Last week, I was privileged with the opportunity to speak at TEDxUMANITOBA, and independently organized TED event at the University of Manitoba. My talk focused on how to "Fail Better" - specifically on the power of failure, accountability, developing resilience and finding your tribe (you can watch it here).
Like many, I wondered about the experience of speaking in a TED-sanctioned forum. With TEDxUMANITOBA now past, I wanted to share observations from a firsthand journey through preparation, execution, and conclusion as a TEDx speaker. They fit into three themes:
1) Pressure: Public speaking has an obvious element of pressure, but speakers alike agree TED-related events carry a new level of stress. Not normally a nervous speaker, I'll admit my knees were shaking. This is for a few reasons:
- Short-Format: Condensing highly technical or complex concepts into 18 minutes or less, when they would normally take over an hour. Think writing, rewriting, editing, an expert proofreader, and more writing.
- Limited Time: Learning to structure, deliver, and transition said concepts verbally, visually, and articulately before time lapses. Think dry runs. In my case, it was at about 50.
- Memory-Based Execution: With talks requiring pre-approval of content anddelivery sans crib notes, speakers must craft their talk well in advance and be ready to fly solo day-of. It's easy to speak from the heart, but it's much more challenging to follow a memorized playbook. Again: dry runs.
- Distinct Platform: TED is a widely recognized and reputable brand, and being invited to speak is not a challenge taken lightly. Most speakers dream of reaching the bar set by renowned TED-talkers around the globe.
2) Community: From organizers to speakers, to audience members and online viewers, to supporters to friends, TED seems to rally remarkable people - through curiousity, intellect, courage, and energy.
- The Thinkers: TED events are notorious for bringing curious, open-minded individuals together and as such, connectedness of ideas and people is innate. I left having met several likeminded people with fascinating ideas and concepts to share - some with potential for future collaboration.
- The Speaker Tribe: Once you speak at a TEDx event, you're welcomed into the "speaker tribe". These are remarkable people who stood in your shoes months or years prior at various TEDx events, and thus share the now-familiar (and often intimidating) journey to the TED stage. In the case of event day, this also meant greenroom conversations with awesome speaker peers and establishment of new friendships.
3) Connectedness: Sharing your "idea worth spreading" means others share too. A lot.
- Storytelling: Since the event, those who saw, heard, or later livestreamed TEDxUMANITOBA reached out - unprovoked - to share their stories. These are journeys of challenge, similarity, resilience, failure, and success - all relating to my "Fail Better" theme. By now, other speakers have also received notes of thanks, encouragement, and inspiration from those touched by their compelling talks on a vast array of ideas worth spreading. This human connectedness is what makes TED so powerful, and catalyzes both conversation and fascination around novel concepts in the world.
- Dovetail Effect: The conversation is far from over. If anything, respective conversations are gaining momentum - whether tips for a healthy brain, composting for climate change, robot intelligence, bridging the income gap, or indigenous university. All ideas shared sparked even greater dialogue to continue development and progress in respective areas of Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED).
If TED believes passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world, last week's event was a testament to that mission. I am honoured to be part of it - thank you again to TEDxUMANITOBA's organizers for the incredible opportunity.
About: TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.