The title kind of blew the big announcement, but if you're one to skip titles, here's the news: we've been chosen to give a TEDx talk! Now, a moment of truth: our normally confident-presentation-giving-teaching selves are scared sh*tless.
Maybe that's an exaggeration. We're thrilled, honored, delighted, and freaking excited... and a little bit nervous for that part about memorizing it. Yeah, you read it right. Those talks that you've seen on YouTube? No notes, no teleprompter, all memory.
(We cannot remember the location of our cell phones when they're in our hands.)
The talk is scheduled for March 20th, so we're almost there by TEDx standards, and it's been a whirlwind of a ride. Having had no idea what goes into such a production, we thought it might be fun to share our experience to date. Preemptively sharing the news feels a little like telling you our book is a bestseller* before we hit the publish button, but hey, what's life without a little risk-taking?
We foolishly thought that those speakers you see on the ‘Tube were just naturals that submitted a talk and walked onto the stage to deliver it. Ha! Maybe some of them are natural speakers, but the process of accepting, developing and vetting a TEDx talk is an amazing and wild ride, in a universe that we’ve been privileged to experience. While our experience has been one version of what a TEDx-er might go through, we now know that many versions of this timeline and approach exist. Here are how things went down for us:
July 2020: We first noticed the advertisement in our community, seeking speakers for the March 2021 TEDx conference. The advertisement talked about requirements (you must be connected to said community in some way, in this case, a university; and you must have a unique idea that supports the conference theme - "The Bigger Picture"). We felt "bigger picture" inspiration in our bones, and knew we had to apply.
August 2020: Our submission, a brief summary of our idea (around 500 words), its application to the conference theme (around 250 words), and a biography were submitted via email. To get to this point, there was some serious brainstorming, a good deal of note taking, and several drafts. It's hard to find a thesis statement in the early drafts. We submitted our best shot and tried to put it out of our minds for a bit.
November 2020: The notification arrived via email that our submission had earned us an audition. We did a Carlton-esque happy dance** and got down to business. To audition, we needed to create a 10-minute version of our talk. That could be the first 10 minutes, a 10-minute overview, or any 10-minute version of it we'd like to give, but it had to get the point across. Guidelines were provided: the talk could encompass personal experiences, but it shouldn't be only inspirational, or just a personal story. It had to be backed up by evidence in some way. We worked for about three weeks and prepped right up to the live audition in early December.
Early December 2020: Although this process was always a "we," only one of us could do the live audition. I (Annie) went in front of the Zoom panel and gave an impassioned plea about the bigger picture, on behalf of the LCP team. Then, I called Fred and said, "I think that went really well."
Late December 2020: I was right. It did go really well, because a letter came through email saying, "Congratulations! You've been chosen to be a TEDx speaker..." Some tears of joy were shed and then there were some holy sh*t moments, but all around it was a momentous day.
January - February 2021: The real work began! Contracts were signed and we jumped right in. If there's ever any doubt that preparing for a talk like this is easy, let me clarify. It's a massive commitment, because you commit to being the best speaker you can be. But, the process is a gift as well. During the first phase, you learn that your talk will transform as you undergo over 10 hours of TEDx masterclasses. These masterclasses teach the nuances of storytelling by covering everything from voice to pace to body language to audience connection. You break down the "best of" from TED and study the greats. Paired with other speakers and your own supportive partner, you meet weekly to refine, rework, and redefine your talk. And in the end, it generally looks nothing like it did when you started.
Once the masterclasses finish, check-ins with TEDx curators begin, where you receive expert advice on your talk and supporting visuals (oh, there are those, too, and you have to make them yourself). Your talk becomes vetted against copyright, legal, and other issues, and to make sure it simply "sounds great." You continue to refine and rework. Then, you'll move to stage rehearsals, dress rehearsals, and finally, the talk itself. Beyond that, we'll let you know!
Beyond the mechanics, no one prepares you for how amazingly supported you’ll feel by the site licensees, the curators, and your fellow speakers. The process becomes a series of moments that distill into a big moment, and you’re all there, cheering each other on, offering feedback, and helping one another forward.
As I mentioned, I'm personally terrified for the part about memorizing an 18-minute talk. My full-time career is in teaching, so being in front of a crowd is a no-brainer, but... yeah. Cheers to hoping it's as good as we envision. Fred's art will be behind me as PowerPoint slides as I talk, and his words are enmeshed in the speech itself. Like I said, this is a "we" project, as it represents LCP and one of our "big ideas worth sharing."
Curious about it? We hope you'll check it out.
But, only if I don't pass out, trip, or fall on stage.
Stay tuned. We’ll share details as the date gets closer.
TEDx Western New England University - March 20th!
*Also, damn, why wouldn't it be? BELIEVE IN YOUR BAD*SS SELF.
**if it was a dance competition, we wouldn't have made it past the parking lot
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