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My TEDx Experience

Patrick McIvor | September 3, 2016 | 10:11 AM

As many of you know I love TED Talks.  I learn from them, share them in my classes, with my friends, my family (sharing them with our daughters, my wife and I share talks we love with each other) I even share some on social media. 

To me, a TED Talk and the ideas it spreads are like college classes of inspiration in 18 minutes or less.  Over the last few years, I have been attending TEDx events and similar types of idea exchanges, including last years TEDx LehighRiver at the Allentown Symphony Hall and the simulcast of the opening of TED Global at the Steel Stacks.  I loved both events and was lucky enough to meet some of the organizers and curators who asked me if I ever thought about presenting at a TEDx event, to which I replied, “That would be an honor and a dream.”  I was asked what my idea was, to which I replied, “Why having your hair done feels so good?” “Why does having your hair done feel so good?” they asked, and I was off on a major life experience.

My first responsibility was to create a three minute version of my TEDx talk and fill out an on-line form with my information and a bunch of stuff about the talk including descriptor, title, length of talk, etc. 

I shot and edited my video, filled out the form and waited.  After some anxious weeks waiting, on Monday, May 23rd, I received an email congratulating me and inviting me to present a 2-3 minute snippet of my talk and then have about a 10 minute interview with the curating committee on Wednesday, May 25th. I was so excited, practiced, practiced, and practiced and on the 25th went, met some other presenters, and presented 2nd to the curating committee.  When I left I called Leah, my wife, on the way walking to my car and said, “I didn’t get it”, and explained I didn't think the content was broad enough and it was one of the worse presentations in my life!.  I thought I bombed.

A few weeks later I received an email, “Congratulations you made it to the next round!” Please submit a written script of your talk by 6pm, Sunday, June 12 and if selected in this round you will be required to attend the TEDx LehighRiver School at the PBS Studio.”  So I wrote my script, practiced it, rewrote it, practiced, over and over, then I gave it to my wife and parents to read and proof, June 11th I sent my script in.  On June 21st I received an email, ”Congratulations!  You have embarked on a journey called TEDxLehighRiver.  The first steps were the hardest and you’ve made it through.  You applied, interviewed and were invited to continue.  You submitted a draft and are continuing the process that may well land you on the round red rug at Symphony Hall on 9/17.  Please come to the TEDx LehighRiver School with your latest draft - ready to make it better and prepare to deliver the next version of your talk.”  This was getting big, I’m going to TEDx School!

I made a call the week before to one of my TEDx coaches and asked for some advice.  Like, what were the biggest mistakes speakers make and what should I focus on?  She shared with me information and challenged my talk with pointed questions, it was intensive and immediately after our call, I rewrote my script.  And I practiced, and practiced and practiced some more.  Ever morning and every night I would deliver the talk to Leah.  And the week before the school, every appointment at my salon came with an optional TEDx Talk.  I was ready.

I arrived at the PBS Station at the Steel Stacks in Southside Bethlehem the morning of July 16th. It also happened to be my late grandmother’s birthday of whom I very publicly was her favorite grandchild, my mom kept telling me this was a good sign.  As I entered, I looked around noticing that no one from my interview group was here. It was down to 8 speakers from almost 60.  We opened up with quick introductions of our names and if we were a TEDx curating team member or speaker.

There were almost 20 people total, with only 8 of us speaking candidates, in a beautiful glass walled conference room.  After reviewing some TED Talks to help us with the flow of our talks, we were broken off into groups with a coach and another speaker.  We had the opportunity to present our talks to each other and get some feedback before we returned to the group coaching in the conference room.  Again we watched snippets of talks to help us hone our talks and crystalize the focus of our talk to one idea.  Then we went back to our smaller coaching groups with the same partner and coach to work further on our idea, doing things like breaking down our talk to single sentences and using one color if it was an analytical statement or a different color if it was an emotional statement and then plot it out.  This helped us better see our flow and how the structure of the talk is being built.  At this point something happened I didn’t expect, one of the coaches expressed in front of everyone that they were worried I was more committed to the script than the process.  Holy smokes, I was floored! I thought I was supposed to have my script down, but honestly I was the only one that far along, everyone else was still formulating their script and I was worried this could be it for me.  Maybe my subject was too limited for the audience TED has and maybe the team is worried I’m not coachable.  Oh boy.

I was sent an email and offered some more coaching and on August 2, I met with the TEDx LehighRiver Co-Organizer.  I explained that I felt I was too prepared for the TEDx School and made it seem like I was too committed to the script for the curating committee, so this time I had nothing memorized and 3 new scripts.  The meeting went great. She loved the new analytical and data points I added, she gave me a suggestion of flipping my talk by beginning with the end, make it about “touch” not hair and being touched.  Ok, so at this point it was like a bolt of lightening and it clicked.  So I went home and rewrote my script.  Two days later this arrived,

Hello Speaker Candidates!

Thank you all for attending TEDxLehighRiver School on July 16.

The Curation Team would like to meet with each of you on Thursday, August 11 at Miller Symphony Hall at 23 N 6th St, Allentown, PA 18101 starting at 5:00pm.

We are asking each of you to sign up for a 20-minute time slot below, during which you will deliver most or all of your talk 2.0, and discuss your status and next steps with the Curation Team. Please reply with your chosen time slot below.

And I was going to be away for the entire week of the 11th!  I emailed the team and let them know I had another coaching session set up for August 18th with the co-organizer and would that work to deliver it to her?  They said yes and other members of the curating team would be there too.  The good news here is I finally felt really good about the talk I had rewritten.  So I replied that I was very excited to share my 5.0 TEDx Talk with them on the 18th.

I arrived on the 18th first to deliver my talk to my coach at 11am and then to the curating committee at 12:30.  Again I choose to not have it memorized but instead read it from the pages I had printed.  I finished my talk and my coach smiled and clapped her hands together, if memory serves me right she said, “You nailed it”.  We discussed how the talk was 95% the same as the last one i shared with her on August 2nd, only it was all moved around from the last version and it worked!  I was so excited, I called my wife, parents and daughters before the next meeting with the curating team. At my meeting with the curating team there was my coach the co-organizer, my original coach and a second co-organizer, plus another speaker. Again I received a great response, especially from my first coach. I was in, I had made it through the final selection to have the opportunity to speak an idea from the round red carpet!!!

I went home and started working, fine tuning even further my talk, rewrote the opening, created a keynote for my presentation, adding pictures and including a video (that I was given permission to use from a very cool person from Youtube that has allowed me to include).  The experience has been amazing, I have grown, my talk has really grown, and my wife shared with me the other night while we were out that she really likes this talk and really didn't like my first one.

So, next stops are rehearsals on September 1st at a location TBD, September 8th at Allentown Symphony Hall, September 15th dress rehearsal at Allentown Symphony Hall, and one final rehearsal Saturday September 17th in the morning of the event.  So at somewhere between 1pm-5pm on September 17th, 2016 I will have the opportunity to spread an idea standing on the red carpet at the TEDx LehighRiver.  I look forward to sharing it with you too.   p

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