August 20th, 9am. I had just landed in Seattle, ready for a weekend with one of my best friends. I opened up my phone and let her know I’d landed, then checked my e-mail. What I saw took my breath away:
It was all I could do to not yell to the plane full of strangers “Holy $%^*! I am going to give a TEDx talk!!!” Tears of joy and excitement crept into my eyes as I replied to the email (it was extremely difficult to not just send “YES!!!”).
I enjoyed my weekend away, high on the feeling of validation. Upon my return, dug into the prep work that was attached to the congratulations email. The organizer provided an overview for the process, along with the gentle warning that being a TEDx speaker would be rewarding and challenging (it’s been my experience that the best things in life are usually both). The organizer let the speakers know that for the first 6 of the 7 weeks leading up to the event, there would be weekly speakers’ meetings, focused on practice, providing, and receiving feedback; the organizer asked the speakers to commit to attending a minimum of two sessions (I ended up attending 5).
I arrived to my first speaker’s meeting with a very general outline and some notes about my idea. I met some of the other speakers and was instantly pretty intimidated; everyone in the room was really accomplished (don’t ask me what I expected). Enter comparison, and “who do you think you are?”-kind-of-inner-dialogue. Aside from the organizing team were a couple of speaking coaches comprised of professional speakers and TEDx alumni speakers. Forgetting that those who were also there that week had attended the prior week’s meeting, I started to shrink back a bit. When everyone else had gone, I gave myself a bit of a pep talk “You are the only one here with your idea, they chose you for a reason, you are supposed to be here.” I gave a very rough, short talk about my idea. I received feedback and guidance, and left knowing I had my work cut out for me. I attended the remaining 5 meetings.
The meetings reminded me of grad school (which I loved). The organizing team were like the professors or advisors, and the speakers were like the students. There was camaraderie among us, particularly between the speakers, as we were unified in the unique experience of vulnerable risk-taking in order to achieve the same goal: deliver our idea. Each week we listened to each other expand upon, edit, and further develop our ideas. We gave feedback about what made sense or interested us, along with what didn’t. Our varied backgrounds allowed us to provide a decent representation of the audience who would probably attend. Our group contained a biotech & diagnostics consultant, an ultra marathoner, a marketing strategist, an accomplished serial-entrepreneur, a high school student, a dance fitness instructor, and me, a therapy-intern-turned-life-coach. The other speakers were nothing short of amazing, and provided great feedback that helped me unfold and express my idea.
With the talk taking shape, we started to address other topics during downtime in the meetings: status of ticket sales, what we were going to wear, powerpoint templates for our presentations… wait, what was I going to wear?! This question caused me some conflict. I wanted to be professional, yet relaxed. No longer being in a traditional therapy setting, I tend to wear more business casual than business (and being totally honest, more casual than business casual). I’ve never been much of an “on-trend” fashionista. In fact, I’m really a tee and jeans kind of woman; even more frequently than that, an athleisure-loving lululemon-wearing woman. Having worked for lululemon athletica for a few years, I had great access to quality clothes, they just happened to not be the business casual type [read: not TEDx talk appropriate].
Knowing my quasi-conflictual relationship with clothes, shopping, and that the deadline of the talk approaching, my boyfriend thoughtfully hired a personal stylist for me to work with, so I could find an outfit for the talk. Enter Elissa Prola, owner of Styled by E. Long story short, while my boyfriend ultimately ended up finding the dress I would wear for the talk, working with Elissa entirely changed my relationship to clothes and shopping (long version coming soon)! In addition, my friend Neiki, owner of Neiki Jewelery generously made me a beautiful custom necklace to wear for the event as well (details coming in the long version mentioned above).
Feeling confident about tackling the “WTF am I going to wear?” question, it was time to return my focus to the talk. With just under two weeks to go, it was effectively crunch time, and my talk was only about 60% of where it needed to be. I didn’t have it memorized since it grew and changed every week, and I didn’t have slides. We’d had our last speaker’s meeting and it would be one-on-one coaching for the remaining week and a half until the event, and I had 40% of my presentation to go…
Find the conclusion, Part III here!