The Road to the "Red Dot": How I prepared for my TEDx Talk in Torino.
In a nutshell...
Time spent between my accident and articulating the idea: over 25 years!
12 hours of professional coaching for over 2 years.
Number of speeches crafted on the topic of Resilience: 12
Number of versions of the final TEDx Talk speech: over 18
Number of rehearsals on real audiences: 5
Number of rehearsal videos: 25
Number of car ride rehearsal: countless
Panic attacks: 1
Number of drugs I took to deal with the Panic attack: 0
1. Unique content and the motivation to share your message
In the summer of 1993, I underwent a traumatic car crash. I was 21 years old, was left 45% disabled and worst of all lost my boyfriend to it.
Throughout the early recovery and grieving process, questions popped up:
When & How would I recover? Would I recover at all?
Frustration was strong as I could not get clear and straight answers to these questions.
The lines above are the seeds of my unique content. A situation (conflict, problem…), creating a need for answers.
Let me be clear: I am not a psychology expert. I am not a life guru. My life experience and introspection allowed me to articulate a response to these recovery questions. This is how I positioned myself on the topic of Resilience.
This is why my content is unique.
The urge to share it on stage is easy to identify. After my car crash, I had these burning questions and felt frustrated. Surely, other human beings who are going through challenges might feel the same way. Now that my challenges are in the past; how can I help?
The motivation to share your idea is an important factor. The crafting of the speech will test your grit!...and it is so worth it.
2. We are too blind to our strengths and weaknesses: Be "Coachable"
As a result of coaching sessions; I found my unique way of articulating the Resilience process.
From 2016, I wrote and tested speech variations on that topic. Exploring and seeking the most enunciated way.
In 2017, I wanted to explore further. First via Improvisation Techniques with Sylvia Day (Pro Actress and Improvisation coach).
Second, for the TEDx Talk, I needed to select the stories. Connect the dots and make the idea appealing and enticing for the greater TEDx Audience. By then I had already given 12 different speeches on the topic of Resilience.
I met Michael Davis via Stage Time University founded by Public Speaking World Champion Darren Lacroix. Michael and I started to work together at the end of August. The TEDx event was 3 months later.
Michael challenged me, inquiring on a deeper level all the pre- and post-accident events and feelings I had experienced.
First, it tested my emotional strength.
Second, it uncovered essential elements for my future audience.
Third, Michael was my first audience. When he had questions or lost interest, it was a clear sign that I needed to rework the speech.
I am a presentation skills trainer. I have been helping hundreds of clients since I started this professional career. Yet, when I speak about my own life journey, I cannot do it alone. I am blind to my strengths and weaknesses.
For the TEDxPolitecnicoditorino event, I also worked with Keith Sheldrake. He was the head coach there. His role was key. His guidance helped to sharpen the idea with the theme of the event. He knew the delivery standard of the other speakers and the quality of delivery he expected from me.
Be "Coachable", it is for your own good.
3. The audience's response to a speech does not lie. Prepare and test your speech as often as possible.
When I received the confirmation for my selection as a speaker, I already had a 40-minute Keynote that I have been giving on conference stages. I could start with this content.
Today, when I take a look at my TEDxPolitecnicoditorino Drive folder, I count 18 different Word files. 18 different speech versions.
Speech writing is a roller coaster. You go through abyssal downs and exhilarating highs. This is why your coach is essential to guide you through.
After my fourth session with Michael (ie. I was on version number 7 of my speech), it was time to test the speech on a live audience.
5 different audiences - from professionals to students - all ages, all walks of life. They were all potential TEDx audience members. The speech was both praised and challenged.
By opening up to the audience responses, the speech grew closer to its final format. Some comments were ignored. Others were taken to heart. The worst is when you feel you should re-do the entire thing again.
Be receptive to critics and trust yourself. This process helps you to feel 100% comfortable with every single word.
3 weeks before the event, I felt the speech was ripe and ready to be delivered.
Special thanks to my test audiences at Birdhaus Social GmbH, Toastmasters Zug, Swiss Business School, IPDF and Universität Zürich - Institute for Computational Science.
4. Priming: Get yourself ready for the "Red Dot"
Once I decided that the speech was ready, I "brainwashed myself" with it. I went through it relentlessly.
Thorough preparation means confidence. Whatever happens: I could carry on, I could deliver and I could bring value.
I follow Steve Jobs' routine. He practiced any new speech 20 times on stage before the D(delivery)-Day. Unfortunately, I do not have a testing audience at hand that I could mobilize 20 times. This is when Videos are useful. I record myself and analyze every single one of my performances. When I drove the car, I dedicated this time to go through the text and embed it in my memory.
As the big day approached, my excitement and eagerness suddenly mutated.
It was Thursday night. 2 days before the TEDx event. I was in bed. My heart was racing. I was sweating profusely. Hyperventilating. My eyes wide open. I felt dizzy.
I had a panic attack.
Exactly like the ones I experienced when I started Public Speaking.
I used the techniques I teach my clients. I acknowledged my fear. I even smiled at the situation. I still could not sleep, but I could relax and frame what I was going through.
My anxiety vanished.
Friday 29th November was an early start. The train to Torino was leaving at 6 am. Luckily, I traveled with 4 friends and later 7 more joined.
They committed to travel for the entire weekend to Italy to attend the TEDx event. High five to my friends! They gave me wings, good laughter and excellent festive company to celebrate after the speech was done too! Thumbs up to Natalie Yeoh Flipse who organized restaurants and parties for the group over the weekend!
Saturday 30th November - D-Day! My friend Tanya met me for breakfast with an inspiring gift. Lisa-Marie and Carolyn groomed me ready for the day. You must look your best. I am 47. Any help to look fresh and stage-ready is welcome!
At 09:00, I arrived at the event location: Politecnico Di Torino. The Aula Room holds 452 scarlet red seats and 1 long rectangular wooden stage.
I spent as much time as possible on it. It needed to feel like home. By then, I was completely relaxed.
At 11:00 am, I had the opportunity to do my last dry-run of the speech on stage. Next, I had lunch. Doors opened to the public at 14:00.
The event started at 15:00 and after 15 minutes of healthy stage fright, I was called on stage at 15:15. The speech was over exactly 18 minutes later.
1st picture: The healthy stage-fright face - Photo Credit Lisa-Marie Armstrong Rehländer. 2nd picture - Photo Credit Giulia Ferrero, Nicoletta Piccolo
3rd picture: My wonderful support team (two are missing!)
My husband and two daughters stayed back home in Switzerland. A couple of minutes before I delivered my speech, they connected to the live streaming of the event. I had no idea. It was better to be kept in ignorance, otherwise, my 15 minutes of healthy stage fright would have morphed into a second panic attack. At the intermission of the event, I switched my phone on for the first time of the day. The first message I read was from my eldest daughter. (see picture below).
I too was moved to tears by then.
When your idea really matters, the time and money and dedication do not count. If I had to do it again, I would do so without a shadow of a doubt. I may have to negotiate with my ever supportive and loving husband as I am very focused when I engaged in big projects like that....having said that, look who picked me up 3 stops before final destination on Sunday - my husband himself!
What happens after a TEDx Talk and how it will change the future? I have no idea!
So far I have received truly touching messages from members of the TEDx audience. At the time I am publishing this long post, the video has not been published.
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