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Preparing for TEDx - An exercise in humility

When I was accepted to speak at the TEDx Surrey 2024 event I was elated. It had long been a dream of mine to speak at TEDx and being chosen to be one of the 12 presenters from the over 100 applicants who applied was a thrill beyond belief. I was excited to share my message with the world - and then (drum roll) reality set in.



You see, back in the day I used to be a stage and television performer. I've memorized and performed all sorts of scripts and characters. Everything from Shakespeare to Shaw to stealing an elephant on the CBC series Beachcombers and performing improv with the Vancouver Theatresports League. My theatrical training has stood me in good stead my entire life and I knew that I could count on it now to help me out. But nothing could really prepare me for the rigors of writing, editing and performing my own TEDx presentation.


This was the first real hurdle to overcome because, trust me, it's easy to ramble on - it's much, much more difficult to be clear and concise.

Let's face it, there's a big difference between actualizing a pre-written script, and performing a twelve-minute, autobiographical speech intended to shift someone's thinking. No pressure, right? Wrong.


The first step in this process was taking my TEDx idea (Is There More to Silence Than Just Silence?) and putting that into some kind of cohesive script. We were under strict instructions from the TEDx coaching team that it could be no longer than 1400 words. This was the first real hurdle to overcome because, trust me, it's easy to ramble on - it's much, much more difficult to be clear and concise.


Then, once you've achieved that 1400-word goal, you're then asked to pare it down even further - to a maximum of 1200 words! What? Those 200, carefully chosen, perfectly sounding and exacting words you're asking me to chop out meant a lot to me. I can't possibly do without them! But, yes oh yes, eventually I did toss them into the waste basket and I see now that it was worth the effort. Less is more, they say.

What happened to my youthful ability to memorize a script? I don't remember it being this difficult back in the day.

The next step in the TEDx journey was to take the script from 'paper to heart' and actually memorize all those carefully crafted words. This proved to be the most time-consuming task of all and the one that humbled me the most.


These were my words, my thoughts, my ideas, my experiences - and yet, I struggled to make two paragraphs flow together without pausing, stumbling and grabbing my script for reassurance. What happened to my youthful ability to memorize a script? I don't remember it being this difficult back in the day.


And what was the trick that truly helped me? It was when I realized that this was my story to tell, these were my memories to share, my thoughts to express and my emotions to feel. I knew this thing inside and out already, I'd lived it. All I needed to do was to give myself a little slack. So, I loosened the tightened grip of my own self-doubt. I smiled when I screwed up. I picked myself up, dusted myself off and I practiced, practiced, practiced until, one day, it just clicked.


Preparing for a TEDx performance may not be on your list of must do's but I can offer a bit of sage advice about what I've learned from this whole preparatory experience.


If you want something really badly you need to be courageous enough to park your ego at the door, accept your temporary short-comings, learn from your mistakes and have faith in your abilities. Constantly, kindly and with the occasional laugh, encourage yourself to the finish line.


Because in the end it's worth it. In the end, you'll be more than you were before you began. You will have grown, expanded and stretched your boundaries just a wee bit more.


You will be more you ... and that's what it's all about!





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