk with every visit! As many of you may know, I have been very fortunate to have taught and presented all over the world, in 15+ countries on five continents, but THIS is a TEDx Talk, not a TEDx Presentation.
I am a speaker, not a presenter, and as my coach, Lisa said to me, “This can be hard for people like you.” “What does that mean,” I asked, and Lisa explained to me that for people who are good presenters it can be tough to do a talk and not follow their usual shtick. In the TED book by Chris Anderson, Owner, and Head of the TED Organization, he gives many examples of great individuals known for their dynamic presentations and messages, but once removed from behind their lector or without their notes, their talks went flat. The challenge is it’s hard to have a “talk” instead of a lecture from someone standing behind a lector and that is why generally TED does not allow them.
The subtlety and the magnetism are as big and as small as the difference between lust and love. For most of us, by adulthood, we have probably had the experience of believing we were in love with someone and then realized in retrospect that we were probably just in lust with them. Lust, is with someone, like a presentation, while love, is with someone, like a really good TED Talk. And the really crazy thing is, you only get to do the TEDx Talk once, live, and it is recorded to be submitted to the TED Organization to be curated for their global community. No pressure, right?!
So on September 1st, six of the eight chosen presenters were there for rehearsal but not the original eight! One of the presenters who made it through the TEDx school and coaching had dropped out and a new speaker would be joining us, just not this night. This was going to be the first time we were back together as a large group and the first time we would hear most of the other speakers polished talks. It would be the first time we could include visuals with our talks as we presented and then debriefed each other in a glass-walled conference room at the local PBS Station. I had my visuals loaded on my iPad and brought my GoPro with me to record myself so I could debrief myself at home.
Rehearsal went great; it was very cool to hear five of the other talks and they let us know the next week would be a rehearsal on the stage we would be presenting on, but with no AV or tech team. I went home and again every guest at my salon was offered an optional TEDx Talk with every visit.
September 8th arrived and we all met at Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown, the location of the upcoming TEDx Event and the signature TED round red carpet was there. For all of us, that was a moment! We were all invited on stage and stood around the round, red TED carpet as we were given the working speakers line up for the event to present in, I was second.
I was excited about being chosen to speak second. Strategically it’s an important spot and as a speaker, it’s an easy spot if you are comfortable speaking. Strategically, the second speaker is important because if the first speaker bombs, the second better be good and if the first speaker is great like ours was, the second can solidify that this is going to be good.
As a seasoned speaker, it’s easy because you’re backstage when the event starts, standing in the wings. The first speaker does all the heavy lifting if tech things were going to go wrong. The TEDx team rehearsed us coming on and off stage, meeting the TEDx host on the red round carpet as he practiced introducing us, and him leaving the stage. Again the five of us from the previous week presented and I recorded myself when I presented, but at this point I started to pay less attention to the other talks because I wanted to still be excited about them on September 17th (not like it’s the eighth time and because we still had not used AV) there was more to see.
As the other presenters finished, we were down to the final speaker, a 12-year-old girl, that we had not met before, who was going to play the piano. As I sat there continuing to play my mahjong game, her fingers hit the piano keys and the oxygen left the room. This girl was a jazz protege who doesn’t even read music, and WOW. When she finished we stood, applauding and one of the speakers joked, “Thank goodness she is going last!”
Another week went by and at this point, I stopped doing my talk and would instead meditate on it and just imagine the flow of the talk, not just the words. On September 15th, we all returned to Miller Symphony Hall for a full rehearsal, dress optional for the presenters, and for the first time full tech, lights, screens, microphones, cameras and AV team. We went through the speakers in order each doing our full talks, with visual, and the host leading it all in real time without stopping. With a few exceptions, rehearsal went well and we were now less than 48 hours from the actual TEDx LehighRiver Event.
The official TEDx Event was scheduled to begin at noon and we had been asked to arrive before 10 am to run through our talks one last time. When I arrived, one of our fellow speakers was still rehearsing their talk, they were having trouble since the rehearsal on the 15th with full AV and the visuals were throwing off their talk.
As we gathered backstage it was a bit surreal, we stood around in the green room with our outfits that were carefully chosen, but casual at the same time. Some of us arrived in our clothes to speak while others were safely kept on a hanger under plastic. TED famously has rules about no ties, nothing formal and famously one TED Speaker even had his tie removed with a scissor when he forgot the no tie rule!
The group nervously chatted as we waited to rehearse one last time as a group, as the attendees for the TEDx would be filling the audience in just two hours. With all the lights, staging, and AV present, a full dress rehearsal in the symphony hall, to an audience of empty seats, before we joined our family and friends who were now beginning to arrive.
At this point, I had probably shared some form of my Talk about 400 times, to family, friends, guests, even our dogs, and while practicing outside when doing lawn work, neighbors, and passing drivers in cars probably heard some of my talk too. But this was different from anything I had ever done. Usually, I get booked for a class or presentation, I create an outline or flow to the class with times and segments. I prepare for each segment, but I don’t practice the entire program multiple times, never mind hundreds! And usually, when I share ideas, I might do the same class two to three times a day, for two days, and I can tell you at the end which was the best class, even though they were “all the same.”
This is one TEDx Talk, once, recorded, and if chosen online, forever.
And now the doors were opening…
As a group, we decided to sit in a speakers box just off stage right in the theater that would allow us to sit as a team and still see each other’s talks. this was different though than previous years where speakers were sitting in the audience with family and friends, before and after their talks. As the other speakers sat in their seats, Sara the first speaker, and I made our way backstage to be mic’d and to begin the TEDx Event. As Sara took the stage, my mind began to drift, thinking about the flow of my talk and the experience of getting to this spot. As my mind began to relax, my eyes began to regain focus and as the round red carpet captured my eye, I took a few deep breaths.
After that, I remember hugging Sara backstage, walking on stage and shaking hands with John, the TEDx Host, and starting my talk. I remember clicking backward accidentally on the slides twice, which is why in my video it looks like I am reading something on a prompter when I’m actually trying to click on the right slides.
People ask if we had notes, and no we didn’t, the monitor in front of us showed the same image or blank screen as the big screen behind us, which the audience sees. I remember finishing, I remember John, the TEDx host, hugging me on the red carpet.
I remember returning to a seat in the speaker’s box.
I remember sitting there, no sadness, but tears just flowing and a quiet peace.
I hope you enjoyed my TEDx experience and I look forward to hearing your ideas worth spreading and your TEDx Talks for those who want to have this amazing experience too. Remember, we all have an idea worth spreading.
To view Patrick’s TEDx Talk – The Beauty Of Touch, click HERE.