Written by Suzanne Eder Leading-EdgeThinker
In less four weeks I’ll be standing onstage at The Queen, sharing my perspective on what I refer to as the dark side of self-improvement with 100 of the most sparkling minds in Wilmington – and then with countless other sparkling minds around the world via YouTube. It’s truly an honor and a privilege to have been invited to participate.
And it’s just a teeny bit daunting.
I’ve been mesmerized by dozens of inspired – and inspiring - TED and TEDx talks. The speakers are passionate, intelligent, committed, funny and illuminating. They are also wonderfully, authentically themselves. And that, ironically is often the most difficult attribute to radiate. The very act of speaking in public triggers in many of us a fear-induced impulse to fight, flee or freeze and then, knowing those responses aren’t particularly helpful, to paste over our fear with a forced and very rigid mask of calmness.
The effect is something less than authentic. It’s more along the lines of – well, forced and rigid.
Not exactly the effect I want to create, or the experience I want to have.
Any good speaking coach will tell you that thorough preparation and rehearsal – many, many rehearsals - are keys to delivering a powerful talk. I’m all for being prepared, and in that spirit I’ve carefully read the materials the wonderful Wilmington TEDx organizers provided to their speakers, I’ve spoken in depth with my talented friend and colleague Mary Schaefer, who gave a brilliant TEDx talk last year (Putting the Human Back in Human Resources), and I’m reading the book she suggested (Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo). I’m also watching as many TED and TEDx videos as I can.
There’s a lot of information available about how to create and deliver an impactful talk. So much, in fact, that it’s easy to be seduced to that dark side of self-improvement that I’ll be talking about on October 28th (in what I hope will be a passionate, intelligent, committed, funny, illuminating and authentic way). Without giving away my whole talk, what I mean is that it’s easy to give my power away to the experts. It’s easy to get so tangled up in all of the guidelines and recommendations that “being myself” seems like an act. It’s easy to let the stories of how impactful TEDx talks have been, and how important they are, to fan the flames of my fear about ruining what is often referred to as the talk of one’s life.
So I’m pausing all of the research to make room for a different kind of preparation. I’m meditating to quiet my mind. I’m talking to myself in supportive, empowering ways. I’m looking back on successful talks I’ve given in the past and noting what worked well for me. I’m reminding myself that there is no such thing as “the” talk of my life; life can and will continue to bring countless opportunities to share the ideas I have that I believe are worth sharing. I’m recalling the many times I’ve been nervous about something only to experience it turning out just fine. I’m taking time to imagine and visualize how wonderful it will feel to be on that stage, sharing ideas and energy with people who genuinely want to be there.
In other words, I’m finding ways to stay calm, centered and grounded, and to look for the joy in this experience rather than turning it into a test I will either pass or fail. I want to relish all of it, starting right now, not just the ten minutes I’ll be onstage.
And so I bring myself to the present moment, taking the step in front of me to take as peacefully as I can. I’m writing this post with an open heart and a willingness to let the TEDx experience surprise me.
Am I still nervous about it? You bet. Thankfully, Carmine Gallo assures me that most audiences expect TEDx speakers to be nervous. They’re empathetic and rooting for our success. The speakers’ nervousness is, delightfully, part of what radiates as authentic to the audience. So at least I’ve got that part down pat.
That, and a deep appreciation for the opportunity to share my ideas with you. And in this moment, no matter what the experts say, that is enough.
See you on the 28th.