Wow, what a journey! I am still coming down from the wave of going through this experience. I wondered what I would share about my time with TEDxCherryCreekWomen2020. I wondered if I should share some tips on best practices. Or, if I should relay the successes and failures I uncovered throughout the process? Instead, I think I’ll share some snapshots of the journey; a few lessons that hold some of the memories of an amazing experience that I will never forget.
Lesson #1: When crafting a message to share on the global TEDx stage, be prepared for the universe to conspire events to ensure that you integrate the lesson and know the meaning of it deeply.
“The most revolutionary act one can do is to love that which they find unlovable.” – Sarah Allie Moore
I woke up in the middle of the night with these words on my mind. Reaching for my phone, I scrambled to open the notepad app to write them out before they faded from memory. A few months later, I would discover that this message would become my idea worth spreading as I submitted my application for the upcoming TEDxCherryCreekWomen (TxCCW) event. Once accepted, I began the process of crafting my TEDx Talk around this idea. Little did I know that I would be crafting a message about a revolutionary kind of love that would not only guide me on a deeper path of compassion and healing but would also support me as I faced real life situations of both loss and heartbreak. Each challenge created a ripe opportunity to integrate the heart of its message as I shared it from the stage with the world.
Lesson #2: The universe always sends signs that you’re on the right path.
I took a trip to the hot springs the day after I had submitted my TxCCW application. As I was soaking in the pool, a man came into the pool and sat across from me. His worn, wrinkled skin was pale against his tall, thin frame. He looked like a vagabond of sorts, having seen his fair share of transition and change, worn and wise from a life well-traveled. I had been keeping to myself, with my headphones in, when he waved at me. I smiled politely and pointed to my headphones, but he persisted to make contact; he wanted to chat. I decided to play along and see what he might have to say. As I took off my headphones and said, “Hello,” he started and said, “You know what the world needs more of?” I smiled, intrigued by what he might say next. “What is that?” I asked. “Love,” he responded, “love changes everything.” For the next hour he would share his stories of working in civil rights, human equality, and the need for a revolution of love.
Lesson #3: If your first TEDx training session starts off miserably, know that it can only get better from there.
There was a total of three training sessions that each speaker would need to complete with the TxCCW panel. I had no idea what to expect for the first session and I was a little nervous. We had been told not to have anything prepared. At first, I thought, “Are they crazy?! They don’t want us to have anything written at all?” I told myself to breathe and go with the flow. The only thing that was needed was a pencil, some paper, and whatever device I would use to log on to Zoom. I happened to be on vacation on my aunt and uncle’s farm outside of Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. Setting up my tripod in the middle of the field, the only spot where I could manage a clear signal on my cell phone, I logged onto Zoom. Today’s challenge would be a timed exercise where I would have to capture as many bullet points as possible, creating a rough outline of my talk, using the criteria the panel gave me. Then, I would deliver a quick talk using the content I had come up with.
Ready… set… GO!
I’d like to say that my 5 years of Toastmasters experience proved my confidence and I wowed that panel with my extemporaneous prose. However, the truth is that I bombed completely. I literally stood in silence for at least three minutes, while scrambling for words, as I tried to craft some semblance of a message. As the timer finished, I smiled painstakingly at the panel as I awaited their feedback and to be told that I would be cut from the show for failing miserably. Instead they were gracious and gave me some good advice on how to begin the writing process for my talk. Then, they cheerfully said goodbye, letting me know the next steps and that we would talk again in a few weeks. I took a few deep breaths and told myself that it could only get better from here. Thankfully it did.
Lesson #4: Being selected for a TEDx Talk is a huge deal… invest in a speaking coach.
Have you ever heard that saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”? Life is unpredictable and unpredictability seems to happen at the most inconvenient times, like when you’re preparing for a TEDx Talk. Life was creating some lemons for me and having a coach to support and assist me through the writing process, act as a sounding board, and dive into my artistry of storytelling, helped to turn those lemons into lemonade. The feeling of success and relief by the end of this experience was so worth the investment.
Lesson #5: Once you’re a part of TEDxCherryCreekWomen, you’re part of a family.
There’s a real sense of camaraderie and support from all the amazing organizers of TxCCW. No matter the question, issue, or concern, Dafna, Becky, Christy, and Michael were always there to assist. Creating an event with limited resources in the midst of a pandemic was a tremendous feat that the TxCCW team overcame and conquered with finesse. Even with the difficult odds that demanded flexibility, they still made us feel like we were family and ensured that we had as close to an authentic TEDx experience as possible. Whether it was Dafna relaying details and feedback, Christy offering insight, Becky being an incredible support role, Michael handling the overwhelming amount of logistics, or Candice’s direction and care at the main event, I felt an incredible amount of support and encouragement from the TxCCW team.
Lesson #6: When you step on the stage, take your time, catch your breath, and savor the moment.
All the time you spend in preparation for the stage will still never prepare you for the feelings that rush in once you have arrived at the moment. I was glad when a friend reminded me to take my time and soak it all in when I walk out on stage. It was a great opportunity to calm my remaining nervousness, get grounded and be present in the moment before speaking. What I remember most, was looking out into the expanse and being surprised that I really couldn’t see anything other than darkness and bright, glaring lights. What a perfect metaphor to the message of my talk, a message of darkness to light, from the unlovable to loved. By the time I finished my last line, I was relieved to have made it through and flooded with gratitude for having been given an opportunity to share my message with so many people, heart to heart.
Lesson #7: Being a part of a line-up of influential women who are change agents, community leaders, and creatives will up level your life.
There is something incredibly powerful about participating in the coming together of a collective of women with diverse voices, stories, backgrounds, and vision who are on purpose and passion to create change in the world. These women are catalysts of change that use intellect, vulnerability, and authenticity as authority to make impact and inspire transformation. It has been an uplifting, inspiring, and elevating experience that I know will continue to nourish and grow the vision and greatness I continue to cast for myself. It has been an honor to behold and to be a part of.