This past Saturday I had a dream come true; I had the distinct honour to be among the twelve speaker/experts (plus two acrobats and one awesome illusionist) to grace one of the world famous TEDx stages, at the TEDx Stanley Park event in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia… and all I can say about the experience is that it was the most epic “WOW!” possible~! Because those in the know understand that being a TEDx speaker is a distinctive honour; an honour that can change lives for those who eventually have their videos designated as TED Talk videos by the TED organization. With this designation, the speakers (and their messages) are seen and heard by millions of people all over the world – a nice gig if you can get it! And as you can also imagine, besides changing lives with their messages, the speakers own lives can change too. I’ve already had a small taste of this since Saturday; more on that in a moment.
I’m pretty sure that all of us who shared the TEDx Stanley Park stage this Saturday would deem the experience as either (a) life changing, or (b) one of the most important days in their lives and careers, or (c) both. (Definitely both for me!) I’m also confident the many organizers, coaches, promotors, media people, tech people and volunteers involved would share this sentiment; these amazing folks made the event run as smoothly as if it were their one thousandth TEDx event, not their second – What a team of absolute professionals! And all together, all the people mentioned above created a legendary event that unfolded flawlessly in front of a sold out crowd of 450 people; and from what I saw, everyone – participants and audience alike – left the auditorium that day enriched, inspired and moved by what they’d seen and heard. What an event!
So how did I become so fortunate as to be a part of TEDx Stanley Park? That’s a great question! As many of you know, I’ve dabbled in professional speaking and training for years now; so much so that last October I left paid employment and “retired” to focus on creating a company that would allow me to pursue these passions full time – which is really part-time “on purpose” with time left to spend time with my family, write, and of course travel. At that time, life was a blank canvas; and still coming off of the routine of the grindstone, I was trying desperately to find a way to “get started”. Then something happened…
Law of Attraction Or Who You Know?
Last fall I got a call from a dear friend of mine, one who’d recently run into an old boyfriend; a fine young man and aspiring speaker, and – knowing I’ve done a fair bit of speaking myself – suggested we connect so that perhaps I could offer him some guidance. Of course I readily agreed to, and before I knew it I was on the phone with Dustin, an energetic and very nice young guy who enthusiastically explained to me his dreams and ambitions to become a professional speaker and trainer. I told him a little about myself, my background and my life, including how I’d applied for a local TEDx event, but never heard back from them. I then offered what professional suggestions I could, and then – after about an hour – said I needed to go, but would love to talk again. And then Dustin said something along the lines of “Look, I wasn’t going to mention this, but I’m involved in the group who puts on TEDx Stanley Park – and if you like, I can make an introduction and see where it goes from there, no promises of course”. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing; in fact, I’d even had “Do a TEDx TALK…” on my goals board for over a year… I love it when that happens!
Long story short, with Dustin’s endorsement I applied with my speech: and then got accepted! After that I performed many, many re-writes, rehearsals and practices to hone the message. After that, I did more EVEN MORE re-writes, rehearsals and practices – exactly the same as all the other speakers were doing! Yep, we were all in this together! Best of all, through this long and arduous process I bonded with several special individuals who like me, were struggling to find the very best way to get their message out in 18 minutes or less, including takeaway “actionable steps” for the audience – both TED rules of thumb.
Fortunately, Dustin was assigned as my coach, and we worked together weekly via phone or Skype. Along with producer Roger Killen and his team, they challenged and pushed this motley gaggle of speakers to come up with the very best versions possible of our individual talks providing unwavering support, constant feedback and a ton of encouragement throughout the entire five-to-six month process. And then, all of a sudden BAM! It was Saturday, May 23rd, and all the rehearsals and practices were all over… It was go time! All that was left for each of us to do was get up on that stage, and give it our very best. And I can tell you from what I saw, all the hard work and rehearsals paid off. Nothing – AND I MEAN NOTHING – was left on the table by anyone.
I’m proud to say that my own speech went really well. I didn’t forget a single line, and even was able to ad-lib a few words here and there that added a bit more “Fish” to my talk. (at one point I added in the word “awesomeness” – something never ONCE spoken in six months of rehearsals!) The results paid off, and for my talk titled “Discipline or Regret, A Father’s Decision” about taking Tristan travelling on a “muscular dystrophy imposed” timeline, I received a standing ovation. And once the crowd died down, I left the stage, had my mic removed, and then just like that, it hit me: after months and months of hard work, I – and eleven other brave souls – had all earned the prestigious designations of being called a “TEDx Speaker”. Awesome…
And yes, along with new friends, Paula and I enjoyed a victory beer (or four) at the afterparty!
