This is the final blog in a short series tracking my preparation and delivery of my very first TEDx talk. The Big Day was last Sunday in Nantwich. This blog is some of my key reflections on the day.
There were lots of things happened at TEDx event that didn’t surprise me at all.
- I was nervous. In a good way. I have learnt to expect and welcome that little ‘tummy topple’. In fact if it’s not there then it’s not important enough to me!
- There was high energy, high focus to the afternoon. The event was incredibly well organised with a flow and focus that made it a great day for everyone.
- People pulled their best performances out of the bag for the ‘real’ performance (including me). All through the rehearsal process I had seen in other people (and they in me) how we had each tweaked, rethought, stretched and refined our presentations. But even the final rehearsals were still a little way off being fully formed and polished. But there is something about standing there in front of a real audience with the lights, the warmth and the audience response that brings out the very best in everyone.
- It was exciting to deliver something I truly believe and am passionate about to a room of open-minded listeners. What I have to say is important to me and I believe it can make a difference. What an opportunity!
But there were a few things I didn’t expect
That sneaky little inner voice…
While I knew that as the Big Day drew ever closer, the adrenalin would start to flowing, what took me by surprise was the strength of the negative inner voice in my head in the fifteen minutes before I had to stand up on stage. I would classify myself as someone who is fundamentally a ‘glass half full’ type of gal. I am experienced in standing up and speaking to groups. And, at the risk of blowing my own trumpet, I know that I can speak to reasonably high standard.
So what was going on then when I kept hearing that insidious voice persistently whispering in my head, ‘You are not as good as the others’, ‘No one will want to listen to your presentation’, ‘ You’re the last of eight speakers who were amazing – it’s up to you to mess things up’ ‘ You’re not as good as you think you are and you’ll end up looking foolish in front of the very people who’ve come to support you (my husband was in the audience and it was the first time he’d heard what I had to say plus LOTS of friends and colleagues)?
- What was going on was the by-product of nerves, something that I can normally quash and indeed which I cut off at the pass in most of my speaking engagements in a traditional business context.
- What was going on was the introduction of some newer and more unknown factors to my more normal speaking events – an unknown, hugely varied and mixed audience, a non business topic/audience and message, an incredibly prestigious event where the expectation of ALL the speakers was exceptionally high.
- What was going on was a natural human emotion of comparing myself to others and choosing to make this negative.
So what did I do?
Fortunately after a long while in this business I have some practical, workable and effective ways of addressing situations such as these:
I changed my physical posture. I stood up. I went backstage. I walked tall and upright. I swung my arms around. I reached down to the floor with my arms, swooped them and stood again (aka Sun Salutation). Being backstage, no one saw these strange shenanigans thankfully but the effect was immediate! More energy, more positivity, more oomph!
I took some deep breaths. Noticed what I was doing. Focused on the breath. Grounded myself.
I mouthed my opening, just as I knew I was going to say it on stage. Reminded myself in so doing that this was good, it was my best and it was well prepared.
By the time I was introduced and had to climb the steps on to the stage, my head and heart was just where I needed them to be and I was ‘performance ready’
Being part of a community…
The other great surprise of the day though was the real sense of community that came from the speakers, the event organisers and the most of all the audience.
Typically I work in the business arena. When I speak I am either educating, teaching or training or raising profile for my business and the difference I believe I can make…to people in business. And I am familiar with the sense of rapport within the group and how to create that connection.
This time it was different. The audience were so varied in their age, background, experiences and expectations that it is hard to say what any common factors were other than that they were open minded, interested in learning more and hugely supportive of the eight speakers.
One of the first things I do when I step up to speak is to consciously take time to ground myself and connect with the audience, non verbally in the first instance. To start the rapport building even before I speak. To feel part of the room and be fully present. It’s taken me years to learn and a few more to work out what it was I did so I can teach it to others. And what I got back when I did this on Sunday was awesome.
Such a sense of warmth, interest and ‘community’.
And it was exciting. Liberating. Powerful. And I want more! To feel part of a community is empowering and reassuring. To know that you can have an impact in that community is scary ( in a good way) and full of potential. Full of opportunities.
A few of my new friends from the TEDx have written blogs about their experience. You can see the event from their perspective too. Dr Jon Griffiths, a GP from Winsford and one of the eight speakers and Emily Richards from Stickman Consultancy who was one of a team of amazing organisers!
And it is right here to say some thanks yous….to the organisers and behind the scenes super stars especially Melanie Howe and Fiona Rose for having the vision and the skills to bring TEDx to Nantwich in the first place. To all the production team who as far as I am concerned weave magic with their cameras, videos, sounds and lights! To the local choirs who brought me to tears with their wonderful and powerful singing. And the audience of course in particular my husband, Richard and nephew Joshua. But a special thank you to the seven phenomenal speakers for their learning, companionship and support – Andrew Thorp, Debbie Hayes, Jon Griffiths, Andy Fewtrell, Phillipa Richford , Sarah Short and Sarah Knowles – you were AWESOME
I am looking forward to reviewing my own presentation when the videos of the event are uploaded onto the TEDx website. And of course I’ll be posting out to you the link in case you want to see what all the hard work has been leading up to!