I've wanted to deliver a TED talk for years!
Some time ago, a friend suggested I should see if I could deliver a TED talk. As he said "You're a great speaker, and it would be GREAT publicity for you."
That sounded like a good enough reason to me. So I watched a couple highly publicized videos and decide that I wanted to deliver a TED talk.
I think I watched Tony Robbin's talk and Simon Sinek's and thought that it sounded cool to get on a stage in front of 1000+ people instead of 20 and 30 at a time. Plus I loved the idea of being catapulted into the spotlight and so a "burning desire" was born based on very little knowledge. I look back on that Stephanie and shake my head.
Lesson #1: It's not about the red dot!
Let's be honest, most people that I've spoken to have an infatuation with standing on the red dot because it means many different things to many different people. But if you approach your application, and your desire to speak at a TED conference from a Red-Dot centric perspective, you're seriously missing out!!!
What I've noticed is that there are so many people eager to get on the stage for the sake of getting on the stage that they neglect to think about the real concept behind a TED talk - to get people to think. That's why Simon Sinek's talk is so powerful. Because it makes people THINK differently than they had ever thought about that concept before. It's eye-opening in a way that 90% of the world hadn't contemplated before.
If your desire to speak at a TED conference stems from a Red-Dot centric perspective, you're seriously missing out!
This isn't a stage you can bring some re-hashed idea to. This is up to you to find your own idea. It's not about standing on the red dot, it's about taking an idea that you believe the whole world needs to know about, and needs to see from a new perspective. It's the chance to transform how people think and that's a mantle that should be taken very seriously.
Lesson #2: It's a lot of work...
I'm a public speaker by TRADE. I speak from the front of the room 2-6 times a week and have done so for the past three years and have been on stage since I was 11 years old. I love what I do, and I've been told that I'm VERY good at it.
Because of that experience and inherent talent, I assumed that, despite what everyone told me, I would have an easier time at preparing for and delivering my talk than the other speakers.
I don't know if I honestly had a harder time at it than the others, because I know that EVERYONE worked hard on their talks, but I feel like I put a lot more pressure on myself because of my background.
I underestimated how much time per week I'd need to dedicate to preparing the talk, to practicing the talk, and vastly underestimated how much time I'd need to dedicate the week of the event, and the week after to recuperate. I literally slept for 15 hours the day after TED (it didn't help that I was sick....but I think that was a side-effect of speaking 4 times the week of the event...and 6 times the week after the event!).
I thought I'd have an easier time preparing for and delivering my talk than the other speakers.
So what did I learn? That with that heavy mantle comes the need to live-up to it 100%, and to create something that can perform at the high level of a TED talk, you will have to WORK for it.
Lesson 3: It's FAMILY!
I thought I was applying to speak on the red dot. At the first orientation, they told us that we were joining a family. That this was the warmest audience and best place to practice, best place to fail, etc. I smiled and nodded. I've heard those speels before - I've been told many times "Welcome to the family!" and rarely had it develop into anything.
I found out that it's one of those things that you can't really put into words, partially because it's been put into so many words that it's become cliche. Kind of like the centaur-like feeling you get as you tear through the turn-out, glued to your horses neck and feeling every twitch and shift and torque of the body below you. You have to live it. The first orientation, we were all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
By first curation, we were all becoming tentative friends. The nerves still ran very high. But we were definitely family.
We were definitely family!
By TED talk time, it felt like a college reunion! Except a reunion I actually wanted to attend. Seeing everyone at the happy-hour after the event, I felt supremely sad that I wouldn't have the chance to see everyone again, to gather over beers and pizza and listen to each other practice talks and expand each other's minds, to give each other encouragement and inspiration for four+ hours at a time.
You know. The ones you roll your eyes at (in a loving way of course), and smile at, and laugh with, and admire, respect, and love irrationally and are fiercely protective of and want to help and motivate and give each other as much as you can to help everyone be seriously successful in whatever they do!
Lesson 4: It will change your perspective!
The whole purpose behind TED is to expand our minds. To get us to think further and harder and to shift how we look at the world. The talks themselves have always done this for me. They give me new perspectives on each piece of the world that they address.
I believe that everyone who delivered a talk also experienced a different expansion of their mind. As we each explored our own topics further and further, I think we began to see even our own topics deeper and differently. I found out that I'm still not over losing Monty, more than a decade ago, and I found out that I rarely communicated to my family as well as I thought I did,
The whole purpose behind TED is to expand our minds!
But more than that, the Thursday prior to the event, I was overcome realizing how many people played a role in this event and worked their butts off to make us, the speakers, look amazing. It was humbling to realize that, without all these volunteers, without the countless hours and selfless giving, I wouldn't be getting to stand up there and share my message.
That spread. I don't think I've ever considered, on that scale, how many other people play a role in supporting those of us who get the starlight, in the regular world as well as on-stage. Not that I haven't noticed and haven't appreciated it before.
And it could be because I was falling sick, but I was overcome with tears that night with gratitude for how much everyone had done to make this happen for us. As an event host, I've had to put in the hours that they've had to put in, I've had to do the background work and I haven't produced anything on this scale and been at the point of exhaustion over what I'm about to put on. I didn't have to take on any of that stress this time, because other's volunteered to do it for us...
It was sobering.
My perspective shifted in so many different ways.
So I encourage everyone who feels inclined to try out for TED talk. You'll grow, you'll learn. It will transform you. And I guarantee, it will be for the better!
Check back often! We'll post the link to my TED talk here when it is released!
Photo credit for ALL these incredible photos to Charles Mims!