Seven Epic and Incredible Benefits From TEDx Stanley Park
Being Challenged To Improve My Speaking Style: As a good friend told me the day afterwards, I’ve always been comfortable speaking in public, but have probably never been coached or critiqued to improve – all true. The TEDx process put me in the firing line of some very accomplished speakers who did just that; and I can honestly say it was the very best thing that could have happened for me. As a result, both my talk and my skill level as a speaker improved ten-fold. Special shout-outs to Dustin, Roger, Kieron and James Dean for all their insights and feedback that made all the difference for this old dog.
Meeting Incredible People and Making Awesome New Friends: Yep, like EVERYONE involved in TEDx Stanley Park! What a great bunch of people, who – despite being doctors and award winning journalists and lawyers and high-level business people, etc. – all bonded over one common goal; we were there to give the very best TEDx Talk on our topics as possible. The support (and yep, I’ll say it – Love!) being shared around the room at all the rehearsals, and then especially on event day (What a “Hug-Fest”!) was insane! I connected with several people I know I’ll be in touch with again soon.
Special Shout-outs to: Matt Young, who entered the green room before my talk and said “I’m not going to say anything because you don’t need me to”; Dr. Teesha Morgan, who besides being “laugh out loud” funny and keeping us in stitches, brought a bold, cheeky vibe to the event with her humorous – yet very informative – talk on masturbation myths; Jacky Yenta, possibly the most loving and warmest person on the planet, and someone who everyone instantly connected to and fell in love with, just by a single glance and smile from her; Brad Gorski for his immense courage in sharing his experiences both from, and as a result of texting and driving; and finally Grace Pastine and Daphne Bramham who (besides being remarkable in their own rights) had talks that were so moving, so insightful, they struck chords deep in many, many people, me included. Thanks to you all, and to the rest of the amazing people who spoke that day.
Learning About Interesting Topics From Industry Experts: The talks were so varied – everything from “Are We Citizens or Taxpayers?”, to “The Spirit of the (Cameroon, Africa) Village”, to “Death with Dignity” to “Why We Need Bees”, to “Fixing the Childhood Obesity Epidemic” to “Bringing Integrity Back To Business to Save Mother Earth”; and more. Special shout-out to Rumana Monzure, an assistant professor at Department of International Relationships in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and UBC Law Student. She’s a single mother who was blinded in 2011 by her husband in a terrifying domestic violence attack; not only did she survived the brutal attack, she has chosen to move forward with her life, saying that despite her vision being darkness,she has gained light. You can’t listen to her tell her story without being affected by this remarkable woman’s dignity, courage and strength.
Learning How To Articulate My Story in 18 (okay, 19) Minutes: It’s true; I actually learned it’s possible for me to talk LESS, and say MORE. Shout-out to Roger Killen for this mind-altering (and life-changing!) insight! But seriously, I’ve wanted to tell this story for a long time; and right from the first review of my speech, it was Roger’s feedback that really got me to understand how to get to the point of the speech, and eliminate the fluff. (Who knew I had fluff? Turns out most people!) This is a new skill I’ll use generously in writing future speeches… but from what it looks like at the moment, when it comes to my blog posts, maybe not so much.
Gaining a New Level Of Confidence: I have to admit that just like when I skydived, walked on fire or bungy-jumped, I began by being totally FREAKED OUT, but jumped into the fear and did those things anyway, which added confidence to my stride. As of Saturday, I can now add “I’ve done a TEDx Talk”! to that list, and know that if I can do that, I can do anything… just like I thought I could.
Got To Be Part of a Legendary Event: C’mon, it’s TEDx! Even better, TEDx Stanley Park! What more can I say? It doesn’t get more legendary than that!
This Event Creates BIG Future Opportunities: I’ve always known that TEDx videos give the speakers a certain credibility, but now I’m seeing even more benefits. Obviously the first is the high quality people you get to meet who participate in the event, but what about those who attend in the audience? TEDx gives speakers a platform to be seen by some incredible people who might be able to work with them, or learn from them, or vice-versa. I had the good fortune of connecting with three such individuals this weekend, and am very excited at the prospects and friendships that these opportunities will lead too – opportunities I probably would never have had, if my friend didn’t call me eight months ago and and say “Hey, would you mind talking to this guy Dustin for me? He’s really great, and you too will get on well”…
Funny how that works, eh? Either way, I’m grateful for that call, all the introductions that followed, and above all this epic opportunity. Now that it’s done, it’s time to plan my next adventure… building my speaking and training business FOR REAL. If only I could get a good video for the website…
Make sure you check out TEDx Stanley Park 2016… You’ll be glad you did!