My TEDx Experience

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by Riley Moynes

My TEDx experience extended over about 18 months, which was a bit unusual.

I began the process in October of 2020 when I was invited to apply for the event to be held in March, 2021.

I had never considered the possibility of becoming a TEDx Speaker prior to the invitation, but everyone knows TED Talks; they’re world renowned! I was both honoured and excited at the possibility of standing on the iconic red, round rug, and delivering my talk.

There were two information sessions held that Fall on Zoom to inform potential applicants of the process and the requirements. To be selected, one had to demonstrate to a Selection Committee that they had a compelling idea to share, and that they had experience, expertise and a depth of understanding about that compelling idea. The overarching theme of the talks was A Shift in Thinking. About 100 people attended the two information sessions, and I understand about 80 formal applications were submitted by the deadline.

During the information session we were informed that the length of our talk was to be 12 minutes max!

On the Application we were required to state our idea worth sharing in 50 words or less. Another requirement was to state our through-line (the theme or main idea of the talk) with a 15 word limit!

The 80 or so applications were then winnowed down to 24 Shortlisted candidates based on the submitted written Applications; those Shortlisted candidates then auditioned on Zoom. The organizers’ purpose in the audition was to identify the 12 speakers who would comprise the speaking roster for the event.

The good news? I was selected as one of the 12…but with a caveat. As we were then in the grips of a global pandemic, there were travel restrictions in place which could prevent me from travelling from my home in the Toronto area to Vancouver where the event was to be held. Therefore, that year they selected 13 candidates, in case I was unable to present. 

The bad news? In February of 2021 I got a call saying that there was no imminent loosening of COVID-related restrictions in B.C., and I would thus not be able to travel to Vancouver to be part of the event. 

But there was a ray of sunshine in this disappointment. The following year (determined as I was to see this project through), I knew I’d start well ahead of other applicants in my preparation, and I was again selected as one of the 12 speakers for the 2022 event. 

The process we went through both years to prepare for the event was exhausting, demanding and cunningly designed to ensure a successful TEDx Talk!

We were each assigned a personal Coach to help us prepare our Talk; we met by Zoom for an hour a week for nearly eight weeks, and additionally by email as required. In addition, there were several four-hour group Coaching sessions held on Zoom through January and February. At the same time we honed our Talks from 1600 words, to 1400 words to 1300, and finally to 1200 words. We were coached on how to create a compelling Introduction, a call-to-action Conclusion, how to incorporate humour, and how to breathe properly in order to project powerfully.

Both the one-on-one and the group sessions were extremely valuable, and I could feel my Talk improving as it went through more than a dozen revisions. And each group session saw improvements in each of the speakers’ Talks; it was wonderful to see and to be a part of!

Near the end of our preparation, and with the Event looming, I was provided the opportunity to present my Talk to two Toastmaster Clubs; the encouraging feedback I received from them was a real confidence booster.

But then, disaster struck me at the dress rehearsal, just four days before the Event. I knew the material cold! I knew it inside out, forward and backward, upside down and right side up. But still, I had a brain cramp! I completely lost the next line, and it seemed an eternity before it came back to me.

I thought about that for the next four days, dreading the possibility of it happening again on Event Day. But it didn’t! All the work, all the time, all the edits, all the internalization, and all the hours of rehearsal paid off. My Talk went exactly as I hoped it might….on that day nearly 18 months earlier when I was invited to apply to give a TEDX Talk.

About TEDxSurrey

TEDxSurrey is an all-volunteer enterprise presenting some of the finest and most potent ideas for the betterment of our world from our home city of Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.

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