How A Tedx Talk Almost Ate Me Alive

David doing his TEDx talkDoing a TEDx talk was one of those extreme experiences for me. I hadn’t talked about my work in public for a good ten years before this. Preparation, they say, is everything.

I’ve read that those who are selected for a TED talk could be practicing their presentations for up to six months before the big day. For some, that adds up to reciting it as much as four-hundred times!

But I had no such opportunity. It wasn’t till sometime in November that I got my acceptance notification from the event organizers. My stage time was slated for after lunch on Saturday February 27th, 2016. That’s less than four months, which wouldn’t have been that bad, except that I had volunteered my time to build out and maintain the TEDxChilliwack.com website. Of course, I still had to write my script.

Friday night at 8:30PM, before the big day, I was on my way home from the dress rehearsal. I decided to park under a street light and edit down my script even more than it was. I had to win back as many seconds as I could. It was the third major edit but was still a bit too long for me to remember it all, and besides, they allotted me less delivery time on stage than I’d asked for.

Oh oh.
Going overtime is a big nono at a TEDx event.  Of course, with all these changes the flow of how it was supposed to be

Going overtime is a big nono at a TEDx event.  Of course, with all these changes the flow of how it was supposed to be recited changed. So, tired as I was, I had to try to practice it right there alone in my car under the glare of a street light. I took out my script and began.  It was raining outside. After a time I drove home, quickly ate something, and then went into my office to practice some more.

There is always a trade off between exhaustion and being able to perform. That last edit raised another level of difficulty in the final presentation itself. On the day of I had hoped to practice backstage until I’d be called up to go out. I didn’t have to speak till 1:30PM.

So, I sat in a chair and open my script which I had printed out with thumbnails of all the slides that went with it. then suddenly one of the organizers came and got me. “We need you NOW!” he said. There was a problem and they needed access to the website’s back office. As the volunteer webmaster for TEDxChilliwack.com I should have had that info but this day was important to me as far as my presentation was concerned and all else was put aside.

The plan of the tech team was to live-stream the event on YouTube. It went quite well for a time and then… it didn’t! YouTube shut us down because, between each group of 4 speakers, they planned to play a pre-recorded TED talk taken from the main TED Talk channel. Apparently, that’s in stark contrast to the laws of the YouTube algorithms. So, it shut us down for copy-rite infringement. The tech team scrambled to quickly set up another YouTube channel and then, once that was done,  they wanted to switch out the embed code in the live feed page of the TEDxChilliwack.com site. That’s when they came to me to show them how to get into the site.

I tried to assist but I didn’t have my password with me (they’re all kept in a password manager on my PC at my home office). Apparently, none of the organizers had theirs either. Finally Ray, the lead organizer, went home and did it all from there. Fortunately he didn’t leave far away. The feed was restored and from then on they turned it off during any of the other recorded TED talks. This seemed to work well.

But I had burned up a my last chance to practice. Not long after I was called up. So, with my script still in hand, the audio guy fitted me with the cordless microphone. At the last second I dropped my script on the table, swallowed hard, and then went out on stage and stood in front of a hundred strangers. I was the only one of all nineteen speakers who’s presentation included both props and slides. My talk was about a mystery brain. A complicated subject no one had ever heard of before. So I wanted to make it as clear and simple as I possibly could. I’m a visual artist so I used lots of them. Both actual physical ones as well as images projected on the wall behind me.

But this setup raised the level of difficulty up a few more notches on top of the notches I had already collected. Having never done a complete dry run of my talk made it all the more difficult to manage in front of a live audience. That was probably my biggest shortfall. In addition to that, I was a bit startled as I began to speak. I had never heard my voice amplified before. The big speakers were right behind me. One on the left and another off to my right.
I was taken aback enough that the very first few words out of my mouth were never a part of my script. I don’t know where they came from but, once they were out, I couldn’t take them back.

Of course, all this was being recorded and then uploaded to the TED Talk YouTube channel for all the world to see. But no pressure.

In the end I persisted to move a mountain that day… and I didn’t die doing it. When I finished it felt very relieving to say the least. It took me several days to recover from the output of the previous weeks of late nights and very early mornings.

The takeaway I got from all this is: In a live TEDx talk, as in life, you learn that you can’t wait for the storm to pass so you might as well dance in the rain.

More power to you my friend.

What Do You Want?

Chalkboard: What do you want?
What do you want? Do you even know?

“The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want.” – Ben Stein

To truly know what you want is not an easy question to answer correctly. Henry Ford once said that, in the beginning, if he had ever asked his prospects what they wanted they would have said “a faster horse”.

To know what you truly want is often tricky but it’s worth the effort to seek out an answer because it can reveal what you’re truly passionate about. That can set the path for how your entire life unfolds.

In my own experience my dad comes to mind. While just a teenager he saw a family member greatly relieved from excruciating pain by an osteopathic physician and he immediately knew what he wanted to do with his life from then on. After a successful 35-plus year career helping thousands of his patients get relief from pain he retired as doctor of osteopathy. Only one of two in our entire city.

He was one of the lucky ones.

Many wander through time “sheep-walking” as business blogger Seth Godin calls it, and never making the decision to end the cycle of getting a job, staying at it for a while, growing tired of it, then landing another, and then repeating.  All the while never quite hitting that high note. Only to one day get past the point of no return. Always missing that point of critical realization and now too late to make a difference. Too late to ever know the answer to “What do I want?”.

I think that, like my dad, in a way I was one of the lucky ones too. I knew I wanted to become an entrepreneur. But I wanted to find something new and then offer it to the world. I did actually find something but, of course, I just never knew that it would take me to the age of retirement before I could finally see it being accomplished in any real degree of scale.

But now that it’s coming to fruition it’s my passion and my hope that it helps deliver many people to a place where a new self belief can thrive so that the great question is finally answered for them before too much time has passed.

That’s why I’m soon launching my next new project. I’m  calling it “Human Potential 2.0”. It’s being positioned to re-tool what has become known as traditional self-help or personal growth. The original model, which began 100 years ago, was to help us realize our own human potential. But over the years it has lost it’s power to effect useful and lasting change that matters.

I intend to fix that by reassigning our focus to more authentic intrinsic elements. To foster a fundamental change that I’m convinced must come about in order to make better choices in how we view ourselves.

For example the fantastic but widely under-reported bio-medical discovery, now almost 20 years ago,  that confirmed the fact that humans are dual-brained – one in the head which can think but not feel and a lesser known one in the gut that doesn’t think but feels everything.

With this project we’ll begin with another great quote, this time from Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

Most of this instruction is not too difficult to grasp. The “Do what you can… where you are” parts are no great mystery. Most of us know how to work hard and most should know who they are. The tough part begs another great question…

What is it that you really have?

Answering that is in essence what Human Potential 2.0 is all about. Because if we can answer that question in a way that resonates with our own thinking/feeling dual-brained personage then that will lead us to refine what it means to know what our passion is. And knowing your true passion leads to a tremendous sense of hope for the future.

Watch this space for my upcoming posts on this subject and the accompanying video series that follows.

More power to you.