There is something special about these TED-talks that I really like and enjoy. I think it is something about the format which seem to bring the content out in the daylight, often with a razorsharp delivery. People often ask my how it was like to give the talk but to me it was an experience in the form of a journey from a fairly fuzzy seed into what you can see as the final result below. So, have a look and I will tell you about the journey below.
What is TED then?
I realise that not all people are familiar with TED yet so here is a short primer. TED is a global set of conference run by a foundation in the United States and these events are one or a few each year with a high profile, world-renowned speakers and a ticket price at around 8000 USD. Not for everyone so to speak. However, the concept exist as a franchise that you can get a license for usually one per city in the world and these “in the spirit of” events are called TEDx like TEDxStockholm. These are non-profit events organised by volunteers in each city. To read more see this Wikipedia article on TED.
How did I discover TEDx?
Well, I think I discovered TED-talks 5-6 years ago or so and immediately was struck by them and how incredible it was to be able to listen to fairly short talks given by inspiring people about either their research or their experiences in life. So in 2012 when I saw that TEDx had been started in Stockholm and where organising their first Women’s event called “Creative empowerment” I decided I wanted to go. I went there alone and it was actually a bit nervous just being there at the event. I enjoyed it very much but it also set off a lot of thoughts from the experience of being in a women’s space like that. I had not really been to around only women in that setting before and it was just an experience to see how women spoke when there was only women present and how the audience reacted. It felt like it was both ok to be a bit insecure but also a very supportive environment.
My next TEDx event became the “What’s cooking?” event about different ways of relating to food. This time I was even more struck by the format but also the professional feeling of the whole event. It really took me to another place after a long day at work and left me with a lot of things to reflect upon.
Until then I had always felt the events and the topic felt like something which was completely different from my world and that my main takeaway was to experience something which was new to me and gave me other perspectives on things. That changed when I saw the promotion for the event “Differentia” which was all about diversity and the merits of us being different. For the first time I really felt a connection to the topic and felt like I actually had something to say. Previously I think I felt that this entrepreneur themes was far away from me working in a public agency. It was not my identity. Being different was however all about my identity. So I actually sent an email to the TEDx team and said that I might have something fairly unique to contribute to an event like this. I think my email was sort of lost in the hectic time preparing for that event so it took a few weeks before I got answer saying that there was no room for me at this event but that they might have me as a speaker for their next upcoming TEDxStockholmWomen event. It felt great to get that response of course but I did not really think it could happen. I mean, me on the stage at a TEDxWomen event?
Not just a talk but an a journey
They actually contacted me about a potential talk. Just that almost felt a bit unreal. A person wanted to nominate me as a speaker for their event. That was my first glimpse into the process and the journey that a TED-talk really is. Quite a few have asked how it was like to give the speech but I always respond by telling them about the amazing journey it was during the months leading up to the event. I was amazed by the concept and how very professional they are when setting up the event. A lot of people with different responsibilities, all focused on getting the ideas out there. Partly to organise a great event but also to make the content and the speakers shine and really “give the speech of their life” as the TED Curator Chris Anderson says in his own talk.
Those who know me know that I admire Steve Jobs and the way he gave his keynotes. To me that was mastery in delivery of a precisely engineered message that engages people. I have experienced his “reality distortion zone” several times the past MacWorld conferences and it was a wonderful experience. Later I found the book called “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs” which provided structured description of what he actually did to make his keynotes great. I started using some of those measure at work and was amazed of the difference in how people reacted. Suddenly I seemed to make much more sense.
So going into this TEDx experience I considered myself a decent speaker. However, just the initial conversation indicated that I had so much more to learn. It was just wonderful to speak with people how were so engaged in the art of speaking and I felt it forced me to think so much more about that message. More than I have ever done before. A while into the process I was assigned a personal speaker coach. Can you believe it? My own coach. The journey became even more intense after that when I learned about the mandatory rehearsals I was expected to attend. With 20 people giving their viewpoints using a digital web-based form. Again, so much more professional than I have ever been exposed to.
I work a lot so in the end the main part of my “content draft” was written in the air in an airplane over the Atlantic. I thought I had put together a nice story which seemed to fit a TEDx-talk. I was so relieved when my coach said he liked it and that it really worked as a storytelling approach. I think me and my coach ended up spending around 30 hours writing my speech and that was an amazing experience. It was almost like I would imaging having a professional writing around to write your own mini-biography. I told him stories, he asked my questions to iron out the core facts and not the least emotions of each of these stories and messages. We worked on rhetorical twists and this very precise text just like I experience the Apple keynotes started to emerge. I have never rehearsed each sentence so much before and it felt like it made a huge difference. I kind of felt like politician I think I really am
The night before we gathered at the venue to do the final rehearsal and again it felt so professional to do that. Trying out the stage and the microphones and the whole thing started to feel very real when the agenda was projected on the screen and when the presenters started rehearsing the introductions. I was about to be on stage in front 300 people giving a TEDx-talk about my life. Something very personal but also very important. How will they react? Scary.
I am still feeling about clumsy about doing my own hairdos so I had decided that a professional hair stylist at Björn Axén would be a good way to take the stress out of that moment. At least my hair would look nice. So at the event day I went down to the hair solon and was taken cared of by their wonderful Senior Top Stylist Alina. She created more volume than I ever believed but still it was not like a wedding hairdo. As she put it “this looks just right for doing an interview in Aktuellt”, the main news program in Sweden.
After involving most parts of the Armed Forces HQ I got the approval to wear my blue Air Force uniform that day so with some butterflies in my stomach I went to the venue for some last minute rehearsals. I am so happy I did that. Rehearsals is the key really.
Finally it was my turn. I was the last out of four speakers. The presenters introduced me and the strength of the applause and the warm welcome took me a but off guard. I mean, I had not said anything yet! Just smiling thanks for what felt like an eternity. I was so relieved when some of the jokes seem to work and suddenly I felt my self there on the red spot. I was giving a TEDx-talk. Wow! And people seemed to like it. When I ended I got standing ovations. One part of me wanted to run away and the other forced me to enjoy this moment. In many countries in the world this is not a reaction to take for granted. I am so happy I was born in Sweden.
So giving the speech is indeed an overwhelming experience but the process of the TEDx-experience is so much more. And it keeps on giving. Thank you TEDxStockholm and Anna & Jonathan for giving me the chance to experience this. I will remember it forever!