Giving a Ted Talk is an incredible experience. Giving a Ted Talk to a near empty theatre is different than I had pictured it, but it was completely worthwhile. Allow me to share some of the process with you.
First, you should have an idea that’s worth spreading. The idea is sound…or is it? I found myself questioning whether anyone would be interested in my idea. How does one know? The incredible Tedx Team of people who you meet with three times helps in this area. They gave assignments that yielded great dividends if you accepted and completed them. First assignment: agree to not script your talk. Actually allow it to be a talk, an organic thing that isn’t to be fully controlled–just like life. I accepted this enthusiastically. I am privileged to get to talk for a living as an actor, director and as a facilitator. As an actor, I’m required to memorize words. In the other spaces, I’m free to simply speak. When I do, my speech should be thoughtful, it should be relevant and it should be responsive to the audience. Thoughtful, relevant and responsive sounded like great starting points to a strong Ted Talk.
Next, they encouraged the Ted Talk to have three areas to shape the conversation: we were instructed to elevate, empower, and engage. I could write about each of these, but you may do a Ted Talk sometime, and it’s best to experience this on your own. What I will share is that crafting this Ted Talk using these tools felt very familiar to me–part of a scaffolded process that I use regularly in creating outlines for workshops or teaching artistry lesson plans. I embraced the suggestion and found this led to more questions. And, that is worth mentioning: a strong TED talk should keep your brain humming, buzzing, singing with additional ideas and too many questions. If your mind isn’t constantly processing more and more information, you may not have found an idea worth spreading.
So, now I have too much information in my mind and too many questions. Enter the next step in the process: deliver your Ted Talk to multiple audiences. Wait, what? When my Ted Talk is in its infancy, you want me to expose it to other people’s potential criticism??? Yes, that’s exactly what they wanted. The Team asks you to give your talk to people you know, to those in your inner circle–safe audiences, if you will. You’re asked to deliver your talk, just like you will on game day, and immediately ask them a set of questions. Again, I won’t share the questions with you, but the answers reveal: 1.) that you’re onto something, 2.) that others can articulate what your talk is about, and 3.) areas of opportunity that can strengthen your talk if you choose. Words cannot adequately express how thankful I am for this step in the process. I truly questioned if my idea was worth spreading. The enthusiastic response to the Talk in its formative stage convinced me it was. My friends affirmed me (without trying) and asked fantastic questions and offered a few suggestions too. They convinced me to add time to my Talk. I had decided 9 minutes was the longest I should speak. They made compelling cases for adding time. Thank you to Dwayne, LeeAnn, Jacq, Tasha, John, and Jim. You all helped more than you’ll ever know.
So, at this point, my Talk is developing and moving in different directions than I had intended. This living thing is reshaping and becoming something more than I had imagined. Excited, I came before the Team once more and the next assignment was to do my Ted Talk for strangers. WHAT??? Why would I ever give my Talk to people I don’t know??? I never asked them why they encouraged this, but I will say, sharing the Talk with those who don’t know me, or my story, or any of my life experiences, was scary and, once again, affirming. I shared my Talk with the other presenters. Women who were in the process of recrafting their own talks were now being asked to listen and give feedback to mine. I enjoyed listening to their talks. Those women were earnest and passionate and they inspired me. I gave my Talk, and they were unbelievably complimentary toward my Talk.
I went into my final session with the Tedx team fully believing that not only did I have an idea worth spreading, but that it might also actually be a good idea! I generally walk in confidence, but now I had a gleam in my eye, and I was excited to share my Talk with them one last time in the Zoom room.
From there, I was assigned to be the closing Talk. Amongst so many incredible women with so many powerful ideas, this idea about creating compassion culture was going to have the final word. I was surprised, pleased, and humbled by this vote of confidence.
The day of the TEd Talk was weird. It was strange to deliver the Talk to a nearly empty room. The beautiful theatre that would have been filled with people had only a few technicians and a few of the ladies who had already given their talk. I didn’t get a chance to view the livestream of the morning’s talks because I had a Colorado Theatre Guild Board meeting to run.
I enjoyed being in the Theatre watching the women’s talks. I laughed when they were funny, sent them love from my seat, and marvelled as they spoke. I returned to the dressing room to look at myself one last time and to have a moment of prayer with a dear friend. It was time. Time to get the microphone on and then to step onto the stage. Michael Jenet, the Tedx producer, gave a great piece of advice to us. He said “take as long as you need before you begin.” This allowed me to take some deep breaths onstage and then I talked to the people in the Theatre and to my friends who were watching the live stream. I don’t remember a lot about delivering the talk. In the same way as when I converse with my friends, I remember where I was, but don’t remember what I said. I mostly remember the exchange of ideas. That’s how the Ted Talk felt–like I was talking to people about something I cared deeply about.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to give a different perspective on cancel culture. I’m grateful to have shared my love for my Daddy with the world. I’m grateful the Talk has been well received. The process was an invigorating one for me. I highly recommend taking a leap of faith when you give your Ted Talk. There’s something powerful about new ideas popping into your head while you’re speaking live, and experiencing that discovery alongside the audience. There’s nothing like a communal learning experience. That’s what my Ted Talk was for me–a journey of discovery where I had the opportunity to share, learn, grow and expand beyond my wildest dreams.