TEDxWhitehaven – one year on

I am wondering whether I am the only person in the world to start their TEDx experience by getting a ticket to be in the audience, only to end up on stage as a speaker?

As I said, I had booked a ticket and was really looking forward to the “ideas worth spreading” that would be shared at Haig Pit in Whitehaven, in March 2015.

I was super excited about who would be speaking and had a bit of banter with Dianne and Luke on Twitter about it.

I tweeted that I would polish my: “Do ordinary people need a brand guru?” talk just in case they needed an extra speaker.

A private message pinged into my inbox from Dianne – encouraging me to submit a two-minute video pitch with my idea.

At that point I should have said it was a joke, I found it funny, I was flattered that they thought I had a talk in me and that I should do a pitch, but it wasn’t happening….

The deadline for submitting the pitch approached. For some reason I hadn’t let go of the idea. I wanted to do the talk, but I was terrified.

I thought the best thing to do, was to do the pitch and then gracefully accept that it wasn’t a good idea and it wasn’t an idea worth spreading.

So, I balanced my iPad on my bedroom windowsill and recorded a two minute pitch. It was off the cuff, from the heart, rough and raw, not polished. I told myself it wasn’t good enough and pressed send.

The TEDx Whitehaven team had gathered a panel to select the speakers. The panel saw the pitch.

The next thing was my invite to be a TEDx speaker. Me. A TEDx speaker! I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

I had watched hours and hours and hours of TED talks. I had laughed, I had cried, I had been educated and entertained. How could I stand on that red dot and do it justice?

I did what I do when I don’t know the answer to something. I read a book. “Talk Like TED” by Carmine Gallo. (It’s a great book for preparing for any form of public speaking).

I then did what I do when I think I know the answer to something but I am not totally sure. I talk to my friends. I spent hours testing the idea. Working out what worked and what didn’t.

I crowdsourced images of ‘ordinary’ people doing extraordinary things. Most of those people were friends who gave me more food for thought when it came to my talk.

Then the hard part. Writing and rewriting the talk, refining it.

Actually, that wasn’t the hardest part. I had to learn an 18 minute talk. Turns out that treading the boards of a theatre in my youth wasn’t wasted. My dog Daisy took on the role of audience and she was treated to a performance on every walk we went on until I knew it off by heart.

Oh hang on. That wasn’t the hardest part either. The bit that caused the churning stomach, heart in the mouth, sweaty hands, dry mouth, tears in the eyes kind of fear was yet to come.

I had to do the talk live in front of 100 people. I would be recorded and the video would be on the internet forever. Deep breath. Was it too late to back out?

I tested the talk on fellow speaker Andy Beeforth and by the end of it we were both close to tears. Mine were relief. I think he was moved (surprisingly) by my idea. Maybe we were both just feeling the fear.

The next day was the big day. I had had nightmares about what could go wrong. Andy was up first. He played a blinder. Jammie devil. He could watch the rest and enjoy. I was on third. Penny Haslam leaned over during the second speaker and said: “Oh this is a tough audience to crack” – I looked around and everyone looked really serious. My nerves started jangling.

Before I knew it I was on stage. I had the zapper for my slides in my hand and was about to give it all I had. I hit the zapper. Nothing happened. I hit it again. (Like all movies when something goes wrong, the next bit happened in slow motion). All my slides flipped across the screen, then the next set and the next set until all the day’s slides had been seen.

I quipped: “And that my friends was TEDx Whitehaven, thanks for coming.” It raised a laugh. I almost resorted to Irish dancing to fill the void which should have been my talk. Instead I called upon one of my favourite TED talks by Amy Cuddy and struck a “power pose” …

Luke reset the slides.

I was about to become a TEDx talker.

Did I do it? Damn right I did. Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tHg_axoPbY

I came off the stage and told Dianne that although it was one of the most challenging things I had ever done, it was one of the best things I had ever done.

A year on, 11,495 people across the world have heard my idea.

I am immensely proud of myself for doing it. I didn’t know I had it in me. Having done a TEDx talk gave me a little more confidence and a lot more self belief.

Thanks Dianne and Luke for the opportunity.

I think I have to go through the whole thing again…

Or is Dianne joking this time?


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